Fishermen. There they were – lined up on the seaward side of Folkestone Harbour Pier. We have walked 300 miles around the coast of Britain so far. I have no idea how many fishermen we have seen, but they certainly number in their hundreds; the number may stand at over a thousand. One thousand fishermen, lining the coast of Britain like an honour guard as we walk, fishing rods raised. One thousand of them, and yet I have not seen a single fish slapping around at the end of any of those fishing lines. Some fishermen have two, three or even four rods out at once. Not one fish. What are the odds of a fisherman catching a fish? Clearly more than a thousand to one.
We walked to the far end of the pier to Folkestone Harbour Lighthouse, a listed building built between 1887 and 1904. Access to it was blocked by a gate. There was little more to do than look at it, turn around, and walk back.
There may not have been a huge amount to see or do walking up the pier, but the high shingle bank to the west was impressive. As the sea rolled in and met the shingle you could tell how steep the bank was. It dropped away below the water line very quickly.
We walked back to the foot of the pier, exiting amongst the harbour buildings. By far the most interesting of these was the old harbour control tower. Although it could not be described as attractive, it had a certain appeal.
I looked at it for quite a long time. Eventually, I decided, it was mostly symmetrical, and where it wasn’t it seemed to jut out in all the right places. It was weathering well for a derelict building – it has not been operational for almost ten years. I hope they find some other use for it, though I suspect they will struggle. We left it and walked on, and after a short distance reached an expanse of open concrete. Here, we found rather a strange structure. It was a bell, suspended on a rope between two enormous metal posts.
“Dolven’s installation features a 16th-century tenor bell from Scraptoft Church in Leicestershire, which had been removed for being out of tune with the others. Visitors are invited to ring the bell during the Triennial opening hours (10:30am-5pm) using the rope attached to the beam in front of you. Please wait two minutes between each rope pull“
My son excitedly cast his eye up and spotted the rope, running down one of the two metal supports and into a hollow square tube, thick enough to reach a hand up into. “It’s up there!” he said, wanting to ring the bell. Alas, the box was sealed with a metal plate and padlock. The plate is clearly only unlocked during the Triennial opening hours, meaning for 6½ hours once every three years. Only during this time is the bell’s out-of-tune voice allowed to be heard, and yet even then it must suffer having to wait two minutes between each cry. For the remaining 26,273½ hours of each three year cycle (26,297½ if there is a leap year) the bell must wait patiently, hoping perhaps that a storm may brew, blowing up wind enough to swing the bell enough to get the clapper to strike the lip. No-one would hear the sound over the noise of the wind, but at least the bell itself would know that it still has a voice.
We walked on, passing the Folkestone Leas Lift.
This is a Grade II listed building. It may not look that attractive, but it is only the third lift built in England operated by water balance. The lift was operated by having one car at the top and one at the bottom, with a rope and wheel connecting the two cars. Once the cars were loaded, a water tank in the top car was flooded, increasing its load until its ballast outweighed that of the lower car. This would allow the upper car to start moving downwards, whilst at the same time pulling the lower car up. On arrival at the bottom, the toll collector would then let out the water into a drain, and the process would start again. In later years the water was pumped back up to the top for re-use instead of being drained away. Originally built in 1885, the Folkestone Leas Lift is estimated to have carried over 50 million people. That is quite a success story. It is still operational today, although limited to the summer months.
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Folkestone Harbour Lighthouse: N 51° 04.559 E 001° 11.690
- Folkestone Harbour Control Tower: N 51° 04.643 E 001° 11.299
- “Out of Tune” Bell: N 51° 04.600 E 001° 11.050
- Folkestone Leas Lift: N 51° 04.625 E 001° 10.706
Walk #38 Statistics (the entire walk from Folkestone to Hythe, of which this post forms the second part):
- Date of Walk: 18 November 2012
- Walk #38 total distance covered: 7.84 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 304.97 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!