Viewranger File here
On Sunday the 22nd of April 2018 Dan and I set off from home to walk our last section of the Kent Coast. We arrived at Hythe after an 1hr and 15 minutes and parked up at the RH&DR Railway car park at CT21 6LD.
The car park here is free if you are using the railway. We popped in to make sure it was okay to leave the car as we were returning by train. The staff were shocked to hear we were walking to Dungeness and didn't think we'd make it!
From the car park we take the path along the Royal Military Canal next to the station.
The Royal Military Canal is a canal running for 28 miles between Seabrook near Folkestone and Cliff End near Hastings, following the old cliff line bordering Romney Marsh, which was constructed as a defence against the possible invasion of England during the Napoleonic Wars.
The canal was conceived by Lieutenant-Colonel John Brown of the Royal Staff Corps of field engineers in 1804, during anti-invasion preparations, as a defensible barrier to ensure that a French force could not use the Romney Marsh as a bridgehead. It had previously been assumed that the marsh could be inundated in the event of an invasion, but Brown argued that this would take ten days to implement and would cause massive disruption in the event of a false alarm. At a meeting on 26 September 1804, the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, the Duke of York, both enthusiastically endorsed the scheme. John Rennie was appointed consultant engineer, and Pitt personally persuaded the local landowners to agree to the new canal.
Construction was started at Seabrook, near Hythe in Kent on 30 October 1804. By May 1805 only six miles of the canal had been completed; William Pitt intervened and the contractors and Rennie were dismissed. The work was resumed by the Quartermaster-General’s department with Lt-Col. Brown in command. Civilian navvies dug the canal itself, while soldiers built the ramparts; up to 1,500 men were employed in the project. It was constructed in two sections: the longer section starts at Hythe and ends at Iden Lock in East Sussex; the second, smaller section, runs from the foot of Winchelsea Hill to Cliff End. Both sections are linked by the Rivers Rother and River Brede. Artillery batteries were generally located every 500 yards (460 m), where the canal was staggered to create a salient, allowing the guns to enfilade the next stretch of water. A military road was built on the inland side of the canal, and crossings consisted of moveable wooden bridges. Any troops stationed or moving along the military road would have been protected by the earthen bank of the parapet, which was piled up with excavated soil. The canal was completed in April 1809 at a total cost of £234,000; it was hoped that tolls for use of the waterway and road would help to defray the cost. In addition to these works, a number of Martello towers were built to protect the vulnerable sluices that controlled the water level in the canal, being towers numbers 22 to 27 and 30, three of which are still standing.
Despite the fact that the canal never saw military action, it was used to try to control smuggling from Romney Marsh. Guard houses were constructed at each bridge along its length. This met with limited success because of corrupt guards. Although a barge service was established from Hythe to Rye, the canal was abandoned in 1877 and leased to the Lords of the Level of Romney Marsh.
During the early stages of World War II, during preparations for a threatened German invasion, the canal was manned by 31st Independent Brigade Group, who fortified each salient with a concrete pillbox and barbed wire entanglements; numerous pillboxes survive today. In the German invasion plan, codenamed Operation Sea Lion, the paratroopers of the 7th Flieger-Division were tasked with a parachute landing to secure crossing points across the Royal Military Canal on the first day of the invasion.
Aside from being historically significant in its own right, the path passes by numerous WW2 pillboxes and the unusual acoustic mirrors, the historic cinque port towns of Hythe, Winchelsea and Rye, the 12th century St Rumwold's church, and Lympne and Camber castles.
Dan and I tried the acoustic mirrors, to no success. Maybe Dan was deaf!!
Here we leave the canal for a long road walk section to reach the coast avoiding the Army Firing Range.
We leave Bulmarsh Road and turn left onto A259 Dymchurch Road passing The Prince of Wales Pub on the corner.
|A truck full of sheep|
Opposite side of the road is the Hythe Firing range perimeter fence .
Hythe Ranges is one of the oldest Ranges in the country and has been used for live firing for nearly 200 years. The whole area is steeped in military history. On Hythe Ranges itself, there are 3 Scheduled Ancient Monuments.
Dymchurch Redoubt is circular in form and built of brick with granite and sandstone dressings. It measures up to 68 metres in diameter and stands 12 metres above the floor of its 9-metre-wide dry moat. It lacks the caponiers or musketry galleries of the otherwise similar Eastbourne Redoubt. Beyond the moat, an earth bank or glacis helped to protect the masonry from artillery fire. Built on two stories, the upper floor had open emplacements for ten 24 pounder guns mounted on wooden traversing platforms. The lower floor featured twenty-four vaulted barrack and storage casemates that opened onto a circular parade ground. They were designed to accommodate 350 officers and men. Entry was originally via a wooden footbridge supported by stilts, which could be collapsed in an emergency.
