Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Big Walk - Day 4 - Arpinge to Dover Castle

I'm finally getting a chance to write a post about the fourth and final day of my ChYps charity walk from Northfleet to Dover Castle back in August.

Unfortunately my PC has been out of action for some time but I've finally got the old girl back up and running again.

Following on from my day 3 post, I left the guest house at Arpinge early after a hearty full English breakfast freshly cooked by Mary the landlady. The guest house is located only a short distance off the North Downs Way (NDW) so I was soon back on track.

This final section of the NDW closely follows the coastline giving great views over the English Channel - on a clear day the coast of France is clearly visible about twenty or so miles away.

During the Second World War the coastal area of Kent was particularly heavily defended and many of the fortifications are still in place like this pill box above slowly being reclaimed by nature in a field near the guest house.

My first major landmark of the day was Cheriton Hill which overlooks the Channel Tunnel rail complex. The site covers a huge area and the scale of the operation is impressive. For readers not based in the UK, this is where cars and freight vehicles are loaded onto rail waggons for transit via the Channel Tunnel to France.

The NDW undulates over a number of steep hills like Castle Hill above - quite hard going when you have already walked nearly sixty miles over the previous few days.

The Normans built a castle on top of the hill shortly after the Conquest in around 1100. The information board shows an artist's impression of how it would have looked at the time.

I was a bit surprised when I came across these fine ladies but fortunately they were friendly!

The view from inside another Second World War pillbox overlooking Folkestone. The weather was good the day I passed by but I would not fancy spending a night on duty there in mid Winter.

A welcome sight as by this stage my feet were finished. I had blisters on top of blisters and every step was an effort. The last day was definitely proving to be the hardest.

The views made up for the pain and I was also spurred on by the knowledge that I wasn't far from the Battle of Britain memorial at Capel le Ferne where I could get a restorative cup of tea and bite to eat.

The memorial was opened by the Queen Mother on the 9th July 1993 as a permanent tribute to the almost 3000 aircrew who served during the battle. The centre piece is a statue of a pilot looking out over the English Channel.

Full scale replicas of a Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire are on display outside the cafe.

As I went in to get my tea I overheard a member of staff very patiently and politely explaining to some American tourists that the Battle of Britain was in 1940 and the Second World War had actually started in 1939 and not 1941....

I would have liked to have spent more time looking around but had to press on as my wife and son were meeting me at Dover Castle and I didn't fancy walking home again...

Just outside Capel le Ferne is a concrete sound mirror which was erected in the late 1930's. Before the introduction of radar, sounds mirrors were used as a crude early warning system to detect enemy aircraft. The sound of the aircraft's engines were amplified by the shape of the mirror.

Unfortunately the system did not prove very successful.

When the mirrors were first conceived aircraft were slow biplanes which could be detected in sufficient time for fighter aircraft to be scrambled or AA batteries alerted.

However, by the Second World War fast monoplane fighters like the Bf 109 could only be detected with a few minutes notice. Luckily radar was developed and introduced otherwise the outcome of the Battle of Britain may have been different.

My first view of Dover Western Docks in the distance. Only a few more hills to go...

The NDW descends from Shakespeare Cliff down into Dover then passes under the A20 and through the grounds of the Western Heights, fortifications built to defend us from our Gallic friends.


Finally journey's end in sight and one last hill to climb.

The castle was hosting a Roman re-enactment event so it was packed out when I finally arrived on Bank Holiday Monday.

My wife and son were waiting for me. He had apparently been charging around like a lunatic for a couple of hours which probably explains why he looks redder than me in the photo.

He had also managed to acquire an authentic Roman looking spear for good measure with which to terrorise the cats when he got home.

I was pleased to have completed the walk.

In the most part it was a very enjoyable experience and with the help and encouragement of family, friends and business colleagues we managed to raise over £ 800 for the work of ChYps children's hospice.

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  1. Isn't it interesting that the Normans built a castle on top of the hill within a few decades the Conquest. My students have looked at all the remaining Norman architecture they could find, but nobody talked much about Castle Hill. Does no bit of it survive, at least above ground level?

  2. Wow, what a walk! But you've absolutely encouraged me to walk and explore Kent more next year. It is crazy that I focus so much on London when I have this treasure trove of history, architecture and nature right on my doorstep.

  3. Hi Hels, the Normans were prolific builders of castles. They were used to quickly stamp out any resistance from the Anglo Saxon population. Most of their castles were initially made of wood (like in the reconstruction picture). Some were later reconstructed in stone (e.g. Dover or Rochester). Nothing remains at Castle Hill apart from evidence of the earthworks (defensive ditches etc).

    Emm - hope you do manage to get out walking in Kent. There are some great places to explore. You see much more on foot than in the car. If you need any tips or suggestions please feel free to give me a shout (or a tweet!)


    1. Great, thanks for the offer! I'll keep in touch!