37b – Dover to Samphire Hoe

We had observed our two minutes’ silence on Remembrance Sunday on the white cliffs of Dover.  The sirens from the harbour sounded again to mark its end, followed by the cannon behind us.  We picked up our bags and continued up the cliff.  The path was muddy and very slippery.  Our party was divided into those who quite enjoyed the challenge, and those who didn’t.  The ones who didn’t started to suffer from “Walker’s Stigmata”, a medical condition caused by grabbing barbed wire fences for balance.

Still, when we got to the top, the view was worth it.  Looking back, we could see the cliffs to the east of Dover, which we had walked over the week before.  We could see the enclosed port area, back at work now after stopping for two minutes.  We could also see, just below us, Dover Beach on which we had walked out this morning.

To the other side of the clifftop we could see west.  In the distance we could see Folkestone, our destination for today. 

In the foreground, the cliffs rolled over shoreline; the A20 dual carriageway snaked away, becoming lost from view as it rounded the cliffs (I like the way the line of the fence follows the line of the road in this photo).  Beneath the cliffs was Samphire Hoe Country Park, with its broad promenade and sea wall.

Although we had the option of walking over the cliffs, we knew that the tide was going out and we therefore hoped to be able to walk through the country park and then along the shoreline.  Whether or not this was possible we did not know, but we decided to chance it.  Coming down from the cliff, towards the dual carriageway, meant yet more mud; less slippery perhaps, but deeper.  This had the potential to become boot-stealing mud, and it was treated with respect.

The only way to get to Samphire Hoe Country Park (other than walking underneath the cliffs at low tide) is through a tunnel which has been bored through the cliffs.  It was fun to walk through and we all started shouting and listening to our voices echoing off the walls.  Cars raced down, adding to the noise.  After some 300 miles of open countryside, this was a real novelty!  This tunnel was, in fact, created in 1974 as part of the works for the first aborted Channel Tunnel attempt.

Samphire Hoe Country Park itself is a 30-hectare site of land reclamation which was created from the spoil of the Channel Tunnel.  It took 4.9 million cubic meters of chalk marl to make.  It was then seeded and landscaped before being officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II and President François Mitterrand in 1994.  As part of the landscaping, local artists contributed by producing local landmarks.  One of these is the Samphire Tower, an interesting oak-framed building clad in blue painted larch boards.  I can best describe this as a building that is somewhere between being a lighthouse and a bird watching station.  There is something very appealing about it.  It was designed and built by Jony Easterby and Pippa Taylor, who lived in a Mongolian yurt for a month and a half while they built their structure.  If only they’d left the yurt too – what a pity!

Inside, the timber frame and cladding stretches away to the roof.  We found nothing inside except a bench around the wall and a small faded wildlife chart, but what a beautiful building to just sit in and do nothing!

We couldn’t sit here and do nothing for long – after all, we had the entire coast of Britain to walk around.  We left the peaceful Samphire Tower and walked the short distance down to the sea wall.  This is a wide promenade of concrete slabs.

We walked to the western end and were relieved to see some steps down to the shingle beach below.  A quick check with a local dog walker confirmed we could walk all the way to Folkestone at low tide.  We stopped to eat some lunch, and then set off along the beach.

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

  • Two Minutes’ Silence:  N 51° 06.683 E 001° 17.699
  • Tunnel Entrance to Samphire Hoe:  N 51° 06.567 E 001° 16.982
  • Tunnel Exit to Samphire Hoe:  N 51° 06.457 E 001° 16.791
  • Samphire Tower:  N 51° 06.289 E 001° 16.594
  • Lunch:  N 51° 06.139 E 001° 15.727

Walk #37 Statistics (the entire walk from Dover to Folkestone, of which this post forms the second part):

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