Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Walk17 -- Dungeness to Littlestone-on-Sea

Ages: Colin was 58 years and 50 days. Rosemary was 55 years and 177 days.
Weather: Sunny and quite warm, but thankfully with a pleasant sea breeze.
Location: From Dungeness to Littlestone-on-Sea.
Distance: 7 miles.
Total distance: 112½ miles (+ 5 miles we have left out).
Terrain: A lot of shingle beach which was tough going. Fortunately the tide was right out so we were able to walk on hard sand for the second half of the hike.
Tide: Out.
Rivers to cross: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: None on the walk, but in the evening we drove to the hamlet of Stowting where we visited the ‘Tiger Inn’ to drink ‘Old Peculier’. That was nice, but the meal was over-priced and not much of it, this ‘nouveau cuisine’ idea. We shall not be going there again, we don’t like being ripped off!
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We were already camping at Stelling Minnis. After breakfast, we drove to New Romney where we caught the ‘Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch’ light railway (diddy little carriages, everything is one third normal size!) to Dungeness. After climbing the old lighthouse and visiting the nuclear power station, we then walked along the shingle bank to the end of the military range.
At the end, we walked the half mile up the road from the seafront to our car, downed two very welcome cups of tea, and then drove to Stowting for a disappointing meal before going back to our camp.

We had made enquiries yesterday at the Camber end of the military range about the shooting. They do shoot out to sea, and it would be very dangerous to try to walk along there even at low tide. Yesterday they were firing until 4.30pm, today until 11pm and tomorrow until 4.30pm. That leaves us with two alternatives, either walk round the whole range (about 8 miles on boring roads) or leave out the 5 mile section until a later date. We chose the latter. We do think that in this day and age, the military should give back these coastal areas to the public, especially ones bang in the middle of a holiday area like this one! After many years of hassle, the ‘Needles’ on the Isle of Wight were eventually given back, so what about the rest of these ranges? After all, they still have Salisbury Plain and oodles of land around Aldershot that no one has much interest in, GIVE US BACK OUR COASTLINE!
Before we started this walk, we had a very enjoyable ride on the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch railway which is made one third the normal size—steam engines, carriages, lines, the stations, everything! It was great fun! The smell of the steam brought back nostalgic memories of childhood days, when we always travelled by steam train.
The whole Point of Dungeness is shingle. I don’t know why people live there, I couldn’t stand those gardens with no soil. We were amazed at the brightness of the flowers, especially the masses of brilliant red poppies. It was a glorious show.On arrival in Dungeness, we climbed the old lighthouse which is open to the public since it is no longer used. When they built the nuclear power station, it partially obscured the light so they had to build another lighthouse a bit taller and nearer the Point. When this one first operated, the light was just candles! We had a wonderful view from the top.Then we visited the nuclear power station, but the visitor centre was full of school kids being a nuisance--perhaps I am just hyper-sensitive but even the power station staff were getting rattled until they went. We would have had to have waited 1½ hours for a tour which would have taken up most of our day, so we decided not to bother. On our walk round there we saw a number of different butterflies, many we couldn’t identify, and once again we admired the variety of brightly coloured flowers growing on the shingle.
After all that interest, our actual walk was rather dull! By the time we reached the military range it was time to stop for lunch so we found a stone to sit on. There were a couple of fishermen on the beach there, no one else at all. We walked along the shingle at the bottom of the beach, right by the waterline hoping it would be more compacted there. It wasn’t!
As we passed the nuclear power station, we could see rings in the water where they suck in the water and let it out again. Hundreds of seagulls were on the water at those two places, and hundreds more yet on the beach at the same spot.
We could only conclude that this warm water means thousands of fish, probably feeding on millions of shrimps which are feeding on radioactive plankton! (We couldn’t see whether they glowed in the dark because it was bright sunshine!!)
As we neared the Point, I suggested we divert to the pub for a shandy even though it was not listed as a ‘real ale’ establishment. I was just plain thirsty walking in that heat! Imagine our amazement when they locked the doors in our faces because it was ‘closing time’---3pm! Crowds of people come down on the railway in the summer season, but are all gone by 6pm when the pub would be thinking of opening again! ONLY IN ENGLAND CAN YOU NOT GET A DRINK IN A HOLIDAY AREA IN THE MIDDLE OF A SUMMER’S AFTERNOON! We trudged back to the beach, sipping warm water from our bottles, and took pictures of each other at the very Point of Dungeness.
We started to follow a concrete road behind the beach because our ankles and feet were aching with all the shingle walking, but it turned sharp left after about a hundred yards while the shingle footpath continued in our direction across shingle fields and wending its way past dilapidated boat sheds.
Eventually Colin climbed up the shingle bank and yelled back, “It’s sand!” The tide was still right out, so we scrambled down the steep shingle to walk on firm sand for the next hour and a half. It was glorious! Everything seemed perfect about the day, except that we got very tired towards the end. But I think you can say my broken legs are completely better because I have done all this far-from-easy walking over the past two days without my trekking sticks. I feel they are a bit of an encumbrance now.At first we met no one, we had the whole world (well, the beach) to ourselves. Then we began to meet dribs and drabs of people, mostly out walking their dogs. A couple were attempting to fly a kite, then another pair had a radio-controlled aeroplane with which they buzzed us. A girl came over the shingle on a horse and cantered along the sand. It was a relaxing dreamy sort of afternoon. We came across a dead dogfish, and twice we stumbled over a dead jellyfish stranded on the shore. They were huge! We saw a few ships out to sea, and the remains of one of those 'mulberry' harbours came into view as we approached Littlestone. We came up off the beach early because we were not sure of our bearings, and walked along the green behind the beach. Even there it was rough grass growing through shingle and very uneven underfoot.

That ended Walk No. 16, we shall pick up Walk No. 17 at the covered shelter on the green at Littlestone-on-Sea at the exact spot where we left the seafront this time. We walked half a mile up the road to where we had parked our car near the station. After two ‘desperate’ cups of tea (we never got a drink apart from the water we were carrying with us), we drove off to Stowting for ‘Old Peculier’ and a very disappointing meal before returning to our camp. On our way we saw a fox loping across the road, and later we saw a little owl sitting on a fence post. Magic!

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