Posted by: natsevs | December 14, 2010

Cliftonville to Lydd

We set off from the house around 9am to drive to the train station at Margate and pick up my mate Ben who was going to walk with me for a couple of days. Me, Ben and the dog were dropped off at Cliftonville whilst my parents took the car on to Deal to then get a train back up to Ramsgate to meet us. We set off along the top in the cold winter sunshine but then dropped down onto the lower promenade before being dumped onto the beach. It was quite nice down there walking by the white cliffs and we came past a gully heading inland before arriving at an arch coming out onto the beach. The tide was mostly out so we were able to go through the arch but on the other side our way was blocked meaning we had to retreat and climb up through the gully to get on top once more. When we got on top we found ourselves in Kingsgate by the castle there and stayed up top on path or road until Broadstairs. When we got there we made our way back down to the beach which was quite busy considering the temperature. It is an odd beach in that there is a big shingle bank running all along it midway between the cliff and the shore line so walking along the board path behind the bank we couldn’t see the sea. The board path became a promenade that then took us to a point where we were taken up to the top again. Carrying on the paths took us through a park to finally have Ramsgate coming into view.

As we got to the town we took the steps down to the harbour and walked along the front until we came to a point where pedestrians were no longer allowed to walk through and instead had to go up quite a lot of steep steps to get up to where my parents were waiting. The view from up there is quite impressive although it is a lot prettier at night with all the lights. There was a cycle way taking us out of Ramsgate on a zigzagging route ending up down by the shore walking along an abandoned road. It was all overgrown and looked like a set from “I am Legend” or some other post apocalyptic film. Unfortunately it also led to a dead end where the tarmac stopped to be replaced by reeds and very marshy ground underfoot. After quite a few attempts at finding a way through we gave up and went back to where there was an old pedestrian bridge taking us onto the cliff. Up there we were greeted by a mock Viking ship and the main road and roads were to be our home for most of the rest of the day. The scenery took a turn for the worse as well with derelict cooling towers, dead foxes and industrial estates being a few of the highlights. When we arrived at Sandwich we crossed the river to then walk alongside it for a very short period of more pleasant walking before resuming the roadside monotony parallel to the shoreline through the Sandwich estate. We did leave the road to walk the edge of a golf course before cutting across to the sea wall for the final stretch into Deal. My sister Gi had driven up to join us for the evening and we met her there where Ben was glad to get in the car as he had managed to gain a massive blister over the day.

The following day was a lot cloudier and very windy to start and it only got more miserable. Dad, Ben and I set off from Deal around 10am along the front, getting to Walmer quite quickly. There were a few dog walkers around, a lot of whom were a little bit strange, like the man hitting a sedate dog with a red cloth to ‘calm it down’. We were on a tarmac path on top of the shingle beach until coming to a hill and up onto the cliffs. Once on top we could vaguely see France through the haze as we made our way along the white cliffs of Dover. St Margarets was an attractive little town where we dipped right down to the beach before coming all the way back up again. We also passed by the war memorial by the Bluebirds Tea Room and the view of France cleared a little bit. Coming up out of St Margarets we tried an overgrown path but that led to steps back down to where we came from so we stuck to roads for a bit before more cliff top walking as it started to spit with rain and the wind picked up even more. We could soon see Dover and the regular flow of ferries coming in and out of the harbour but it took ages to get there. The cliffs were now going up and down and in and out providing impressive scenery but the weather countered that positive slightly. Dad was on a bit of a mission, obviously keen to get to the lunch stop in Dover, and we soon came down to a National Trust car park and visitor centre in view of the castle where we met up with Gi and mum. We had lunch at one of the picnic tables there then all walked down into Dover below the castle, spotting the little fortified holes in the cliff side. A little along the road Gi headed back to her car to drive home and the rest of us carried on along the busy and grotty roads.