After quite a long walk on the road, we leave it behind and join the seawall and get our first glimpse of the Sea.
We now enter Dymchurch.
The history of Dymchurch began with the gradual build-up of the Romney Marsh.
New Hall was rebuilt in 1575 after an earlier wooden structure was destroyed in a fire. It was used as a court room for the Romney Marsh area. The head magistrate was known as Leveller of the Marsh Scotts. It was there that the so-called Scot tax was introduced, levied on residents to fund maintenance of the sea wall. Those directly outside the boundaries and thus not eligible for the tax were said to have got away "Scott Free". Residents with land were required to grow thorn bushes for building of the wall, as thorn twigs were believed impervious to sea water. Failure resulted in an ear being cut off.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, smuggling was rife all along the south-east coast of England. Due to its remote location, Romney Marsh and the surrounding areas were amongst the busiest locations for illicit trade. Inspiration from this gave rise to Dymchurch being the setting of the Doctor Syn novels, based on smuggling, by Russell Thorndike. Every two years a celebration of the novels is held, usually on August Bank Holiday.
Dymchurch played a significant rôle in the Anglo-French Survey (1784–1790), which linked the Royal Greenwich Observatory with the Paris Observatory using trigonometry. There were two base-lines for the English part of the survey, on Hounslow Heath and on Romney Marsh. The Romney Marsh base-line extended from Ruckinge to High Nook, on the sea-wall near Dymchurch.
Several Martello towers were built in the nineteenth century as part of an Empire-wide coastal defence programme: most have since fallen into the sea or become dilapidated. Tower 23 was restored externally in the early 1970s and is currently a private residence. Tower 24 has undergone renovation and using Tower 23 used as a guide: in 1969 it became the first Martello tower to be opened to the public and remains as a museum of Martello Towers, owned by English Heritage. Tower 25 is possibly the only empty tower that is regularly maintained.
We walk along the wall passing several caravan sites.
We stop at a stone, but someone has stolen the bronze plaque so we had no idea what it was for!
A research on google says "Plaque reads; Grand Redoubt to Dymchurch Coastal Defence Scheme. Officially opened on 9 May 2008 by The Rt. Hon. Michael Howard QC MP member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe Constituency."
The Norwegian stone has been used in the Coastal defences.
The Norwegian stone has been used in the Coastal defences.
We stop for a quick break before continuing , it is one hot day again today!
Now we reach Tower 23.
Two redoubt forts were constructed into the south coast Martello chain to act as supply depots for the local Martellos, and were originally described as "eleven-gun towers". A four-gun tower was originally proposed at Dymchurch, but this idea was revised at the Rochester conference of 1804. Dymchurch Redoubt was built between 1806 and 1809 to the same specifications as its Eastbourne counterpart, although Dymchurch does not have any caponiers. A caponier is a type of fortification structure. The word originates from the French word caponnière. It is a type of fortification structure which allows firing along the bottom of a dry moat that surrounds the main fortress.
In 1908, Walter Jerrold described the village as "a quiet scattered village and a delightful place far from the madding crowd". It is typical of this part of the coast, having originally been a very small village which became a much larger settlement during the 1930s. Many of homes from this era were converted railway carriages: very few of these remain, although a few similar ones still exist in nearby Dungeness. Dymchurch is now a popular seaside resort complete with holiday camp, caravan parks, light railway station and amusement park. Today the village is relatively large and mainly dedicated to seasonal tourism.
We now decide to walk along the beach, the sand looked compact and shouldn't slow us down.
Shoes off and walking barefoot, which I may add helped as I had got a blister 2 days before!
I did promise Dan they.d be no mud today, but in true Dan Style he steps over a groyne and straight into Mud as did I.
We stopped off for an ice-cream before continuing.
We pass through High Knocke and the High Knocke Estate.
Now we reach St Marys Bay.
During the 1950s and 1960s, St Mary's Bay was a popular destination for vacationers. 'The Bay' had a number of holiday camps, among them Maddieson's Golden Sands at Dunstall Lane, the School Journey Centre at Jefferstone Lane, and the Rugby Club camp on the opposite (sea) side of the A259 main road between Jefferstone Lane and Taylor's Lane. The School Journey Center closed at the end of the 1970s, and the site is now occupied by a housing estate. Also at St Mary's Bay was the Sands Holiday Motel and accompanying Bahia Bar, sited on the seafront roughly opposite the turning to Jefferstone Lane on the A259. The hotel and bar were demolished after being badly damaged in the Great Storm of 1987.
