After an eventful few days we finally had a day in the van catching up on jobs. It’s sparkling again!
Suitably rested we resumed our active new lifestyle on Thursday! We were heading further afield this time with a final destination of Deal in mind, via Folkestone (neither of which places we intended to stop….)
We made our way along the A259, the coast road, and shortly after New Romney (which was the furthest we have got so far on this trip) we were passing through Sandgate when Calv spotted a castle through the housefronts. So we turned round and went back to find it, parked up and went for a wander.
We found the castle easily enough, but unfortunately it was closed. So we found our way onto the seafront promenade (once you start walking it’s quite a way before you can leave (without turning round anyway))! From here we could get a good view of the castle, and, of course, the vast pebbly beach – I wonder where the name ‘Sand’Gate comes from?? As with many of the beaches in this part of the country the beach is steeply terraced down towards the water.
All in all a pretty little town (home to the new Saga Corporate HQ, a glass building on the hill overlooking the town).
Next up, Folkestone. We’ve stayed at the Camping & Caravanning site in Folkestone before (set on the clifftop overlooking the remains of the temporary harbours built during the war), and so are familiar with the Eastern end of the town, including the old fishing port.
As we drove along the B road towards Dover we visited the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel le Ferne. Again we have visited this before, briefly, but it has changed rather a lot since then! A wonderful new visitor centre has been built including a ‘Scramble Experience’ – we were worried that we would spend too much time in here if we visited so didn’t go in – another time perhaps.
The memorial is very poignant; a wall detailing the name of every 1 of the 3000 airmen involved in the Battle of Britain, the memorial itself in the shape of a propeller with a statue of a comtemplative airmen in the centre. There are also 2 replica planes on display.
There are the mounds from 2 gun emplacements facing the sea, and, apparently, there are also 2 underground hospitals near the site (unfortunately not open to the public – or actual obvious where they are).
We paid £1 to park for an hour, it’s £3 if you want to stay all day – there are also walks to take from here.
We finally made it to Dover and the Whitecliffs (National Trust), only to find that both the underground tunnels and the South Foreland lighthouse weren’t open today (we should have checked before leaving home!) Never mind, they’re open from Friday to Monday so we’ll come back on Monday, meaning that we can also visit Dover itself. As we drove through the town we noticed that there were many old buildings to see, and feel that perhaps it gets a bad press? We’ll find out next week, and let you know..
So we sat at a picnic table above the Port of Dover (which seems to be extremely busy and efficient) to eat our lunch, had a quick wander (I found out that the car park and visitor centre are on the site of an old prison, later a military garrison).
Moving on again towards Deal I spotted an unusual church as we drove past Ringwould, unusual in that there was an onion dome as a spire! So round we turned again. The church was utterly charming and the churchyard held 2 ancient trees, (one 1300 years old, the other just 1000 years old), some beautiful blossom trees and, apparently, gravestones that are considered to be works of art in themselves.
The church itself reminded me of my mum as she would have loved it, mainly due to the lovely flower arrangements inside.
We took a short walk around the village and found the old Forge, the old Bakery and the Bier mentioned on an information board just outside the church.
Back in the car we set off again towards Deal, but before we got there we found Walmer Castle (English Heritage; see the main photo). This is a very interesting castle with displays set up from different stages of it’s life and the people who have lived there as the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports (including such luminaries as William Pitt, the Duke of Wellington, Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother).
By the time we’d finished here it was well past 4pm and having been out since 9.30am (yes – we managed to get up, washed, dressed and made our lunches by 9.30!!) we knew it was time to head home. We’ll visit Deal on the same day that we visit Canterbury and Sandwich.
Friday 21st April
A nice lazy morning with a walk around Rye Harbour planned for the afternoon. On arriving at Rye Harbour we found there is a large free carpark (donations welcome) opposite the entrance to the nature reserve, which is also next to a Martello Tower and a holiday park.
The path through the nature reserve is suitable for both walkers and cyclists. There are 5 birdwatching hides placed around the reserve, and you will also find the above cottage – on it’s own (much as I expected to see at Dungeness!) and the historic, listed Mary Stanford Lifeboat Station. (Read more about this event by clicking on the link.)
We stepped into one of the hides and were told that the bird in the main picture below is a Whimbrill – I’d never seen one of these before, it’s a little like a curlew. We also saw oystercatchers.
As an aside, in the morning whilst looking out of the van towards the woods, we saw a striking orange breasted bird, with a bluey/silver back, roughly the size of a thrush. With an expert on hand in the hide we found out this was most likely a bullfinch, which we confirmed when returning to the van and checking online 🙂
The lifeboat station has not been used since the launch in November 1928 which saw the entire crew of 17 fail to return. Making this all the sadder is that 5 minutes after they had eventually managed to launch in a dreadful storm an all-clear was issued (all hands on the ship they were aiming to help were safe). They were unable to see this recall due to the storms.
Efforts are being made to restore the station to it’s former glory and provide education within it’s walls.
Our walk took us about 4 1/2 miles and having identified suitable paths for cycling we will return in a few days and aim to cycle to Winchelsea (another limb of the Cinque Ports).
Tomorrow, Saturday, we’ve booked tickets to travel on the steam train. KESR, that travels between Bodiam and Tenterden.