348. Seaford to Brighton

I decided today would be a single days trip down from Shropshire to East Sussex, to complete a 13 mile walk then return to Shropshire. A 440 mile round trip…..mad I know, but my daughter wanted to walk the Brighton bit!

The Saturday drive down to East Sussex was done in about 3.5 hours and we parked up at the seafront in Seaford. We set off  walking westwards towards Newhaven and soon came to the deserted ruins of Tide Mills. Not a great deal remains of this once thriving village centered around a flour mill, which used the tide to store seawater in a set of lagoons, the trapped seawater was then released at low tide to generate power to turn the mill. The Mill closed in 1883 and was used as bonded warehouses until it was pulled down in 1901. The surrounding village was condemned in 1936 and the remaining inhabitants forcibly removed in 1939.

We soon had to divert around the River Ouse which Newhaven sits on, this meant crossing over the railway line and walking alongside the small Port of Newhaven, before using the A259 bridge over the Ouse. We walked back down along the opposite side of the Ouse towards Newhaven marina, passing a number of fishing quays. At the marina  we popped into a local cafe to get a couple of Latte’s “to go”. The next section of the walk meant climbing up onto Castle Hill, where Newhaven Fort is situated. From Castle Hill the route ahead could be clearly seen across the rolling cliff-tops. In the distance we could easily see Brighton and in the far distance , the headland of Selsey Bill.

Heading west from Seaford towards Newhaven
Part of the Tide Mill and village near Seaford
One of the lagoons used to store the seawater for the Tide mill
Newhaven Town railway station
Crossing over the River Ouse
The Corte d’Albatre about to depart for Dieppe
Ferry leaving harbour bound for Dieppe from Castle Hill
Heading over grassy slopes towards Peacehaven

 

Don’t quite know how this got here!

 

We continued over grassy slopes to the outskirts of Peacehaven. At Peacehaven Heights we decided to descend the amazing steps cut into the sheer Chalk cliffs, down to an under-cliff sea wall. The walking was very easy, but I did have half an eye on the chances of any rocks becoming dislodged from above. I also kept an eye open for the Memorial denoting the point of the   Greenwich Prime Meridian where it leaves these shores. I managed to snap a photo of its globe from the sea wall below. The next couple of miles went extremely quick and we soon climbing an access road back up onto the cliff top.

Heading towards Peacehaven
The steps down to the sea wall below Peacehaven heights
Looking eastwards below Peacehaven Heights
The steps below Peacehaven Heights
Heading westwards along the sea wall

We continued onto Saltdean, where we asked  a couple of locals if the undercliff went all the way to Brighton, they said it did, so no more need for my map, which I put away. You don’t actually see a great deal when you walk along this sea wall below the Chalk cliffs, but it does lead to rapid progress. Above us out of sight we were now passing from Rottingdean into Brighton itself. We passed behind the huge Brighton Marina, with shops, quays and its own ASDA store!

The cliffs petered out and we emerged onto Madeira Drive. The crowds began to increase and we soon passed by the terminus of the Volks Electric Railway, running from  Brighton Pier out to Black Point along Madeira Drive. Magnus Volk built the 2′ narrow gauge railway in 1883 and remains  the oldest operational electric railway in the world. The crowds thickened and so did the pubs, shops, food outlets and amusements, including a 300m zip wire running along the beach; at £18 a pop I did not participate. The walk ended at the entrance to Brighton Pier, all that remained to do was to get one of #12 buses back to Seaford. A fascinating walk along an amazing coastline.

The top of the memorial to the last point of land that the Greenwich Prime Meridian passed through
Heading down into Saltdean
Back on the sea wall walking along the Undercliff towards Brighton
On Madeira Drive heading towards Brighton
Passengers waiting to board the Volks Electric Railway at Black Point
The Volks electric engine on the move at a steady 6mph!
Heading along Madeira Drive towards the Pier
Zip line in use on Brighton Beach
Brighton Pier

Distance today = 13 miles
Total distance = 6,452 miles

347. Eastbourne to Seaford

I awoke early the following morning to find that fog and mist had descended overnight leaving visibility down to a 100 metres or so. I drove down country lanes to Seaford. The seaside resort would be the place where I finished today’s walk, which would be much shorter than yesterdays. I parked on the sea front, which had many free car parking spaces, as long as you stay for 12 hours or less. I walked the short distance into the town and had 2 minutes to wait for a bus, the #12, which operates a service every 12 minutes between Brighton and Eastbourne.

