The journey between Sandgate and Hythe is pleasant enough but uneventful, to say the least. With a shingle beach to the left, and open land with a golf course to the right, the red tarmac promenade cuts straight through the middle. There was little to do but walk on towards our destination.
Hythe itself is one of the five original Cinque Ports (“cinq” of course meaning “five” in French). These were ports which were given privilages and trade concessions in return for providing ships for the king’s use. The privileges included tax concessions and self-governance. Hythe’s quota was five ships, although in 1335 a survey showed it only had three large ships available. In 1341 Edward I threatened to cancel the town’s privileges if it continued to fail to produce its quota. The threat had its effect: four years later Hythe sent six ships to the siege of Calais.
As we walked along the town’s seafront, we saw probably the most modernised Martello Tower we have seen so far. Whilst several have been converted to residential use, Martello Tower 13 can only be described as a full conversion.
A nearby information board told us that when the Martello Towers were originally built, in 1805, they each had approximately 500,000 bricks – enough for 30 large houses. Their walls were up to 13 feet thick on their seaward side, reducing to a mere 8 feet thick on the landward side. I assume the window cills in that house are quite spacious. The walls were deliberately sloped inward so as to deflect shot. They were designed with accommodation for an officer and 24 men, together with a flat roof to house a gun emplacement with a 360 degree field of view.
Martello Tower 13 now sat quite happily in West Parade, in the middle of a row of otherwise quite normal houses.
Just beyond the tower the promenade finally came to an end. We had walked a continuously straight road from Folkestone for almost five miles. We stepped off the promenade and on to the working shingle beach, known as Fisherman’s Beach. Fishing vessels had been winched up and sat outside workshops, awaiting the next tide.
Beyond the boats we reached the perimeter of the Hythe Firing Ranges. Red flags were flying and we could hear the sound of gunshots. We could go no further today. Two more Martello Towers stood guarding the butts, which had large numbers on them to remind those firing which target they were supposed to be aiming at. I remember many years ago, when I was in the cadets at school, we were firing bren guns on a range. One of the .762 calibre rounds ricocheted off the frame of the target, bouncing back into the butts and hitting one of my fellow cadets on the chin. He emerged bleeding and was whisked off to get some medical treatment – he had a lucky escape that time.
Given the ranges were in operation we had little choice but to finish our walk for the day.
While we waited for our taxi, my wife watched our children play on the beach in the late winter sun.
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Martello Tower 13: N 51° 03.882 E 001° 04.783
- Fisherman’s Beach: N 51° 03.852 E 001° 04.655
- Hythe Firing Range – Martello Tower 14: N 51° 03.802 E 001° 04.453
Walk #38 Statistics (the entire walk from Folkestone to Hythe, of which this post forms the last 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!!!