35a – Cliffs End to Sandwich

Weather, work and even weddings have thwarted our walking for weeks.  So we found ourselves at half term, and two tired children needed some rest and relaxation after some momentously tiring schooling.  What better way is there to relax, I thought, than to route march them 10 miles?

We started back at Pegwell Bay, just north of Sandwich.  Pegwell Bay is the site of one of the first ever hovercraft ports, opening in 1969 and operating a cross-Channel service to France.  Hoverlloyd operated here until 1982, when the service was relocated to Dover after a merger.  The terminal buildings fell into disrepair and were demolished by the end of the decade.  All that is left now is a large expanse of derelict concrete, just visible in this picture.

We left the bay behind, entering Pegwell Bay Country Park, a rather flat bird sanctuary.  It was pleasant enough, but there was not much to grab our attention until the very end, when we were surprised to see some grazing Highland Cattle, a long way from home.

Leaving the country park, we began our route march:  a three mile walk, mostly along dual carriageway.  It was busy, smoky and noisy.  We put our heads down and walked fast.

Eventually we got off the dual carriageway, entering Great Stonar.  This is dominated by Discovery Park, a huge Pfizer complex of research and office buildings.  Several of them had impressive walkways, elevated and enclosed, stretching over the road.  The council have had to upgrade the A256 around Great Stonar in order to ease the congestion caused by the site.  I do not know what it cost, but I am sure the Council were none too pleased when Pfizer then announced they were pulling out and relocating their research facilities overseas!  The result, I suppose, is that it is quite easy to bypass Sandwich these days, but then why would you want to?  Once we had ended our road-walk-of-trudgery and arrived in historic Sandwich, we found it to be really rather a pleasant town.

We entered Sandwich by the Toll Bridge.  There has been a toll bridge here since 1759 (there is no toll to pass over it today), though the roots of the charge go back to 1023, when King Canute granted a charter to the monks of Canterbury to operate a ferry service across the river.

Standing at the foot of the toll bridge is the Barbican, an arched entrance into the town itself.

Beneath the arch is a plaque commemorating the Richborough Transit Camp, a camp set up at the time of the Second World War where a great many Jews found refuge from persecution by the Nazis.  In November 1938, the Nazi authorities had rounded up some 30,000 Jewish men and detained them in concentration camps.  At this time the Nazis were prepared to release detainees if they had entry visas for foreign countries, and if they would emigrate immediately.  However, leaving for other countries quickly was not necessarily an easy thing to do.  Visas for America, for example, might be granted in one year but may not be valid for entry until the next.  If Jews were unable to emigrate immediately (and they were often told to leave the country within a week of release from their camp) they were threatened with re-internment.  “This time forever” one man was told, and I suspect that sentiment applied to most.  Thus, the British government agreed to admit German Jews on “transit visas”:  if they had a realistic prospect of re-emigrating elsewhere, Britain would accept them.

This almost certainly saved the lives of the several thousand men admitted as “transmigrants”, together with their family members who were then able to follow them.  Despite the fact that they should have a realistic prospect of re-emigration, most stayed in the country, and most volunteered to serve in the forces during the war.  On arrival in Britain, the transmigrants were housed in the Kitchener Camp at Richborough, a disused army base from the First World War close to Sandwich.  During the 18 months this camp existed, it provided refuge, and life, for some 5,000 men.

The remains of the Kitchener Camp lie at the southern end of Discovery Park, between the Pfizer site and Sandwich.

We stopped in Sandwich for lunch – not a sandwich I hasten to add, but a roll.  We ate these in the churchyard, before continuing out of the town and into the countryside, striking east to return to the coast.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Pegwell Bay Hoverport:  N 51° 19.621 E 001° 22.322
  • Pegwell Bay Country Park:  N 51° 19.088 E 001° 21.506
  • Great Stonar:  N 51° 17.333 E 001° 20.750
  • Richborough Transmigrant Camp (Kitchener Camp):  N 51° 17.027 E 001° 20.680
  • Sandwich Toll Bridge:  N 51° 16.558 E 001° 20.526
  • The Barbican:  N 51° 16.542 E 001° 20.514

Walk #35 Statistics (the entire walk from Cliffs End to Deal, of which this post forms the first half):

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One Response to 35a – Cliffs End to Sandwich

  1. Jill says:

    Loved the cow!

    Anything about the concentration camps is always very sobering for me. I can’t believe that some people think that stuff never happened…

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