Unfortunately, on arriving in Eastbourne the fog had not lifted and neither would it for the rest of the walk. I made my way back to the sea front at Eastbourne and emerged onto the wide King Edwards Parade, a wide boulevard that rose upwards towards the higher ground of the South Downs.The residential part of Eastbourne ended quite abruptly at Bede’s Preparatory School and it was then a case of slogging up a steep hill. This also marked the start of the  the South Downs Way, a National Trail.

The impressive Eastbourne Town Hall
Looking up King Edweards Parade
Heading up the South Downland

It would have been nice to look back from the higher ground towards Eastbourne, but half way up the hill I was already surrounded by thick fog. The slope eased and I made good progress towards Beachy Head. I heard the odd car on a road to my right but could not see the road or car. Eventually I arrived at Beachy Head, again  could not see anything because of the fog. I did not linger but set off down the gentle grassy slopes towards Shooters Bottom. The road joined from the right again and I made the simple ascent up to and around the Lighthouse at Belle Tout, now a private residence. The fog was still all around me when I reached Birling Gap and with few people around I headed up and across the folded Chalk hills that formed The Seven Sisters. I did actually count them and it seemed they actually numbered eight!

The view back towards Eastbourne
At Beachy Head
As close as I dared to go near Beachy Head
Cliff fall near Belle Tout
The Belle Tout Lighthouse
Heading down to Birling Gap
Heading over the Seven Sisters

I dropped down out of the mist to Cuckmere Haven; here I needed to walk inland to cross the bridge of the River Cuckmere situated about a mile upstream. At sea level the fog was not so thick, but it still shrouded the higher Downland around me. The inland detour was almost 3 miles and all for the want of a short bridge across the Cuckmere. I followed the Cuckmere on a well defined levee to Exceat Bridge. Although very busy with road traffic, there was an separately attached footbridge. I set off back down the levee on the opposite side of the river arriving back at Cuckmere Haven.

I followed a well worn path across Seaford Head and soon dropped down to Hope Gap, this site gives access to the sea and the “Classic” view back to the Seven Sisters, but not today unfortunately as the fog was still down. I continued across the cliffs over Seaford Head, picking up the golf course and then dropping down to Seaford itself. I ended up on the sea front which was a huge shingle bank that disappeared into the distance. After passing a Martello Tower I was back at the car.

A short days walk and one, unfortunately, that offered very limited views of some of the most iconic natural scenary in England. However, I may return to this area some time in the future.

Vipers Bugloss
Descending from the South Downland to Cuckmere Haven
Heading inland along the River Cuckmere on a levee
The A259 crossing the Cuckmere over the Exceat Bridge
Back at Cuckmere Haven with the South Downland in the background
At Hope Gap, unfortunately the Seven Sisters remained in the fog
A Chalk promontory stripped of overlying soil and turf above Seaford
Heading down into Seaford
A Martello Tower now the Seaford Museum
Heading along the sea front at Seaford.

Distance today = 13 miles
Total distance = 6,439 miles

 

346. Fairlight to Eastbourne

I did think at first about doing a single days trip, but a round trip of over 400 miles for one days walk would not have been a sensible decision! I therefore opted to do an overnight stay with the first walking day being on a Sunday. I managed to get a good rate at the Travelodge in Hailsham, the weather was forecast to be dry and I would have an easy drive down from Shropshire on a Sunday morning.

I searched on line for a place to park legally  for free and managed to find a place quite close to Eastbourne railway station. I caught the 07:59 train to Hastings. At Hastings I popped into a nearby Tesco Express store to stock up on provisions. I then caught the 09:12 #101 bus to Fairlight. I got off next to St. Andrews church and walked down a lane towards the car park at Hastings Country Park, where I made my way through a myriad of paths before emerging on the top of East Hill and looking down on the seafront at Hastings.

The sun was now well up and the temperature quite high as I dropped steeply down steps towards the sea-front, in a part of Hastings known as Old Town. The scene that greeted me as I emerged onto the sea front was something akin to what life was like pre-pandemic, with many walkers, strollers, bathers, eaters and drinkers enjoying the sunny weather and barely a surgical mask in sight! It was a similar sight that I would observe all along the coast onto Eastbourne.