St Mary's Bay was the site of a home for mentally handicapped children. Known as Pirates Spring and located on Coast Drive close to the beach, the home was run by the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children (now Mencap) and had the actor Brian Rix among its patrons. After the facility closed in the 1980s the building housed a hotel and country club in the 1990s. The Springs Community now provides sheltered housing accommodation for people with the special needs associated with autism and Asperger's syndrome.
We pass Littlestone Golf Course on our way into Littlestone On Sea.
We sit outside Romney Bay House for another quick break.
Romney Bay House was built in 1929 for the American actress and journalist, Hedda Hopper. Born Elda Furry on 2nd May 1885, she was the fifth of nine children of David and Margaret (Miller) Furry. She met William DeWolf Hopper during the production of ‘The Pied Piper’. In May 1913 she became the fifth of his six brides and on 26th January 1915 she bore him a son, William junior. They then divorced in 1922.
Whilst it’s not known how long Hedda Hopper lived here, the House was bought in 2003. Since then, its been awarded The Condé Nast Johansens 2006 Most Excellent Coastal Hotel, The Good Hotel Guide 2012 César Award for Art Nouveau Hotel of The Year and The Good Hotel Guide 2016 Editor’s Seaside Choice of The Year award.
We are now approaching the former water tower at Littlestone.
The 120ft water tower at Littlestone was built in 1890 by Henry Tubbs to supply water to his properties in Littlestone, including Littlestone Golf Club and his proposed housing development.
Henry Tubbs wanted to turn Littlestone into a major resort, and embarked on an ambitious building programme, including the Marine Parade and Grand Hotel. His plans for a pier were not realised, however, and it was eventually built at Eastbourne instead.
The tower is constructed in red brick which shows the external features of the tower very well. It narrows at about the third story and its appearance changes depending on your viewpoint. At the top there is a sort of turret, giving the building a slightly military look.
The military used the Tower during World War Two as a lookout post and they made some changes to the structure, partly the reason for its slightly wobbly look. The Army also added a substantial concrete stairway inside.
Unfortunately the water tower didn’t function properly and the water was found to contain too much salt to be of any use. In 1902 the Littlestone and District Water Company built a tower at Dungeness to supply all of New Romney, Littlestone, Greatstone and Lydd. The tower at Littlestone fell into disuse, but now serves as a residence.
|A WWII memorial bench in Littlestone|
A restored Victorian water fountain. Maybe we should bring back water fountains instead of buying bottled water in plastic!
We leave Littlestone and enter Greatstone On Sea on the Romney Sands.
|Sand Dunes at Romney Sands|
|Romney Sands Caravan Park|
We are now back on the road heading into Lydd On Sea.
Lydd-on-Sea is a modern village, mostly built after World War II, which consists mainly of bungalows built along the Dungeness coastal road south of Greatstone. The Southern Railway opened a railway station here in 1937 but was closed in 1967. Lydd-on-Sea is part of the ecclesiastical parish of Lydd, now several miles distant, which once had access to the sea.
An island in a lake (created by gravel extraction) slightly to the northwest of Lydd-on-Sea is the site of a collection of sound mirrors designed by Dr William Sansome Tucker, to detect the approach of enemy aircraft, in the years before radar had been developed.
We now reach the start of Dungeness and pass by The Pilot Pub.
The engine and propellor, in the garden of The Pilot, is one of four Wright/Cyclone engines and propeller from a WW11, B17 Flying Fortress bomber (the same aircraft as The Memphis Belle). The artefact was accidentally snagged off Dungeness on the 18th of September 2017, by Joe Thomas and Tom Redshaw (local fishermen). Read more of the story of this plane here
The isolation of Dungeness had proved an irresistible lure to smuggling gangs; the absence of prying eyes and wagging tongues meant that they could carry on their work undisturbed. In a single week of 1813 free-traders were knows to have landed 12,000 gallons of brandy here. Nor was this the first cargo of spirits to cross the coastline illegally at Dungeness; 180 years earlier the local smugglers lured aground a Spanish vessel, Alfresia. They murdered the crew and looted the cargo of spirits. The ship was used to build the original Pilot which stands in the same place to this day.
We stand at the level crossing as a steam trains passes by.
A quick stop off at a local gallery, paintings a bit too pricey for me!
|I love this little caravan!|
We pass the RNLI Lifeboat station here at Dungeness.
The station has a rich history, in 1940, the Dungeness lifeboat was one of 19 that took part in the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk in northern France. Through the 1950s the station was famous for its Lady Launchers - local women who helped haul the lifeboat down to the sea, and recover her.
|Dungeness Power Station|
Dungeness nuclear power station may refer to either one or both of a pair of nuclear power stations, only one of which is still operational, located on the Dungeness headland.
