On our way to the North Norfolk coast we passed through Aylsham, which is when we realised that we should have made the effort to visit when we cycled there along the Bure Valley Railway (see my previous post for details).
The access to our next site, Woodlands Caravan Park, was really easy, straight off the A148 from Cromer. You first pass the onsite leisure centre (a proper leisure centre – we loved the pool and sauna), before coming across the site itself.
Easter Monday dawned a little grey so we resolved to stay put. However after lunch we were getting a bit restless so decided to head down towards Dungeness.
On the way we took the seafront route, driving past Camber & Broomhill Sands. We were pleased to note that there was a good off-road cycle route running for miles from Rye towards Lydd.
We found a Go-Kart track off-route just past Lydd. It was a proper track and we were able to watch a few laps before heading on towards Dungeness.
As we drove down the road towards the New Lighthouse of Dungeness we encountered a landscape unlike anything we’ve really seen before in the UK. To the left we could see the ruins of boats and old tracks that would have been used to drag said boats up and down the beach. We think that some were still in use. But the majority of the beach resembled a boat graveyard. On the right, maybe 1/2 mile away, the power station dominates.
We also went past Prospect Cottage; previously the home of Derek Jarman, and late film director, and famous for the garden he designed for the cottage. It’s very pretty and stands out compared to most of the cottages along this stretch towards the huge expanse of shingle beach.
Speaking of the cottages I have to say that I felt a little misled by many of the travel programmes that feature this area. My expectations were that there would just be a few abandoned cottages dotted along the shingle, but this isn’t the case at all. There are dozens of old cottages. Many of these started as railway carriages and they have been added to over the years. But there are also several, clearly, brand new structures in place. Some are being used as galleries. They are almost all occupied in some way.
There’s no doubt this is a remote place to live, and I can imagine it gets fairly bleak at times (it was windy enough when we were there!) But there is a pub and post boxes, and also a café/restaurant (The End of the Line, also the ticket office for the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Miniature railway).
This railway runs 13 1/2 miles to Hythe (a trip of about 1 1/4 hours in total). Calv enjoyed standing outside studying the engine whilst it was waiting in the station. He suffered later though as the whistle blew very loudly right next to him and he had a persistent whistling in his ear for the rest of the evening!
We had a really good view of the railway from the top of the Old Lighthouse (a new one was necessary as when the Power Station was built it blocked the view of the lighthouse from the channel – good planning then…)
It cost £4 each to visit the lighthouse and on a good day you can go outside at the top (as long as you can get through the rather low opening – I hesitate to call it a door!) The keepers lived in the roundhouse that you can see in the pictures.
Dungeness Old Lighthouse
A section of the stairs in the old lighthouse
The Roundhouse at Dungeness from the top of the Old Lighthouse
View from the top of the Old Lighthouse
We then wandered back towards the New Lighthouse with a diversion along the boardwalk towards the sea (see the main picture). We saw sea-kale growing on the beach, and apparently part of the reason for the boardwalk is to protect rare plant-life. We didn’t actually make it to the New Lighthouse as it was so windy and cold. So we headed back to ‘The End of the Line’ for a cup of tea (actually a very good cup of tea…) and this is where Calv stood outside for 10 mins ‘inspecting’ the engine.
There is also an RSPB centre which we didn’t have time to visit unfortunately.
We headed a little further along the coast through Greatstone on Sea and Littleton on Sea, seeing some rather impressive houses and other buildings, such as this old water tower (looking like it was perhaps halfway through a renovation?) We were also following the line of the miniature railway, but only as far as New Romney where we got back onto the main road and headed home to the van.
Tuesday 20th April
We started the day by heading into St Leonards to get some washing and shopping done.
In the afternoon I had found a walk that I wanted to do in nearby Brightling – 10 miles away. It looked interesting as it was concerned with finding some of the Brightling Follies, built by ‘Mad’ Jack Fuller (many prefer for him to be called ‘Honest’ Jack).
We parked up outside the St Thomas a Becket church where a very nice local man, Simon, chatted to us about our walk and told us a bit more about Jack Fuller who seems to have been a fascinating man who did much good in the area.
Simon is involved in trying to provide more information on Jack Fuller and his follies in the village, by turning the red phone box outside the church into a mini-museum. Good luck Simon – it’s a brilliant idea.
We began in the church, where the Pyramid is located. This is actually Jack Fuller’s mausoleum. As we rounded the corner of the church we were confronted, yes confronted, by sheep protecting their young, and we had the impression that they didn’t want us entering that particular area! So we retreated… In the church we noted that the pews held cushions and that every cushion was individual. I found one for a John Fuller – I wonder if that was Mad (Honest) Jack’s??
Lambs in the churchyard
St Thomas a Becket in Brightling
The individual cushions in St Thomas a Becket church, Brightling
We then started our walk well by going in completely the opposite direction to that we were meant to – only we didn’t know this for a while. However, the upshot of this was that we managed to see all 6 of the follies (one of which, the observatory, isn’t actually a folly but scientific pioneering – as advised by Simon; thanks Simon!)
So we’d seen the Pyramid. Now as we walked out of the village, along the road, towards Woods Corner we could see glimpses of the Obelisk. Coming to a junction we could now see the Observatory. We had by now realised that we were going the wrong way but decided to continue. So we took the road to the right and before we turned right again we had a much better view of the Observatory. A little further down the road we had an unobstructed view of the Obelisk. Unfortunately neither is accessible, the Observatory now being a private residence. Both of these were a bonus as we wouldn’t have seen them properly, if at all, had we gone the right way!!
Now we were looking for a public footpath to get us back on track (or so we thought..) We eventually found one immediately after the entrance to the British Gypsum mine. This took us down a long field and into woodland.
The woods were beautiful with many different wild-flowers as well as the usual bluebells and snowdrops.
We also saw an ancient tree which was pretty amazing. There is also a covered conveyor belt running through the woods, which is something to do with the mine.
We were getting increasingly worried that we were going in completely the wrong direction, and as my phone battery was running out we didn’t have much time left on using google maps to help keep us on track!
On emerging from the woods we turned left, which didn’t feel right.. I managed to squeeze the last bit of battery out of my phone to confirm that, yet again, we were going the wrong way.
Once back on track we were constantly looking around to see if we could spot any of the remaining 3 follies. We were finally rewarded with a view of the tower! We chose to head back to the car to charge up my phone and then drive to the tower. We actually sat outside trying to get back up to 10%.
The Tower, is actually accessible and at the very top there’s a rickety ladder, which Calv duly climbed up… As we were walking back over the field to the car Calv suddenly shouted out, “There’s the Temple!” And it was indeed, in the distance 🙂 This prompted me to scan the horizon to see if I could see the Sugar Loaf (a folly resembling a church spire). My turn to shout out “There it is!” We’d found all 6 – happy days 🙂
We then drove around the edge of the Brightling Park in search of a closer view of the Temple and the Sugar Loaf. We found the sugar loaf and were able to access this. We also found a closer view of the Temple, although this wasn’t accessible.
We’d walked about 4 miles in total. I have to say some of the stiles were very high – I’ve only got short legs! Calv found it highly amusing watching me trying to get over these. I had the last laugh though when he had to lift me off a couple of them!