Heading towards Hasting from Hastings Country Park
Heading down steep steps towards Hastings
Looking back at East Hill and its cliff railway from Old Town
Numerous limestone outcrops form a back drop to the sea front
A rather forlorn looking Hastings Pier
Warrior Square Gardens in St. Leonards

The crowds thinned slightly as I left St. Leonards, a suburb of Hastings, behind me, but picked up again as I entered Bexhill, another seaside resort. On Galley Hill, a slight rise and barely a hill, I could look down the coastline towards the high rise flats of of my ultimate destination of Eastbourne. Nonetheless Galley Hill was famous as the site for some of the first motor car racing, during the very early part of the 20th century.

The sea wall I had been walking on was eventually replaced by high shingle banks. Walking along the shingle was tough going, but there were traces of harder compacted shingle which made the going much easier. I passed the small coastal settlements of Normans Bay, Beachlands  and Pevensey Bay, where I had to rest a second time and take on water.

When I reached Pevensey Bay I could easily make out the large newly built marina properties around Soveriegn Harbour, which forms part of Eastbourne. This stretch of coast has a fine collection of Martello Towers as I passed five of them  over a 3 mile section. I walked through the marina and then across the top of the lock gates, which allow small boats and pleasure craft in and out of the marina at low tide. By the time I reached Langney Point I picked up the sea wall again with a large number of people walking into Eastbourne. As I continued along the sea front, the iconic Eastbourne Pier came into view. I could see and hear there was a live performance of someone singing   on the pier.

At the pier I headed into towards the town centre making my way along the high street passing a number of pubs doing a roaring trade, while some stall-holders from a Sunday market were just starting to pack up afetr a busy and very sunny day.

Tomorrows would be a shorter walk, but would involve some climbing, with a number of up-and-downs and this should be the last time time I encounter any high ground on my coastal walk.

Quite a good model of a Plaice at an eatery near St Leonards
On the sea wall heading out of St. Leonards
On the beach passing a limestone outcrop near Bexhill-on-Sea
Sea Kale (Crambe maritima) on the shingle foreshore
Looking back towards Hastings from Galley Hill, Bexhill
Looking west towards Eastbourne from Galley Hill, Bexhill
Impressive Dutch gables architecture at Bexhill
Walking past fishing boats on the shingle shore at Normans Bay
Looking beyond a converted Martello Tower towards Eastbourne near Pevensey Bay
The outer lagoon at low tide in Sovereign Harbour
Boats entering the marina through locks at low tide
Heading towards Eastbourne, the high ground in the distance is the South Downs with Beachy Head hanging on to low cloud
Eastbourne Pier
The entrance to Eastbourne Pier

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 6,426 miles

Commemorative Bowls: Update 1

Well I certainly have not forgotten about this, but the fact that I still have circa 14 – 16 more days of walking before I finish my walk, so I did not want to go “gung-ho” at this late stage…just yet.

But I have good news. Besides having sufficient pieces of wood to start and finsih this process, an unexpected source of new wood arrived a few weeks back. One of my friends Dave Hutton, who lives about a quarter of a mile away was having two large trees removed. Dave, kindly offered me one of the trees, a large Black Pine. Black Pine or Corsican/Austrian pine is an imported tree popular with the Victorians who planted it in an ornamental capacity in their large grounds. Although, now used in commercial tree plantations, the Black Pine is subject to a disease known as Red Band needle blight. As this tree and another sat next to a busy road, Dave called in professional tree -fellers.

The diameter of the trunk at it’s base was almost  two feet and meant that to get the full benefit of the wood the sections needed to be 24″. The resulting “logs” weighed something like 100 150kg, impossible handle. So I asked that the sections be cut in half down the middle and through the pith, something I would have had to do when I got the wood home anyway. I was thus able to load the sections into my car with the help of Dave. It took most of the day transporting the wood to my home .

I surveyed these huge pieces of wood and decided that the bowls would be too heavy and that Platters ( a sort of large flat dish) would be better. However, the diameter of the pieces would range from 14″ through to 20″, which my wood turning lathe could cope with by turning “off the bed”. The next issue would be safety. My lathe, although variable speed, has a minimum speed limit of circa 550rpm, far to fast to turn these large pieces. So I found a company that offer conversions to give better control of lathe speeds. So I packed my dismantled headstock off to Preston for its conversion. Where it remains as I write.

In preparation for the turning I needed to cut the huge pieces in slabs of wood 4″ thick and has perfectly round as possible. This preparation is critical as  any weight imbalance would be magnified the larger the diameter. Its a bit like balancing the wheels of your car, only with the wood the imbalance would be far more violent and could shake lathe or worst cause the piece to become detached – having a 25kg piece of wet wood flying through the air at you is no laughing matter! So as you can see from the photos below I am preparing and accumulating what look like a set  Cheese Round or Truckle. I’ll continue to prepare the wood until my headstock conversion is ready to collect from Preston.

