Saturday, August 05, 2000

Walk 16 -- Camber Sands to Dungeness

Ages: Colin was 58 years and 89 days. Rosemary was 55 years and 216 days.
Weather: A thin cloud cover, but bright and very warm.
Location: From Camber Sands to Dungeness nuclear power station (across the military range!)
Distance: 5 miles.
Total distance: 121 miles.
Terrain: Sandy beach for the first half which was very pleasant, and then shingle beach which wasn’t.
Tide: Out, coming in.
Rivers to cross: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: None. (They don’t have them on military ranges!)
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We drove to Camber Sands where we parked in a lay-by at the beginning of the range, where we had ended Walk No. 15.
At the end, we walked 3 miles along roads to the centre of Lydd. We had a bus timetable and even checked in a local shop that we were waiting at the right stop, but no bus turned up. After half an hour, Colin said he would walk the 4 miles back to Camber Sands, and set off. I hung around Lydd, and still no bus turned up until the one that was due an hour later---and even that was 5 minutes late! Meanwhile, Colin had cadged a lift after 2 miles and already returned with the car. We then drove to Stelling Minnis and camped in the field behind the ‘Rose & Crown’.

We had taken a gamble on there being no shooting at Lydd Range on a hot Saturday in the middle of the holiday season, and we were right. There was no red flag, and the little military tower at the end of the range was deserted. At last we are able to fit in the 5 miles of our Round-Britain-Trek that we had to miss out because of the Army!
There was a minibus and a couple of cars parked at the top of the sea wall and a lot of young people on the beach at that point. We scrambled down the very steep shingle bank, even walking along a breakwater to save a big jump down on to the beach. Then we sat on said breakwater to eat the first half of our lunch. It was early, but we had driven all the way from Bognor and we were hungry. We attended the funeral of our neighbour, Floss Bryanton, yesterday and Fred had given us a lot of the leftover food from her wake, so we ate quite well. Poor old Floss! A funny old stick, but we shall miss her.
As we walked along away from the minibus crowd, we were completely on our own. There did not even seem to be any birds—perhaps they don’t like being shot at most days of the week! There was a strip of water at the bottom of the shingle bank, so we walked on the hard sand between it and the sea. Colin kept saying that it was a mistake, that the strip of water was getting deeper, and that we were going to get wet feet inevitably because we would have to cross it at some point. He went on and on, so in the end I dashed across it in my boots and gaiters just to prove that it could be crossed with dry feet. Trouble was, he was not wearing gaiters because he was wearing shorts, so he crossed it ages further on by taking off his boots and socks and paddling across!
It was beautiful on that deserted beach. The crowd behind us disappeared in the haze and we were completely on our own—until we saw a couple approaching us from ahead. They were German, and had parked where we had in order to walk along the sand with no shoes. They were on their way back, and asked us how we planned to get back. (Little did I know that our plans would be thwarted because the bus we intended to catch would go missing!)
Unfortunately the sand bar got thinner and thinner until, about halfway along our Walk, it disappeared under the shingle. That meant 2½ miles of shingle walking which was very hard work. We could already see the nuclear power station looming ahead in the haze. There were no features on the beach except a few land drainage pipes. One had been pushed back, so it seemed, and looked like a cannon!After four miles we could see lots of people on the beach again and thought we had come to the end of our walk—but we were fooled. They had come down a track through the range and were fishing off the beach. It all looked very serious, I don’t know if it was a competition. No one seemed to have caught anything!
We sat on the shingle bank above them and ate the second instalment of our lunch while watching the grandparents cope with the children who mustn’t disturb their parents but were creating havoc nonetheless.
The last mile was very hard because the shingle was increasingly loose, but at last we reached the range barrier at the nuclear power station end and thankfully got on to the hard road for the trudge into Lydd. I was really glad that we had done that bit of the coast at last; it wasn’t very interesting but I had found it niggling that we'd had to leave it out.

That ended Walk No. 18, but out of order, we shall pick up Walk No. 19 next time at Dymchurch which is where we have really got to.
We walked three miles into Lydd, were let down by the ‘Stagecoach’ bus company—but we eventually got to Stelling Minnis where we camped for the night.