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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Walk 79 Sandwich to Dover (Kent)

Walk 79          Sandwich to Dover (Kent)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End

Map: L/R 179
Distance: 14 miles or 22km.
Difficulty:  Moderate, some climbs
Terrain: footpaths and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Trains to Sandwich and Dover to surrounding towns.

Sandwich, with its riverside, timber framed buildings, old archway and connections with Thomas Paine is well worth a stroll around. It was one of the original cinque ports but the harbour silted up in the 18th century and its importance diminished. It was attacked by the French in 1457 and ever since this time the mayors have worn black robes in memory of the many residents killed during the raid. I tried a sandwich in a pub here which claims to have the original ‘open’ format. The story goes that the Earl of Sandwich could not leave the table during a long gambling session so he put beef with his bread - hence the sandwich.

Follow the path out from the car park and alongside some fields before starting on the route across St George’s golf course. To avoid flying golf balls and the anger of serious golfers keep strictly to the marked path. The British Open is held here every nine years and for James Bond fans may be interested to know that it is here that he played golf against his enemy in the film Goldfinger.

After the trek across the golf course you emerge at Sandwich Bay. It is usually very quiet along here partly because vehicles have to pay a toll to pass through the exclusive Sandwich Bay Estate. Many of these impressive houses can be seen on the walk towards Deal. As you enter Deal watch out for the (few) remains of Sandown Castle. This was built as a coastal fortification by Henry V111. Further along are some interesting old buildings looking out to sea – these include a 1623 Tudor Cottage. The Royal Hotel has a plaque announcing that Lord Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton ‘visited’ here in 1801.

Ramsgate can be seen from Deal Pier on a clear day. It is 1000 feet long and is used mainly for fishing although a bar/café at the far end is good reason to walk its length.

Continue the walk past the fishing boats and further attractive buildings. The distinctive Time Ball on top of its dedictaed museum is worth a closer look and visit (if open). This tower once enabled ships setting off on a voyage to check their chronometers with GMT. The black ball was dropped at 1 p.m. by electrical current sent from Greenwich.

Further along is Deal Castle built by Henry V111 to protect his fleet when anchored nearby. It is built in the shape of the Tudor Rose and is open to the public.

On the way out of Deal and into Walmer look out for a bandstand on the grass between the promenade and the road. This has plaques for the eleven bandsmen tragically killed by an IRA bomb in 1989. Alongside the coastal path is a plaque celebrating the first Roman landing in Britain – it features an engraving of Julius Caesar.

Further along, Walmer Castle can be seen set further back from the path. This castle was a favourite of the late Queen Mother who was The Lord Warden. Previous holders of this post include the Duke of Wellington (who died here) and Winston Churchill. Well worth a visit.

The walk continues past the unspoilt village of Kingsdown and The Zetland Arms which faces the sea – a great place to stop for a break. The path from here goes up on to the cliffs. One significant landmark  before getting to St Margaret’s at Cliffe is the memorial to the Dawn Patrol which guarded the English Channel from 1914-1919.

St Margaret at Cliffe with its stunning sea front is a popular place to start cross channel swims – the French coast is at its closest here (22 miles). Noel Coward once lived in the village and later rented the house out to Ian Fleming. The author was an ornithologist and named James Bond after a writer of books on birds.

The cliff walk gives great views out to the channel which is the busiest sea lane in the world. Most of this area is owned by the National Trust and includes South Foreland Lighthouse (open to visitors) – the first lighthouse to use electricity.

The path gives good views of Dover Castle – a must to visit with its Norman connections, medieval tunnels (spooky) and wartime tunnels. The path drops down into Dover with a good view of Dover Docks.

The walk finishes when the road near the docks is reached.   
Snaps show: the remains of Sandown Castle; the time ball tower in deal; entrance to Deal pier; St Margaret at Cliffe.

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