The Black Pine pieces

 

Preparing the wood into slabs, lots of chainsawing

 

A 4″ thick slab of wood
Marking out the size of the platter, this one will be 19″ diameter
Making the wood nice and flat. This Stanley Bailey No. 6 jointing plane was built in 1899. Its one of my prized possessions. I restored it and will continue to use what it was intended for and as tribute to all those who used it before me.
The finished round or truckle. I wrapped it in cling film to try and stop the wood drying out too quickly before I begin turning it.

345. Fairlight to Rye

After yesterdays unintended extended walk, I decided I would have a much shorter day. I managed to escape from Pontins at the ungodly hour of 06:00, handing my chalet key to the guy on the gate. I had decided to reverse my direction of walk today because of the bus timings, which meant an earlier start. It also meant I could park up at Rye railway station again to get the bus to Fairlight, a small village close to Hastings Country Park.

I caught the #101 bus service from Rye getting off  close to Fairlight and walking the short distance down to Hastings Country Park. Even at this time of the morning the car park was full of cars and camper vans. The weather looked a bit more settled with no showers forecast, just a grey overcast sky.

The topography around Fairlight would be a dramatic change from my previous flat sea-wall walks, as the much higher ground of the Weald anticline exposes a collection of sandstones, siltstones and mudstones, resulting in high unstable cliffs. One of the good things about reversing the direction of walk today was the fact that I would be starting on the high ground and walking to the lower.

I made my way downhill and onto the residential streets of Fairlight Cove and up onto Fairlight Hill. Close to the top I met an elderly gentleman who was training his Spaniel on game retrieval, we chatted awhile and he related a number of stories on attempts to reduce the continual erosion of the Fairlight cliffs. By the time I came to Cliff End I could look down on the Sea wall that ran along Pett Level. I descended down into the village of Cliff End and found the start of the Military Canal which I had previously come across on my walk through Hythe. I transferred onto the sea wall headed across Winchelsea Beach.

Early morning at Hastings Country Park looking across Rye Bay to Dungeness

The cliff-top road at Fairlight Cove

Looking down on the Pett Level and Winchelsea Beach from above Cliff End

The path continued onto and through the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Most the reserve was composed of shingle and was quite similar to that on Dungeness. The area was quite desolate apart from a building that came into view. This was the lifeboat house of the Mary Stanford. In November 1928 during a great storm, a distress call was received from the Alice of Riga steamship. The lifeboat crew of the Mary Stanford responded and launched into heavy seas. This lifeboat had no engine and was powered by oarsmen. Just after the lifeboat was launched a message was related that crew of the Alice of Riga had already been rescued and the lifeboat could stand down. Unfortunately, because of the poor weather conditions the flares could not be seen by the crew and sometime later the lifeboat capsized with all 17 crew members perishing.

I soon emerged at the mouth of the River Rother where it entered the sea at Rye Bay, the river had been ‘channelised’ back in the 1930’s. Here I met many other walkers who had parked at the large nature reserve car park at Rye Harbour. I passed by the impressive and newly built Rye Harbour Discovery Centre, closed today for staff training. The road into Rye itself had a good footpath and passed by a number of industrial works. As I entered Rye I  crossed over bridge’s spanning the small Rivers Tillingham and Brede, before arriving back at Rye Railway station.

The start/end of the Military Canal

Looking back at Cliff End from the sea wall

Heading along the sea wall at Winchelsea Beach

I passed this little bird who was very vocal, possibly a female Wheatear

The Lifeboat House of the Mary Standford

The mouth of the River Rother

The newly built Rye Harbour Discovery Centre

Locks on the Royal Military Canal at Rye

The River Brede at Rye

Distance today = 11 miles
Total distance = 6,406 miles

344. Dymchurch to Rye

Well it’s been quite awhile since I last updated my blog, October 2020 in fact! I have been busy though, with a range of gardening and DIY projects all completed through our recent lockdown. I have managed a few local walks over the Winter, but nothing too strenuous, thus my apprehension about starting my coastal walk up again.

My plan was continue where I left off in Dymchurch in Kent and continue walking westwards over two days. To break me gently back into the routine, I had planned a couple of easy days with an overnight stay, well that was the plan!