There have been seven lighthouses at Dungeness, five high and two low, with the fifth high one still fully operational today. At first only a beacon was used to warn sailors, but this was replaced by a proper lighthouse in 1615. As the sea retreated, this had to be replaced in 1635 by a new lighthouse nearer to the water's edge known as Lamplough's Tower.
As more shingle was thrown up, a new and more up-to-date lighthouse was built near the sea in 1792 by Samuel Wyatt. This lighthouse was about 35 m (115 ft) high and of the same design as the third Eddystone Lighthouse. From the mid-19th century, it was painted black with a white band to make it more visible in daylight; similar colours have featured on the subsequent lighthouses here. This lighthouse was demolished in 1904, but the lighthouse keepers' accommodation, built in a circle around the base of the tower, still exists.
In 1901 building of the fourth lighthouse, the High Light Tower, started. It was first lit on 31 March 1904 and still stands today. It is no longer in use as a lighthouse but is open as a visitor attraction. It is a circular brick structure, 41 m (135 ft) high and 11 m (36 ft) in diameter at ground level. It has 169 steps, and gives visitors a good view of the shingle beach.
As the sea receded further, and after building the nuclear power station which obscured the light of the 1904 lighthouse, a fifth lighthouse, Dungeness Lighthouse was built.
The new lighthouse—officially opened by HRH The Duke of Gloucester, then Master of Trinity House—was brought into operation on 20 November 1961. The tower, which rises from a white concrete base in the form of a spiral ramp, is capable of automatic operation and was the first one of its kind to incorporate the xenon electric arc lamp as a source of illumination. It is constructed of precast concrete rings 1.5 metres high, 15 cm thick and 3.6 metres in diameter, fitted one above the other, and has black and white bands which are impregnated into the concrete.
Since May 1962 the tower has been floodlit to assist identification from seaward. This floodlighting has reduced the bird mortality rate at this lighthouse during the migration season.
The station was re-engineered/modernised in 2000. The sealed beam light was replaced with a Pharos PRB20 optic transferred from Lundy South Lighthouse, reducing the light range from 27 to 21 nautical miles.
Dungeness Lighthouse was converted to automatic operation in 1991. The lighthouse is now monitored and controlled from Trinity House’s Planning Centre in Harwich, Essex.
We now approach the old Lighthouse.
|The Britannia Inn|
The Old Lighthouse is an Historic Grade 11 building, listed in 1992 by Shepway District Council, recently celebrating its centenary.
Opened with great ceremony by His Royal Majesty the Prince of Wales in 1904 after a 3 year build, it survived two world wars before decommission in 1960. For 56 years it provided a welcome landlight to vessels negotiating the perils of the English Channel. The Lighthouse features in Nickolaus Pevsner's "Buildings of Kent".
This imposing building is almost 46 metres high to the top of the weather vane, 11 metres in diameter and constructed of engineering bricks with sandstone inner walls. Over three million bricks were used to build the structure.
Internally there are a series of mezzanine floors made of slate and supported by steel beams and massive rivets. Each floor is linked by circular concrete stairs which hug the walls and have decorative wrought iron banisters. There are cambered casement viewing windows on all floors.
We arrive at Dungeness Railway Station and I see a Bond bug car. The Bond Bug is a small British two-seat, three-wheeled automobile which was built from 1970 to 1974, initially by Bond Cars Ltd, but subsequently by the Reliant Motor Company. It is a wedge-shaped microcar, with a lift-up canopy and side screens instead of conventional doors.
I buy a return one way ticket to Hythe, stick this in my side pocket of my rucksack and go off to buy a bottle of tango.
Our ride back to Hythe is in the J.B Snell no.12. A BO-BO, 112bhp, 6-cylinder mainline diesel locomotive designed by RH&DR. Built by TMA Engineering in 1983.
I was sitting in the carriage and then looked for my ticket, where was it? Rucksack emptied I ran around the station looking for it. I eventually find it between tables in the cafe! Relieved I go back and sit in the carriage for the 1440 hrs train to leave.
|Ales By The Rails by Romney Marsh Brewery|
The train leaves and we're on our way back to Hythe after a nearly 14 mile walk.
At Dymchurch our train is replaced with The Hurricane, a GN outline two-cylinder (formerly
three-cylinder) 4-6-2 Pacific locomotive.Designed by Henry Greenly. Built by Davey Paxman & Co.,
(16044) in 1927.
We arrive back at Hythe and the staff are surprised to see us back so early!
We drive down to the seafront for me to have a swim in the English Channel.
I didn't stay in too long, very choppy and surprisingly cold too.
So we left the beach and headed to Park Road back to the chippy we went before for Fish n Chips, as good as it was before. Lovely! A great walk but we are both a little red after the sun!
So that is now the entire coast walked from Faversham to Dungeness for us both!