Our last walk was stopped short at the boundary of Hythe Ranges, due to live firing. When there is no live firing it is possible to walk along the shoreline, in front of the ranges. However, the ranges are intensively used, often seven days a week. They were back in use today, and so we realised that we were just going to have to do the 3-mile road walk inland along the perimeter fence. At one point we saw the gun emplacements, and soldiers firing automatic weapons. There were “No Photography” signs up, so I can’t possibly show you the photo I took before seeing the signs!
Eventually, after our rather tedious detour, we reached the other side of the ranges and were able to cut back to the coast. We were at the Dymchurch Redoubt, a large fortification built between 1804 and 1812, in order to support the chain of Martello Towers that run along this section of the coast. It was designed to house 350 officers and men, and is 220 feet in diameter. Its position is inside the perimeter fence of the Hythe Ranges, so can be seen but not visited. Later in the day our taxi driver said there was a maze of tunnels and passages still running underneath the superstructure, and that to this day Top Secret Things go on there.
Beyond the Dymchurch Redoubt was a sea wall, stretching west for miles into the distance. It was quiet, with very few people around.
In front of the sea wall, massive rocks and blocks had been deposited. The kids and I clambered around these for a while, while my wife watched, the furrows on her health-and-safety-conscious frown standing almost as deep as the cracks between the rocks on which we were climbing.
In the distance we could see Dungeness. It lay on the horizon, dwarfed under a big sky.
After a mile or so we walked by Martello Tower 23, which has been converted into a house. Later in the day, our taxi driver (who seemed to be very knowledgeable) told us that it had been sold for £1 million. Whether or not it got that much I don’t know. It was originally converted by a surveyor, who formed a two bedroom house out of it. For the first two or three years he could only access his property via a ladder, because the original entrance was, for defensive reasons, some 25 feet above ground level. Eventually he had to personally drill through the wall at ground floor level in order to form an entrance. This wall was 14 feet thick, and the job took two weeks. The structure at the top of the tower adds a third floor, and is a circular master bedroom. The larger items of furniture were craned in before the final section of the roof was put on and sealed in place. I suppose, therefore, that if it did have a £1 million price tag then that would have included those items of furniture as well, because once in, they have to stay!
Beyond this tower, the sea wall took on a new, curved, shape, so as to more easily repel the aggression of the sea. Begun in 2009 and finished in August 2011, this section cost £30 million to build. The concrete had a smooth, fresh, feel about it.
More Martello Towers followed. Tower 24, built to protect Dymchurch’s marshland sluice, had its cannon on top, demonstrating its wide angled defensive range.
Poor old Martello Tower 25 finds itself today slap bang in the middle of a car park!
We walked on, arriving at St Mary’s Bay. There were a couple of spots of rain in the air and the sun was getting low in the sky, but the weather seemed to be moving away from us rather than towards us. We decided to walk on for another two miles into Littlestone. The skyline was dominated by an enormous tower.
It was at this tower that we stopped and called for our taxi. Our driver, who knew all about the Dymchurch Redoubt and Martello Tower 23, also knew about the Littlestone Water Tower. It was originally developed in Victorian times as part of a resort that never took off. Even if it had, the water in the water tower was found to contain too much sea salt, so it could not be used. The tower is now lived in as a residence, although the people who live there very rarely go to the top these days – too many stairs!
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Hythe Firing Range Eastern Boundary: N 51° 03.822 E 001° 04.525
- Hythe Firing Range Western Boundary and Dymchurch Redoubt: N 51° 02.937 E 001° 02.188
- Martello Tower 23: N 51° 02.079 E 001° 00.704
- Martello Tower 24: N 51° 01.453 E 000° 59.728
- Martello Tower 25: N 51° 01.339 E 000° 59.589
- Littlestone Water Tower: N 50° 59.313 E 000° 58.200
Walk #39 Statistics:
- Date of Walk: 1 December 2012
- Walk #39 total distance covered: 8.82 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 313.79 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!
I just love the look of the new sea wall. That’s a great shot!