I made a very early start from Shropshire to avoid the morning traffic on the M25. I parked up in Rye railway station car park, at £2.90 a day , it was a reasonable charge compared to other council run car parks. I then had to get to the start of my walk at Dymchurch. The Traveline website gave me a route which involved three changes of buses, but curiously all with the same bus service number – 102. Only as I was about to alight at Lydd, did I find out that the same bus ran the whole way to Dymchurch – it turned out to be an expensive fare for me! At Dymchurch after getting off the bus I walked  the short distance to the sea wall along a path I had trodden some 7 months ago.

The weather was cloudy with the odd shower around. I could still just about make out the French coastline  and the whole coastline back towards Folkestone. I passed by two Martello Towers as I left Dymchurch behind me. My view southwards along the coast was drawn to the large square buildings of Dungeness Power station in the far distance. I continued along the sea wall past the small villages of St Marys and Littlestone-on-Sea. As I entered Greatstone-on-Sea not only did the sea wall end, but the first of many frequent showers hit me. I soon transferred down onto the wide open beach where the compacted sand made for easy and rapid walking.

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Heading south from Dymchurch along the sea wall

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A Martello Tower with canon on top

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Looking NE towards Hythe and Folkestone

I transferred back onto the Dungeness access road just before the Pilot pub, one of two pubs on the weird and wonderful headland that is Dungeness. I was now heading towards the newer of the two lighthouse, although this was in fact the sixth lighthouse to be built on the shifting shingle. A collection of small cabins, shacks and cottages soon appeared, each with a different appearance and  were scattered over the landscape which is also home to a collection of flora and fauna unique to this part of the UK. All of this though was overshadowed by the twin power stations of Dungeness A and B. While Dungeness A ceased generating back in the ’80s, B has a new 10 year licence to begin generating again this year after a string of earlier safety concerns.

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On the beach near Greatstone-one-Sea with an heavy shower approaching

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The Pilot Pub on Dungeness

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This is a Beach Tanning Copper which were used for dyeing and preserving fishing nets and clothes from the ravages of the sea

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This is Prospect Cottage, the home of the late film director Derek Jarman

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Huts selling freshly caught fish

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The new lighthouse

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The old lighthouse

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Dungeness A and B Nuclear Power Station

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Heading westwards along the shingle

I was now heading westwards past the Power Station towards the MOD Lydd Firing Range. The rat-a-tat of heavy machine gun fire and red flying flags confirmed my worst suspicions – the range was closed to walkers! I had checked the firing times for the range on the gov.uk website and could see the only firing was the day AFTER my walk. As I write this the website still says no firing on the 19th May. I walked to the control  tower spoke to someone to query why the website was saying one thing. A chap said he would pass my complaint onto the office…. yea … yea. I had intended to walk along the coast towards Jurys Gap, but this now meant an additional 2 miles inland detour via Lydd. I followed the firing range boundary perimeter into and out of Lydd.

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The control tower at the edge of the Lydd Firing Range

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Heading towards Lydd along the firing range perimeter

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The reason for my detour, the Army with machine guns mounted on Land Rovers

The road from Lydd out to Jury’s Gap also followed the Lydd Firing range, fortunately there was a good footpath set back  from the road. Soon after leaving Lydd I heard my first Cuckoo of the year and spotted the little fella on a branch about 50 metres away. With the sea wall now in sight I passed from  Kent into East Sussex. I had been walking in Kent since February last year, so it was good to see some progress. I eventually arrived at Jury’s Gap and climbed up onto the sea wall. The rain showers had begun to get increasingly more intense and as I walked through Camber I got a severe drenching. I headed along a footpath heading towards Rye, which ran alongside the golf course. I soon heard the unmistakable sound of thunder coming from a particularly dark patch of sky about a mile away. As I passed the club house I heard a siren go off which I presumed was a warning to the golfers out on the course. There was no shelter nearby so I waited a short while close to some shrubs. I caught sight of some lightening strikes about an half mile away. As I waited I was relieved to see that the thunderstorm was heading away from me and out to sea. I could still hear rumblings from other dark clouds some distance away. As I crossed over the River Rother into the ancient Cinque port of Rye the sun was well out and it became very warm. I climbed up into the town and through the old Landgate and down to the railway station.

It had been a tough days walk and much longer than I had originally intended. All that remained for me to do now was to drive down the road to Camber  and check into my room for the night at Pontins Holiday camp! The chalet was quite cheap and had lots of space, although I stood out like a sore thumb from the young families who were enjoying their holiday.

