36b – Deal to Kingsdown

We left Deal Pier and headed south towards the cliffs, but stopped almost immediately to have a look at the Deal Time-Ball.

This building was originally a semaphore station until semaphore was abandoned in 1842.  It stood derelict until 1853, when it became one of the first time-ball stations.  Time-ball stations assisted with maritime time-keeping; ships needed to keep precise time so that they could take accurate sextant readings.  At Deal, a 14-foot mast was erected on top of the tower with an iron ball which could slide up and down.  At 12:55 each day the ball was raised half way, as a signal that ships should be ready with their chronometers.  At 12:58 it was raised to the top of the mast, and at 1:00 pm on the nose it was dropped automatically by an electrical current sent by Greenwhich to all time-ball stations.

In 1927 the wireless rendered time-balls obsolete, but in Deal the building has become a museum and the time-ball still travels up and down the mast every hour.

Shortly after the time-ball station we came across a number of fishing boats which had been winched up onto the beach.  These boats fish and then sell their catch on the beach.  There were no stalls when we walked by, but a sign announced the next catch arriving at 4pm that afternoon.

Just after the fishing boats we arrived at Deal Castle, a rather squat round structure, today found at a busy roundabout junction, looking out to sea.  In fact, it is not as squat as it first appears, for it is sunken into a moat that runs around its circumference.

Deal Castle was built by Henry VIII in 1538-40.  It was one of several castles constructed to defend this section of coast, and is considered one of the most impressive Tudor artillery castles in England.  None of these castles saw any action, as the Navy performed extremely well in keeping all threats well out of reach.  Deal Castle, however, was eventually to suffer in action, if not to serve in action.  In 1940 a German bomb exploded here and demolished the captain’s quarters.

Deal Castle is open to the public, and if we had the time we would have most certainly visited.  As it was, we had a schedule to keep and some guest walkers to meet half way into the walk, so we headed on south.

A short distance on we came across Deal Memorial Bandstand, erected in memory of 11 members of the Royal Marines Band Service.  On the morning of 22 September 1989, band practice had just come to an end at the Royal Marines School of Music.  An IRA bomb had been left in the changing room and exploded at 8:27 am, causing the building to collapse.  The ambulance service had been on strike at the time, but suspended this to assist with the wounded.  The townspeople queued for up to four hours to give blood.  Ten men died instantly.  Another died of his injuries later, on 18 October.  A further 21 were injured.

The memorial bandstand was opened on 2 May 1993 and has plaques dedicated to each of the victims set around its base.  The School of Music itself closed in 1996, however, the band still visits each summer to give a concert from the bandstand.

And with that, we headed out of Deal.  The path was straight, running alongside the shingle beach some 1½ miles into Kingsdown.  It was easy walking, but we were anxious to get to the cliffs and found it a little monotonous after seeing so much in Deal.  We saw Walmer Castle, but did not stop.  Another Tudor castle, it evolved into the residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.  Wellington held this post for 23 years and died at Walmer.  The chair in which he died is on display there.

Walmer is noteworthy for one other important fact.  It is believed to be the site of the first ever invasion of Britain, when Julius Caesar landed here in BC55.  The next major invasion of Britain was in 1066, when William the Conqueror landed at Pevensey.  That was also the last invasion:  since then the waters of the English Channel have not been crossed by an invader.  This is despite the best intentions of the likes of Napoleon and Hitler.

Am I glad we didn’t get to visit either Deal Castle or Walmer Castle?  Yes!  Because as a result we happened to be standing in exactly the right place for something else instead.  Look!  Here they come!

They were coming from the direction of the French coast.  Were the French invading?  It felt like we were in the middle of Apocalypse Now.  I waited for them to blast the Ride of the Valkyries at us, and for missiles to come shooting our way, but of course that didn’t happen.  Instead, we were treated to an amazing spectacle as the Apaches flew right overhead.

Our spirits  were buoyed by this incredible sight, which came out of nowhere and disappeared into nowhere.  We picked up our pace, heading into Kingsdown, and the start of the cliffs.

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

  • Dea Time-Ball:  N 51° 13.313 E 001° 24.250
  • Fishing Boats:  N 51° 13.215 E 001° 24.285
  • Deal Castle:  N 51° 13.165 E 001° 24.214
  • Deal Memorial Bandstand:  N 51° 12.864 E 001° 24.197
  • Walmer Castle:  N 51° 12.035 E 001° 24.122

Walk #36 Statistics (the entire walk from Deal to Dover, of which this post forms the second part):

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4 Responses to 36b – Deal to Kingsdown

  1. Jody says:

    Wow! What a day. I had never heard of a time-ball station. My family and I have learned something new tonight!

  2. Pingback: 36c – Kingsdown to St Margarets at Cliffe « The Coastal Path

  3. Pingback: 42b – Lydd to the Kent Border « The Coastal Path

  4. Pingback: 78c – St Aldhelm’s Head to Chapman’s Pool | The Coastal Path

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