Dover to Deal
Changing to a northerly bearing I walked up and away from Dover, where the distinctive chalky landscape is managed by the National Trust. I passed the entrance to the restored Fan Bay Deep Shelter; a vast tunnel complex used as accommodation for the gun battery that held a dominant position on Dover’s cliffs during WW2. In the distance I could see the decommissioned South Foreland Lighthouse, one of a chain of Trinity House lights that had been set up to warn mariners of the nearby treacherous Goodwin Sands.
Located east of St Margaret’s at Cliffe, and seen through driving rain, I walked by the Dover Patrol memorial that overlooks Dover Straits. This honours men of the Royal and Merchant Navies who formed a discrete unit during the First World War. Over 2,000 men from the Patrol lost their lives performing such duties as bombarding German land forces in coastal Belgium, escorting troop ships, sweeping for German mines and seeking their U-Boats
Trudging on in the rain I sensed I was entering an area holding strong links with the Royal Marines. A bench displaying a sodden poppy wreath on Kingsdown seafront caught my eye; Sgt Andrews who had instructed Squad 318 back in 1944 was still being remembered in 2017. Testament indeed! When the Royal Marines training depot had been at Deal, Kingsdown range had been where young RM recruits experienced their first live firing of weapons.
In Deal, the presence of Royal Marines still proudly lingers. A local pub has been deftly renamed the ‘Green Berry’ (as opposed to beret) and of course the Deal Memorial bandstand remembers 11 musicians from the RM Band Service who were killed by an IRA bomb in 1989. Home to the School of Music for many years, Deal still welcomes back the RM Band for an annual concert. If they had been there on the day I passed through, only wet notes would have been played! For such an attractive town I could not have chosen a worse day to visit, but I still managed to stagger through the rain to the end of the functional 1950s concrete build pier – another ticked-off!
Turning the Corner
Freezing conditions replaced rain for the walk out of Deal to Sandwich. Golfers on the three Royal courses that ran parallel to the coast grappled to hold their clubs. Stopping would have meant I’d have stuck to the ground. Vast Sandwich estate houses overlooked the chocolate coloured sea and craft looked lost, stranded in the muddy creek gullies of the tidal Sandwich Haven. The charming Cinque Port of Sandwich was followed by some grim walking alongside a very busy dual carriageway before I could break away into Pegwell Country Park.
Pegwell Bay was where, in the 70s, I’d travelled to France for the first time by Hoverlloyds’s hovercraft. The only remains of that era of sea travel is the hoverpad, still visible above the muddy water of the Bay. Shortly after, Ramsgate Harbour came into view, uniquely permitted to call itself a Royal Harbour. The Dock Master offered us a safe haven on the quay for the night. Boats in the inner harbour were adorned with twinkling Christmas lights and the town had a real feel of a working port. Pilot boats and windfarm tugs moved in and out and during the overnight storm we saw a fishing boat struggle in with its catch.
Apart from the weather, the walk out of Ramsgate to Broadstairs was easy – a mix of concrete sea walls and sandy beaches pickled with white chalky rocks covered in green weed; from a distance it resembled bubble-bath foam! I was keen to reach North Foreland where I would ‘turn the corner’ to move in a westerly direction. A famous landmark for shipping, North Foreland has the distinction of being the very last lighthouse to be automated in November 1998. Afterwards, an easy stretch into Margate on a dismally wet afternoon. Everywhere felt gloomy and wasn’t helped by acres of graffiti scrawled on every conceivable sign, bench, building and sea wall.