Viking Coastal Trail: a short evening walk from Margate

September 4, 2012

I missed the bad weather which hit much of the country on 1st July. The black clouds yielded but a few drops of rain

The Viking Coastal Trail is largely traffic free and hugs the coast. I left Margate heading East in the direction of Broadstairs with views of the white cliffs 

Past Walpole Bay, then Palm Bay: its golden sands deserted. Whether this was owing to the weather or the school term or simply the fact that something dire seems to have happened to Margate in the sixties, I cannot say.

A large wind farm could be seen off the coast. Which is where the residents of Sillfield in Cumbria would like to see the one in their next village.

Rounding Foreness Point, I was not surprised to see a fortification. After all, this is the coast facing our historical enemy.

All I can find out about the above is that it is a Tower. Then round the next corner, as it were, I was much more surprised to see a fully fledged castle

It might be dark and rainy but it is still summer 

There’s a teeny stretch of (rather dangerous) road here at Kingsgate. A sign on the gate helpfully gave information about this imposing building. It tells us that Kingsgate Castle was built in 1760 by Henry Fox, the first Lord Holland. Later it became the residence of John Lubbock, the first Baron Avebury whose arms adorn the main gateway. It is now divided into private residences. I hadn’t realised that the present Lord Avebury, whose victory for the Liberal Party at Orpington  in the 1960s prompted the satirical programme ‘That Was The Week That Was’ to illustrate how Liberals believed that Orpington was the centre of the world, had quite such a splendid past.

The weather on the return journey was ominous but having had dinner, I was able to enjoy the sight of the slowly darkening sky  as the sun set over the sea.

This evening view was a welcome change from life in the city.


A circular walk around Faversham

September 1, 2011

Faversham Market Place

I owe the idea for this walk, billed as ‘On the Wild Side’, to the excellent Explore Kent website. OS Explorer Map 149 also proved useful. Faversham, which has a railway station, has medieval buildings and a market and declares itself on a mission to provide local home made food. That’s fine by me. There seemed to be a lot of cheerful looking cup cakes.

I headed out to the village of Oare, passing an eighteenth century windmill.


Then, picking up the Saxon Shore Way, walked alongside Oare Creek. The path goes  along the sea wall with the creek on one side and marsh grazing land on the other. Faversham Creek joins it and the land widens into  what seems to be the estuary of the Swale leading eventually to Whitstable Bay. Normally it would be extremely pleasant to walk along slightly higher than the land and the water on either side, with open vistas- a remote and wild place- leading to a bird reserve. However the forecast rain made its appearance earlier than expected. In fact, as I beheld a very large, very dark cloud advancing upon me, I was horrified to observe the one kind of weather I really really wish to avoid walking in- a flash of lightning. I resigned myself to being struck by lightning, as I would have been the highest point for miles around, and ,although grateful for my agreeable life, I regretted that it had not been longer. Just before the rain began to fall, I came to the Sea Wall Hide. To my immense relief it was open. It sheltered me, and others, as the rain pounded on the roof and the thunder roared above.

Taken through the window of the 'Sea Wall Hide' as the rain fell.

After that I continued with no further rain, along the sea wall and then turned inland along a former industrial tram track. After crossing several fields, which had evidence of being inhabited by livestock but no visible livestock, I avoided the fields that did, and returned by a lane and a road to the centre of Faversham having walked seven and a half miles.

Beachy Head

June 13, 2011

I celebrated my return to walking after moving to South London, by a trip to Eastbourne and one of the most popular views of the chalky white cliffs of the South of England.

It’s a short walk from the railway station to the sea front at Eastbourne.

At the western end of the promenade the cliffs rise from the sea. Better signage to the start of the South Downs Way would have been appreciated. I’m spoilt by the Thames Path and Capital Ring. OK it’s obvious which way to go and sections of the path have either dropped into the sea already or become dangerously near the cliff edge, but more indication of just where the path was supposed to be would have been helpful.

Still only half way up!

Looking back towards Eastbourne

I bought ‘The South Downs Way’ by David Harrison. My guidebook warned me not to attempt the South Downs Way without mobile phone or whistle. As it happened I had neither on that particular day but I’m sure the large numbers of tourists visiting Beachy Head would have helped me out in case of difficulty. I wouldn’t take a pushchair up there, though. The South Downs Way goes all the way to Winchester and, from the map, looks to have some pretty isolated and exposed sections. After a steep climb, the cliff top walk presents spectacular views. Beachy Head is from the french ‘beau chef’ or beautiful headland, according to David Harrison.

On this June day the chalk downland supported an abundance of wild flowers. Could these blue ones be a form of orchid?The cliffs stretch out beyond Beachy Head

Here at least, the path is clearly marked.

I headed for the lighthouse of ‘Belle Tout’.

This is what undulating means

I was surprised by how strong the wind was. It must be very tough going indeed in autumn or winter. I came to the lighthouse, which, according to the guide book, has been superseded as a lighthouse by the one at the bottom of Beachy Head and has been lifted up and moved back from the edge of the cliff. Here, leaving the spectacular ‘Seven Sisters’ walk for another day, I turned round and retraced my steps.

On the way back, I had the wind behind me and from this direction you can see the sheerness of the drop into the sea. 

The p0ignancy of this  place is that so many choose this beauty spot to end their lives .

Skylark, gorse, and even peewit, reminded me of summer holidays, when I was a teenager, on the moors of the  Cheshire/ Derbyshire border. I had a good view of a stone chat on a bush.

At the top of Beachy Head, I heard French, Italian, Spanish and a Chinese language. A group of Germans were drinking champagne. A boy asked me if I spoke German, remembering only later the German for ‘sorry’ , I replied ‘Nein’.

Passing the remains of the Lloyds signal station, I descended to Eastbourne.

I wonder what direction the prevailing wind blows here?

I returned to Eastbourne railway station and made it back to London in time for my evening engagement. I hadn’t got wet and had added 9.69 miles to the total. However, June 4th, Charlotte’s birthday and  my original target for completion of the second tranche of 400 miles of the journey to Rwanda had come and gone, leaving 177.15 miles to go. What is more, two months of glorious unusually dry walking weather had passed too.  Nothing to be done but to set a new target: by December 28th, the eleventh anniversary of the attack on the Titanic express, in which Charlotte died in Burundi, would be a suitable date. Perhaps by then some movement will have been made in bringing the perpetrators, the FNL and their leader, Agathon Rwasa to book.