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The across Rye Bay towards Fairlight from Jury’s Gap

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A heavy downpour out in the Channel

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A nearby thunderstorm at Camber

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Approaching the town of Rye

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Crossing the River Rother

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Entering the town through The Landgate

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The old Grammar School in Rye

PS. It has become a right pain in the back-side trying to use WordPress now.  So many changes, I may think about changing even if  it means paying!

Distance today = 23 miles
Total distance = 6,395 miles

Nearing the End of my Coastal Walk

When I first decided on completing a Coastal walk around Great Britain I thought long and hard as to whether the walk should raise money for charity. Because I would be completing the walk in sections over a number of days and then returning home, the challenge was not as great as those brave and tenacious souls that have completed a Great Britain coastal walk unsupported, carrying their tent on their back and in a single long walk taking up to year and more in the process. So I decided against it at the time, feeling embarrassed to ask for money while I spend money on myself for fuel and accommodation.

However, now I do plan to commemorate my Coastal Walk completion with a unique gesture. In my spare time I am a wood turner, I don’t do it for a living, principally for pleasure. Most of my pieces I have given away to friends and family, Charities or sold at Christmas Fayres where I charged just enough to cover my material expenses and the stall fee. So I’m actually looking to turn about 10 bowls between now and my completion in various shapes and sizes and in various wood that I have to hand. I hope to donate the pieces to various Charity Shops with an indication as to what they could possibly sell them for.  I have spoken to my friend who manages one of The Severn Hospice shops in Telford and he thinks this will be a good idea. Obviously I would hope to donate to a broad range of Charities, especially when some have seen a significant fall in revenue over these troubled times. There may be further ways I can give or donate to Charities which I am still exploring.

Through this blog I hope to show how I turn a log or tree stump into something that would grace anybody’s sideboard or mantel piece. I was thinking about doing some YouTube videos, but I am a rubbish presenter and from experience it takes an awful lot of effort and time to produce a YouTube video that is presentable. I haven’t started turning any bowls/plates/platters, vases yet as I’ve still got about 16 days of walking until I arrive in Sandbanks near Poole. As you know I’ve been stuck at Dymchurch in Kent which is in Tier 4 and very much inaccessible at the moment.

Below are a couple of photos of the bowls and I have previously turned in various woods and some in resin, which I also turned. The first photo is a mock-up my Christmas Fayre stall taken in 2018 in my kitchen. Nearly all of these on show have been sold, donated or given away. My favourite is the Constellation Bowl, it was coincidentally bought by next door neighbour.

My stall mock-up in 2018

My Constellation Bowl

My Ikea Vase – made from scrap pieces of wood free to the public at my local Ikea store!

My Floating Cup, the garden animals in the background is Minty the Sheep and Bellatrix Lestrange the Flamingo

The fluid bit is made from coloured crayons

My Steampunk Bowl made from Ash

I’ll post something more in the near future when I have thought through a few more of the details.

343. Dymchurch to Dover

I decided to reverse the direction of travel for today’s walk because of bus times, so I drove to and parked again at the Western Heights car park. I read some signs saying that the car park had been the centre of recent anti-social behaviour, although given the shifty nature of the people I saw in parked cars that early in the morning I have my suspicions what that could be! I Again I descended down towards the Railway Station, but stopped short at a bus stop and waited for the 07:51 #102 service towards Lydd. The bus journey seemed to take an age as the driver observed strict timetable waits at a number of stops.

I was glad to get off the bus in Dymchurch and equally pleased to have used my OS App, with free Bus Wi-Fi, to know which stop to get off. A short walk saw me on the large and sweeping shoreline of East Road. The bay curved back towards Folkestone and had a large modern sea wall guarding the low lying interior of Romney Marsh. I passed by a Martello Tower that had been totally transformed into a residential property with the walls all rendered and a large conservatory on the roof. When I reached the Hythe firing ranges I could have continued along the coast because there was no firing planned for today. However, I could see a large construction site around the Dymchurch Redoubt, complete with Heras fencing. I decided to stick to the perimeter road around the firing range.

As I entered Hythe town itself I was interested to walk along the Military canal; built between 1805 and 1809 as a strategic move against a possible French invasion during the Napoleonic Wars. The canal runs for 28 miles from Hastings to near Folkestone. I followed the canal till it came very close to the promenade which ran  all the way into Folkestone. The sea front was busy with many people out walking, cycling, jogging and just chilling out at the number of beach side cafes.