After what seemed like an age we went under a subway and got to a path climbing up onto the cliffs away from the road. After the initial climb there was a second much steeper one, a little dip down, then up some more. There are lots of fortifications up there which have been used as hay stores by farmers or just left for intrigued people to climb into. I was massively surprised how little rubbish there was in them and they didn’t smell of stale urine as most of them have done previously. The weather got worse as the wind got stronger and the rain was a constant mist being blown in our faces, it was not a pleasant experience. I felt sorry for Ben who was also already struggling with some pretty big blisters on his feet, but at least he was getting the real experience I guess. There was another big climb then fairly constant ups and downs as we gradually got closer to Folkestone. When it did come into view it took us ages to get there again so our morale went down further instead of picking up. The wind was actually a bit dangerous at times as the path was right on the cliff edge. It was blowing onto the land but that meant that you had to lean against it slightly to walk straight so when it suddenly dropped you found yourself veering seaward towards a long fall. After passing the Battle of Britain Memorial we finally got to a point where we could make our way down to Folkestone starting with a steep shortcut before meeting the proper path. The rain chose this opportunity to really pick up and we all got soaked as mum tried to remember where she had parked the car. We went along the front around the harbour then on further with the brief shelter of a hotel. Getting near to the corner we could hear the wind and it didn’t sound nice so when we rounded it to be smacked by the rain laden gales it was at least not too much of a shock. The good thing was that the car was there and we piled in glad to be done for the day. Once back at the house all the radiators were taken up with drying clothes as we tucked into a fish and chip supper before taking Ben back to the train station a little worse for wear but victorious.

It was a really dark morning again so was a real effort to get up although a bacon sandwich helped. We got to Folkestone just before 10 and I set off along the front whilst mum and dad took the car on to Hythe. I walked with my head down and iPod in as it was such a horrible day which was a shame as it would probably have been a nice walk in the sunshine, especially through Sandgate. I got to Hythe in just over an hour and met up with mum and dad to walk the rest of the promenade before having to come in on roads due to a firing range blocking off the coast. Just before we turned in we met an old guy coming off the beach in speedos as you do in late October on a freezing day. Fair play to him though. The road walking was rubbish, right alongside the rifle range, and just not fun. It took us to Dymchurch where we joined the huge sea wall which is the only thing stopping the land there from being underwater which seems like a lot of trouble to me. The sea wall took us to Dymchurch proper where we were forced off it because of renovation work and had to take to the roads once more along a ‘diversion’. That took us back to the wall for about 20m before it was blocked again and we stopped for lunch on a bench by the amusements and other such places. Dymchurch didn’t really match up to most of the other seaside holiday destinations I’ve passed and kind of made me wonder whether they should let the sea have it back. We set off again on the roadside until the works finally finished and we could walk the promenade once I had got round an odd guy who slowed right down in front of me blocking the path off. A golf course popped up to our right with a rough potholed track running along the edge between us and it. Halfway along the golf course there was an ASDA delivery van stuck on the track looking very lopsided with one wheel in quite a deep hole. The girl driving it had apparently called up a tow truck and was waiting for them to arrive so as we could be of no help we carried on to St Mary’s.
From there we stayed on the front until Romney Sands where mum and dad were getting the little steam train back up to Hythe to collect the car. They therefore stopped there whilst I carried on down the front towards Dungeness and its imposing nuclear power plant with Allie. Dungeness was one of the strangest places I have walked through this year and just had me quite confused. Soon the whole landscape was shingle except for the road and the wooden huts dotted about with various debris and boats strewn around them. I say it was strange but it was actually strangely pretty, not that I would want to live there or anything. Further down nearer to the point the frequency of huts increases and there are also 2 lighthouses, all now in the shadow of the power plant. There was meant to be a path in front of the plant so I headed towards it worrying about the lack of signage. I ended up on a concrete road running along the front with a massive shingle bank blocking off the sea on the other side. The site was massive and had far more security than some of the others I have passed. Soon the buildings turned to a big car park and the fence disappeared but there was still no sign of the path the map told me was there. I could try to walk inland and round the military firing range that was (possibly unwisely) placed right next to the nuclear plant. There weren’t any flags up though and the fence that may have once blocked of the range was now just fence posts holding thin air so I decided I would stick to the shoreline. It was seriously hard work and I was having flashbacks to Chesil Beach which weren’t helped by the complete bleakness of the surroundings and the weather. It was one of those days where the sun never rises. I got to the lookout building about one third of the way to Camber and decided I would have to make my way inland to Lydd if I wanted to finish before the next morning. From the building there was a road winding in through the range and up to Lydd which I took and came out onto the main road to meet mum and dad in the waiting car.

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