Saturday dawned grey and drizzly (as forecast), and we had tickets for the steam train (Kent & East Sussex) travelling between Bodiam and Tenterden – we were getting on at Northiam.
Having booked online we went to the ticket office to pick up our tickets. I was preceded by an elderly German man counting out his change, pretty much penny by penny! Bless him 🙂 I wanted to upgrade our tickets to 1st class for an extra £2 each, but was thwarted by the fact that there wasn’t a 1st class service running that day 😦
The train was packed, as it was when we returned from Tenterden later in the day when there was a massive party, again Germans, booked for a cream tea.
There is something about travelling by steam train – I think it brings out the child in all of us 🙂
We spent a few hours in Tenterden (just because we wanted to travel only by steam train and not by the diesel option). As it has been described as the ‘Jewel of the Weald’ we were expecting a little more from the town and so were a little disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong it was pleasant enough – just not what we were expecting. We had lunch in The Lemon Tree restaurant, located in what was clearly a pub in a previous life (a very old building); we then wandered up to the Town Gate noting some of the interesting old buildings on the way. Heading back into town on the other side of the road we noticed a number of independent tea-rooms (and decided that we should have headed that way before deciding on where to have lunch..)
Saturday was the day we were allowing ourselves a treat, and we found a stall in the High Street selling lots of goodies! The poor lad can’t have got a break all day as he was so busy 🙂
We went back to the station via the Town Museum (£1.50 each, free to Caravan Club members). It was pleasant enough and provided some interesting information. We also popped into the Railway Museum giving some interesting information about the steam railway itself.
On Sunday we relaxed in the morning before going for a little walk down the lane towards All Saints Church in Beckley. On the way there we took a public footpath across the fields, which turned out to be a longer way to get to the church through sheep filled fields!
A nice dinner of roast pork chops finished the day off nicely.
On Monday we were expecting rain by about 1pm so set off nice and early for Dover and the White Cliffs (run by the National Trust and therefore free for us to park and visit the attractions). We arrived by about 11am and followed the footpath towards the tunnels and the lighthouse. It’s about 2 miles out to the lighthouse and the walk can be fairly easy…(if you want it to be that is!) On the way you pass the new Coastguard building (later in the day we saw 2 ‘victims’ of this, being 2 buildings that clearly used to be coastguard stations – 1 now a tearooms and 1 a pub).
Then you come the Deep Fan Bay Shelter and Tunnels from the 2nd World War (23m deep and built in just 3 months on the direct orders of Winston Churchill). The visit to the tunnels is a guided tour; these leave about every 15 minutes – it seemed to be dependant on when people arrived. There are 126 steps down (and, of course, back up again…) This is a very interesting tour, run by volunteers; as is so much within the National Trust. About halfway through you emerge onto the hillside to see the ‘listening mirrors’, the precursors to radar itself.
On leaving the tunnels we continued our trek towards the South Foreland Lighthouse. As lighthouses go this is not particularly tall (68.9 foot) but with a guided tour the history is really brought to life – it was the first lighthouse to use electric light, and also the first wireless transmission was sent from here. There is a smaller structure visible on the cliff-edge (now in somebody’s garden), and both used to be used together for seafarers to fix their position and navigate through the treacherous Goodwin Sands. The sands are forever shifting and eventually this rendered this original arrangement obsolete. At this point the lighthouse changed to a flashing light.
At this point I have to say how wonderful the volunteer guides of the National Trust are – very knowledgeable and friendly, providing a wealth of information. Thank you!
The low building attached to the lighthouse is now a tea-room; a lovely authentic period tea-room 🙂 (Mrs Knott’s – named after one of the families who lived here as lighthouse keepers). Here we had a spot of lunch (well, I had a slice of chocolate beetroot cake – for my lunch…)
Heading back to the car park we decided to take the lower path along the cliff. This entailed a descent into the Deep Fan Bay, and then an ascent up, what looked like steps. From a distance. In actual fact they turned out to be enlarged footholds that made their way steeply up the hill – it was quite a challenge, for me anyway, ascending this section!
Before heading home we headed further along the coast towards St Margarets, as we wanted to see the monument to the Dover Patrol that is sited there. (This is also where we saw one of the old Coastguard stations – now a tearoom).
One final stop before heading back was to the Bleriot monument. This commemorates the place where Louis Bleriot crash landed having made the first flight across the English Channel.
Tuesday 25th April
Today we went to Canterbury. I’m posting a couple of photos but we mainly shopped (Calv now has something to wear with his waistcoat to the wedding next weekend).
There is a lot to see in Canterbury and we will most definitely be returning when we come back and stay after we get back from Ibiza. So I will write about it then.