Looking towards Hythe and Folkestone from Dymchurch

Transformed Martello Tower at Dymchurch

Dymchurch Redoubt

At the Military Canal in Hythe with statues of Navies who dug the canal

The Military Canal in Hythe

Heading along the seafront towards Folkestone

Sandgate Castle was the first of Henry VIII’s ‘Device Forts’, basically an Artillery Fort

Folkestone Harbour

As I reached Folkestone I passed by the old Folkestone Harbour railway station, closed to all traffic in 2009, in 2018 after a period of refurbishment it re-opened for pedestrian use and was hosting a small open-air market when I was there. I crossed over the old railway bridge and along the harbour walls with its fish sellers doing a brisk business. At Copt Point I climbed up steep steps towards the Martello Tower, which offered excellent views ahead across the expanse of wild partly forested chalk cliffs called The Warren. Here the Saxon Shore Way and England Coast Path joined the North Downs National Trail. I could have descended and walked along the base of the cliffs, but at some point I would need to climb up onto the cliff. I chose to do the climbing first as I planned to visit somewhere that was situated on the cliff-top path.

I had caught a glimpse of the Battle of Britain Memorial earlier that morning on the bus, so I was keen to take a closer look. Opened in 1993 on the site of the Capel Hill Battery (WWII), the Battle of Britain memorial contains a visitor centre, which was closed and a replica Spitfire and Hurricane. The open area contains a wall listing all those that fought in the Battle of Britain. Both yesterday and today a Spitfire flew over Dover and Folkestone performing aerial manoeuvres, I’m not sure if that was a planned thing, but it certainly brought home the message and the debt the county owes to “the few”.

I continued on across the Warren cliff top towards Abbots Cliff, here the coastal path split to a minor inland incursion avoiding the narrow path with exposed drops down to the railway line. Soon after I came to the Abbots Cliff Sound Mirror. A forerunner of radar, acoustic mirrors were built on the south and northeast coasts of England between about 1916 and the 1930s. The ‘listening ears’ were intended to provide early warning of incoming enemy aircraft.

The amazing physical features as I began the descent towards Dover were the ‘hogs-back’ chalk cliffs with grassy slopes and a narrow arête like ridge. At this point I could look down onto the Samphire Hoe Country Park, hemmed in by chalk cliffs and the sea it is an unusual site. Part of this area was created in the mid-19th century to enable the Folkestone – Dover railway to pass through. The real major construction project occurred with the building of the Channel Tunnel in 1993. Closeby the Channel Tunnel at some depth below the ground turns seaward heading out across the Channel. The spoil from the tunnel was used to create Samphire Hoe with landscaping to create a Nature Reserve. Access to the Hoe is via a tunnel from the nearby A20, with cars passing through the 200 -300m tunnel governed by traffic lights, a raised footpath allows pedestrians and cyclists to pass through to the Hoe. At the far end of the Samphire is a collection of buildings and a large cooling plant for the Tunnel itself.

I climbed up and over Round Down and descended to cross over the A20 to the small village of Aycliff on the outskirts of Dover. Here I found a shop open and stocked up on drinks for the drive home. I now had the task of climbing up from sea level to the top of Western Heights. Near to the car park I passed an early 12th century church built by Knights Templar.

A thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating walk.

The old renovated Folkestone Harbour Rail station

Crossing the old Harbour rail bridge

Looking back at Folkestone Harbour

Heading towards The Warren

Looking back over Folkestone from the top of The Warren

Looking across The Warren with the Folkestone – Dover rail line emerging from a tunnel

Hawker Hurricanne replica at The Battle of Britain Memorial

The wall of names of those that fought in The Battle of Britain

Statue of airman at The Battle of Britain Memorial

Looking back along The Warren towards Folkestone

Precipitous path above Abbots Cliff

Looking back from Abbots Cliff

Sound Mirror above Abbots Cliff

Ventilation shaft for the Folkestone – Dover railway

Looking down on Samphire Hoe

Looking towards Dover along the hog’s back chalk cliffs on Round Down

Chalk cliffs above Samphire Hoe

Looking down on Samphire Hoe at the Folkestone – Dover railway and the buildings and cooling plant for the Channel Tunnel

Zoomed shot across the Channel to Calais – just visible

Heading down towards the A20 and Aycliff

Fields are easy visible in this zoomed shot across the Channel

Dropping down off Round Down, a line of 3 shafts can be seen supplying ventilation to the Folkestone – Dover railway

The access tunnel to Samphire Hoe

The Knights Templar Church on Western Heights

Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance = 6,372 miles

 

 

342. Sandwich to Dover

 

It was the last days of July when I was last in Kent, while in the intervening time the pressing business of completing the Scottish section of my walk had kept me busy.

