We left Littlestone by way of the dunes which ran alongside the beach. They acted as something of a windbreak, and the ground was easygoing.
Eventually we wanted to be closer to the sea, so we walked onto the wide expanse of the Romney Sands. The tide was going out, leaving an enormous flat beach to walk on. Turnstones scavenged the shore, and we saw the most beautiful spiny cockles lying on the beach where the tide had deposited them.
Soon the dunes ended and were replaced by a high shingle bank. The base of the shingle was still wet from where the sea had covered it at high tide. The tide itself had receded by a massive distance in a relatively short time.
Whilst the others ate their lunch on the shingle bank, I nipped off quickly to find 51 and 53 Leonard Road, two bungalows in an otherwise normal road. Numbers 51 and 53, however, are not normal bungalows. For a start, they look different to the others. Instead of having pitched and tiled roofs, numbers 51 and 53 are flat roofed. They look slightly less residential than their neighbours, although they are clearly used as houses today.
The history of these two bungalows is different from their neighbours. When they were originally built, 51 and 53 Leonard Road were not houses, but part of a Second World War initiative called Operation PLUTO. PLUTO is an acronym, standing for “Pipe Line Under The Ocean”. The operation formally commenced on 12 August 1944, just over two months after D-Day, and its purpose was to supply fuel to support the Allied Forces after the D-Day landings. It was felt that transporting fuel by pumping it under the English Channel was far more secure than carrying it by ship, where it would be vulnerable to attack from the German air force.
Operation PLUTO involved several pipelines running from England into France. The one passing through Greatstone was nicknamed “Dumbo”, and started some 70 miles away, in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, where it was linked into the main network. In Greatstone it ended at two pumphouses, which pumped the fuel under the sea and into France. After the war 90% of the pipeline was salvaged and scrapped. However, the pumphouses remain, converted into the bungalows that stand incongruously with their neighbours today.
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Dunes: N 50° 58.259 E 000° 57.875
- Romney Sands: N 50° 57.959 E 000° 57.875
- Operation PLUTO Pumphouses: N 50° 57.139 E 000° 57.811
Walk #40 Statistics (of which this post forms the second part):
- Date of Walk: 26 December 2012
- Walk #40 total distance covered: 6.32 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 320.11 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!
Lovely photos, and fascinating info about the two bungalows.
Thank you! Are you crossing the Thames and venturing into Kent? I must say we really enjoyed it.
Great Walk and Blog….Keep up the good work !
Splendid stuff. Once again you’ve found something I completely missed, namely the old PLUTO pump houses. Had no idea they were there!
Thanks Ju – the secret is geocaching. In this case a geocache was specifically hidden close to these bungalows and the geocache page had a bit of a write-up on Operation PLUTO. Were it not for that we would have walked straight passed without realising what was there. Nic
The bungalow to the left of those two was also one of the wartime pumphouses. The later addition of the second storey disguises it some more though!
Thanks for the information! I found it incredible that WWII pump houses had been converted to homes. We were lucky to spot them because of course we were walking along the coast path and this street is one road back. Nic
Also 49 Leonard Road. 49, 51 and 53 were built in 1936 and then converted to pumping stations for PLUTO.