Sunday, August 06, 2000

Walk 19 -- Dymchurch, via Hythe, to Sandgate

Ages: Colin was 58 years and 90 days. Rosemary was 55 years and 217 days.
Weather: Threatening clouds, but remaining dry and very warm.
Location: From Dymchurch to Sandgate.
Distance: 9 miles.
Total distance: 130 miles.
Terrain: Concrete and tarmac proms, sea walls and pavements.
Tide: Out, coming in.
Rivers to cross: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: The ‘Ocean Inn’ at Dymchurch where we drank ‘Silver Knight’.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: No.9 around the military range at Hythe where they were pounding away with guns over the beach and out to sea on a hot Sunday afternoon in August—we just didn’t fancy getting shot!
How we got there and back: We were already camping at Stelling Minnis. We drove to Sandgate where we found a free car park overlooking the sea wall. We caught a bus (which did turn up today!) to Dymchurch.
At the end, we drove to a very nice pub for our evening meal, and returned to our camp at Stelling Minnis.

We started this walk in the pub! Well, we had a bit of a lazy morning with all the frustrations of yesterday (excuses! excuses!) and by the time we got to Dymchurch it was lunchtime. We sat in the garden wondering whether the black clouds were going to shed their contents over us at any moment, but they just blew on past and it remained dry and very hot.
The Martello tower still wasn’t open, so we got up on to the sea wall and started walking along. Being a Sunday in the height of the holiday season there were a lot of people about, especially children enjoying themselves by the seaside. Dymchurch beach is lovely and sandy, and the sea is shallow making it ideal for families. Dymchurch sea wall is very high—even so I wouldn’t like to live there because the land behind it has been reclaimed, is as low as the beach and very flat. Unless your house is three storeys high (which one house was, and a very ugly construction too!) your only view southwards is a blank wall! Besides that, sometimes the forces of nature are much more powerful than we give them credit for, and if that wall was to go you wouldn’t stand a chance. We were happy walking along it because we could see a long way from up there and we were rejoicing in the cooling breeze.
We passed another Martello tower, and this one was for sale. It could possibly be converted into a nice home, but there is a drawback. It is a listed building, and one of the regulations of the listing is a ban on adding any more windows to the construction. This means it will always be very dark inside, and we couldn't think of any practical use to which it could be put with just one little tiny window part way up the wall. We think it will be 'for sale' a long time!
We sat on a seat to eat our lunch, and hailed a couple walking past because they had been our fellow campers at Stelling Minnis last night. We also remarked on a couple of children, a boy and a girl, who were playing on the beach completely ‘starkers’. If they had been toddlers we wouldn’t have thought anything of it, but they must have been about nine or ten and we thought they were really a bit big to be undressed like that on a public beach. They came up on to the wall with their parents, joined up with an elderly woman who was sitting near us and all went off to the car park, the children still without a stitch on! We shrugged, then carried on to Hythe military range.
Yes, another military range! On our overcrowded southern coastline, overlooking one of the world’s most active shipping lanes, a mere ten miles from the world’s busiest port, squeezed between two lively seaside towns, taking up two miles of beautiful sandy beach, on a sunny Sunday afternoon in August, the red flag was up and the Army was shooting over the beach and out to sea!! Can you credit it? Fortunately for us, walking around this range only involved an extra half mile because the area taken up is long and thin, but it did mean that the next 2½miles was a deadly walk along a pavement next to a very busy road. As soon as we turned away from the coast we lost our cooling breeze, and what with the traffic noise and fumes one side and the ‘pow! pow! pow!’ from the ranges the other:- (NO PHOTOGRAPHY!---who would want to anyway, there was nothing to take!---AND IF YOU WISH TO ENTER THE RANGE YOU MUST PRESENT I.D. AND CONSENT TO A BODY SEARCH!---only if the searcher is tall dark and handsome!) —by the time we had cut through the housing estates and crossed the village green in a not very select area of Hythe to get back to the coast by the red flag at the other end of the range, we were not happy bunnies!
We walked along the prom to the public conveniences, rested on the wall in the cooling breeze and had a drink of water—and then we both felt better. This part of Hythe is nicer, but it is not a very exciting place. We were hoping to see France by now, but it was too hazy out to sea. We could just make out the power station and lighthouses at Dungeness. It was a long walk along the prom, and when a road came alongside us it got a bit noisy as well as being dull.
Where the road started branching away from us, Colin noticed a Citro├źn garage that had a row of used cars for sale. I sat on the wall for a rest while he wandered over to see if they had any Diesel cars because our present Diesel Renault Clio is now six years old and it is time we changed it. He found a three year old Diesel Xantia which was within our price range but it had rather a high mileage. When we looked at it properly the next day, we were also shown a two year old Xantia with a very low mileage. We subsequently bought this, having negotiated a price just about within our range. So now we can say we have bought a car on our ‘Round-Britain-Walk’!
When we got to Sandgate, a few yards before we reached the car park where our car was sitting with flasks of hot water and tea bags in the boot, the prom sloped downwards to beach level and was covered in shingle washed up from the beach. There was a notice which I didn’t really understand saying something about this wasn’t a public right-of-way and you walked at your own risk and no cycling—but people were doing both so we carried on and took no notice until we reached the steps up to our car.

That ended Walk No.19, we shall pick up Walk No.20 next time at the foot of the steps leading down from the free car park in Sandgate. We had two very welcome cups of tea from our flask in the car whilst sitting on the sea wall watching families cope with squabbling kids on the beach below and listening to a group of neighbours singing and playing a guitar! Then we found a very nice pub for our evening meal, and returned to our camp at Stelling Minnis.