With rising Covid cases across the country I am convinced it is only a matter of time before I am forced into lock-down either locally or prohibited to travel to the Kent and Sussex areas. Besides the worries about the pandemic, I have also had one eye on the Brexit trade deal situation, with plans being drawn up to counter the predicted queues around the ferry ports of Dover and Folkestone. It’s an area that I want to get as far away from as possible before the inevitable turmoil starts in January.

There was good news in that I only had to travel 247 miles down to Dover and with each completed section I will move closer to home. Another good sign is that I am now travelling south along the M40 and M25 having finished with the Dartford Crossing.

The drive down from Shropshire was uneventful and by 6:45 I was parking up at the observation car park on Western Heights above Dover. The view from the car park was amazing, with the dawn light just appearing I could pick out Calais and Dunkirk across the Channel. To get to the start of today’s walk at Sandwich, I needed to descend into Dover and make my way to Dover Priory railway station.

Most of today’s walk would be mostly on the level, although towards the end there would be a few up and downs. After leaving Sandwich railway station I walked through residential streets  towards Sandwich Haven River and the River Stour. I could have made things very easy when I joined the England Coast Path by simply walking across the golf course to the sea which would have saved about 3 miles. Instead I followed the river northwards along a levee or sea bank. I did eventually turn around and start walking south when I joined the sea and began walking alongside 3 golf courses, the most famous of which was Royal St. Georges, which occasionally hosts The Open.

Early morning at Western Heights above Dover Harbour looking across the Channel to the lights of Calais and Dunkirk

The River Stour near Sandwich

Heading north along the River Stour near Sandwich

Looking across Pegwell Bay to Ramsgate

Heading south along the shoreline

Building up sea defences near Deal

I eventually made my way into the seaside town of Deal. I decided to walk through the town itself, which was really very busy, as I struggled to socially distance myself at times, picking my way through the Saturday afternoon shoppers. I passed Deal Castle which I did not think much of, until I read the castle was actually built under the orders of Henry VIII as an artillery castle, a similar fortification to the ubiquitous Martello Towers, often seen in this part of England. By the time I reached the adjacent town of Walmer, the crowds had thinned out and the White Cliffs of Dover made an appearance.

The weather so far had been very nice with a warm breeze and excellent visibility, particularly across the Channel to France, where I could see a constant stream of ferries going back and forth. After passing through St. Margaret’s at Cliffe I arrived at the South Foreland lighthouse and the arrival of more crowds of people walking out from Dover itself.
I tried to stay on a level contour over the down land terrain and after passing around Langdon Hole I emerged high above the Dover Ferry Terminal. The terminal was very noisy and extremely busy with hundreds of articulated making their way to and from the ferries. On top of the white cliffs there was a number of footpaths available, unfortunately I chose a wide path that was well trodden and dropped down towards the terminal entrance, after losing a great deal of height I was faced with a sign saying this was a dead end. Grrrr! I climbed back up the cliffs and found the correct path and dropped down to the A20 road beside the ferry terminal. I continued along the shoreline of the Outer Harbour and passed a number of statues and memorials, dedicated to the role of certain armed services during the Second World War. There was also a memorial to  Captain Matthew Web, who hailed from Dawley (now in Telford) where I was born and still live. In fact there is a pub 400m from my home called the Captain Webb.

In Dover I passed by an M&S Food Hall where I hoped to buy some food, however, there was a long queue outside so I did not bother, instead settling for a pasty and coffee from a local Greggs. I continued through Dover town centre and climbed uphill to the Drop Redoubt along the North Military Road.

This whole area of the Kent coastline is steeped in history and you would need a few days to explore it fully. All that remained for me to do was drive the 4 miles to my Premier Inn bed for the night.

A very busy Deal High Street

Deal Castle

The appearance of the White Cliffs near Kingsdown

Looking back towards Deal

Looking back northwards near St. Margarets at Cliffe

The War Memorial at Bockell Hill

Looking down to St Margarets Bay at St. Margarets at Cliffe

Zoomed shot across the Channel to France with fields and the beach visible

A ferry departiing Dover bound for France

The harbour and ferry terminal at Dover

Looking down on the Dover ferry terminal

Approaching the end of the “dead end” path!

Dropping down into Dover

Passing under one of the main approach roads to the ferry terminal

The White Cliffs of Dover

Memorial to Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to swim the Channel

Another zoomed shot across the Channel with white cliffs now visible

Distance today = 21 miles
Total distance = 6,354 miles