White Cliffs Walking Festival

                                …the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

So wrote Matthew Arnold in Dover Beach and so they stood last Thursday when I launched the White Cliffs Walking Festival on Dover seafront.

The week-long festival (21-27 August) was inspired and organised by the Ramblers’ energetic White Cliffs Group and they have put on a great programme.

Programme and badge

Programme and badge

About a hundred people gathered for the opening

The festival launch, photo: Nigel Cussans

The festival launch, photo: Nigel Cussans

and we were joined by the Dover MP Charlie Elphicke, who spoke in support of coastal access.  The first stretch in Kent between Folkestone and Ramsgate will soon come into being, and the next section, from Whitstable to Ramsgate, is in the offing.

Charlie Elphicke (left) and Graham Smith, group publicity officer (right)

Charlie Elphicke (left) and Graham Smith, group publicity officer (right)

Also present were the mayors of Deal (the first Walkers Are Welcome Town in Kent) and Dover.

I highlighted the importance of walking to the economy and commended the group for its hard work on the festival and for raising money and support for it.

The van of one of the sponsors, Up on the Downs, the landscape partnership scheme

The van of one of the sponsors, Up on the Downs, the landscape partnership scheme

I also praised the group for its stout defence of paths and access and for organising work parties to clear paths for the council.

Then I joined the first walk of the festival, led by Les Preston.  We took a bus to Capel le Ferne, just east of Folkestone, and walked back along the cliffs to Dover.

It’s important that we show people what we have achieved, and Les was exemplary.  When we walked past Capel Battery, he explained that this area of access land had been blocked off by the owner.

Capel Battery, free again

Capel Battery, free again

Pressed by the Ramblers, Kent County Council (the access authority) took him to court and eventually got the land reopened.

The point where the access was blocked

The point where the access was blocked

On the way we stopped at the Battle of Britain memorial on top of the cliffs.

Wall with names of pilots who were lost during the Battle of Britain.

Wall with the names of all the pilots who took part in the Battle of Britain.

The vista back along the coast to Folkestone, with Dungeness beyond, were tremendous. We also had a clear view of France.

Folkestone and beyond

Folkestone and beyond

The coastal path coincides with the North Downs Way national trail.

North Downs Way

North Downs Way

At one point there is a handrail on the seaward side of the cliff path.  Kent County Council had wanted to close the route some years ago claiming it was no longer used.  The Ramblers objected but Dover magistrates agreed to the closure.  The Ramblers appealed to Canterbury Crown Court which in 2002 ruled that the path should be opened. The council then installed the handrail.  Had the Ramblers lost the path would probably have gone along the inferior cycle track which only briefly touches the cliff path.  The court hearings cost the council £45,000.

Handrail

Handrail

We passed a wartime listening post

Listening post

Listening post

and a number of pillboxes.  These were the first pillboxes to be built, and they uniquely have an overhanging roof.  This was removed from later models because it was found that the overhang gave more surface area against which bullets could ricochet.

Pill-box

Pillbox with overhanging roof

We walked above Samphire Hoe, created from the debris dug out for the Channel Tunnel, and named by a competition.

Samphire Hoe

Samphire Hoe

We soon came out on Shakespeare Cliff above Dover.

Looking towards Shakespeare Cliff

Looking towards Shakespeare Cliff

The town and motorway lap right up to the cliffs, but it was wonderful to be above them on the white cliffs.

Descending Shakespeare Cliff

Descending Shakespeare Cliff

And so back into the town.  If this first walk of the festival is a guide, the rest will be terrific. There is an exciting range of activity, including history walks and a final barbeque on the seafront at Deal.

Well done White Cliffs Group, and we look forward to next year.

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About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Access, Coastal access, National trail, Public paths, Ramblers, Walkers Are Welcome Towns, walking and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to White Cliffs Walking Festival

  1. Sheila Talbot says:

    Great blog Kate and thanks for the link to the North Downs Way National Trail website.

  2. Thanks Ann and Sheila.

  3. Frances Massen says:

    It was such a pleasure seeing the path that I have walked and thankyou for bringing it to a wider viewing. Member of White Cliffs ramblers but unfortunately I am working most of the time at weekends.

  4. doversoul says:

    Would be much better if it was a Deal Walking Festival

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