Points of Interest

Last updated 16 October 2017


Points of Interest: a 25-page illustrated PDF file is here (with thanks to Peter Jull)


The links in the text below take you to a variety of websites
many of which may lead on to further exploration and research.
Some items, shown in italics, are not strictly on the route
but are included here in case they're of interest.

Leg 1 - Hastings to Pett Level

Hastings is inextricably linked with 1066 although the Battle of Hastings took place at Senlac Hill 8 miles to the north and the Normans actually landed at Pevensey 10 miles to the west. But between the two events William the Conqueror is believed to have made camp at Hastings, probably on West Hill where he later built the castle, the ruins of which still stand today. During the Saxon era Hastings was used to describe the area belonging to a sub-tribe rather than a town. Referred to as a “New Burgh” in the Domesday Book, Hastings’ prosperity was based on fishing but any harbour the Romans might have used to export iron from a nearby mine suffered from encroaching shingle banks. Attempts to build harbour walls were defeated by the sea and Hastings remained a small fishing settlement until seaside holidays became fashionable with the Victorians, The population expanded significantly with the coming of the railways.

Originally a temporary wooden structure Hastings Castle was rebuilt in stone from 1070. King John had it slighted to prevent it falling into French hands. It was rebuilt by Henry III in 1220 but the great storm of 1287 undermined the sandstone cliff bringing down a large section and part of the castle with it. The overgrown remains were uncovered in the Victorian era and presented as a tourist attraction. It currently opens to the public in conjunction with Smugglers Adventure in the caves under the hill.

The tall black huts are for hanging drying fishing nets and stand on a piece of beach known as The Stade. From here the largest beach launched fishing fleet in the country continues Hastings’ fishing tradition, the boats having worked from this location for centuries.

The East Hill Cliff Railway is the steepest funicular railway in the country with a gradient of 78%. Opened in 1903 with a water balance mechanism it was refurbished in 2010 and is now powered by electricity.

Hastings Country Park was acquired by the council in stages from 1888. There is an Iron Age fort on top of East Hill. The whole 660 acres fall within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The cliffs are sandstone and suffer from regular falls due to erosion by the sea. The deep dark glens played their part in the great “fern fever” in the 1840s and 50s when country people could earn 6 months' wages by selling roots of rare ferns collected here to dealers who specialized in them. The Firehills are so called because of the impression given from afar by the dominant gorse bushes here when in flower.

Fairlight's parish population of 1700 is concentrated in the bungaloid retirement sprawl of Fairlight Cove but some of the homes nearest the cliff have been abandoned due to erosion. The church was built in 1845 to replace an earlier Norman structure. Richard D’Oyly Carte of Gilbert & Sullivan and Savoy Hotel fame is buried in the churchyard.

Pett Level is a settlement within Pett parish, the church and main village of which you will have seen on the ridge across the Marsham Valley, sometimes called illiteravely Cliff End. Pett Level is also used as a name for the reclaimed sea bed behind the 1940s sea wall which stretches east from the cliffs.

You will first meet the Royal Military Canal at the opposite end to where it was started near Hythe. Rather than being for water transport it was built as a defence against a threatened Napoleonic invasion. The spoil was used to build an embankment on the landward side to protect defenders. Begun in 1804 it wasn’t finished until 1809 and after Trafalgar the threat was diminished and wrangling began over the cost and need to complete it. The western end ended up being built much narrower and shallower than the east. The kinks in its alignment were so that artillery could be positioned to fire along the canal at anyone attempting to cross. The canal additionally contributed to the drainage of the marshes it passes as is credited with the elimination of “marsh ague”, a malarial infection, that had plagued marsh dwellers for centuries. The limited number of bridges across the canal has dictated parts of the route.

Leg 2 - Pett Level to Rye

Now obviously old, New Gate was built at the southern end of Winchelsea’s defences in 1330.

By the 13th century Winchelsea was exceeded in wealth only by London and Southampton among southern ports. Built on a shingle bank with no easy access to a hinterland that wealth was based on fishing and transhipments. But that was Old Winchelsea and after a series of storms had battered the town and breached the shingle bank on which it stood, orders were given to relocate the town on its new site. Six years later the great storm of 1287 completely washed away what remained and the old site is submerged under Rye Bay. The ambitious town plan can be seen in its grid pattern of streets and the town prospered for a while and it still contains numerous vaulted wine cellars around which occasional tours are organised. But French and Castillian raids in 1350 and 1380, the decline of the wine trade during the 100 years war and the silting up of the harbour turned the town into a rotten borough leaving the empty plots within the defences seen today. You will approach the town across Holy Rood Land, the red bin is at the SW corner of plot 29. http://www.winchelsea.net

St Thomas’s Church was built three times its current size with a high spire but as the town declined the rest was taken down and sold in the 16th century when the maintenance could no longer be afforded. Spike Milligan is buried in the churchyard where his gravestone bears the epitaph “I told you I was ill” but in Gaelic after being refused by the diocesan authorities.

The Armoury next to the corporation well looks old but was built at the time Winchelsea was garrisoned during the Napoleonic Wars.

The first house on the left after leaving the main road is Ferry House built at the end of a causeway into the River Brede, now the road. Until 1657 a ferry left from here to a point upstream below Udimore. By then the estuary had been largely reclaimed and a bridge was built. A footpath follows the approximate route of the ferry. The waterworks 6 miles upstream were still serviced by 40 ton coal barges until 1928 when the river was only usable 2 days a fortnight. The river is now managed for land drainage rather than navigation.

Rye stands on an outcrop at the end of a sandstone ridge reaching out from the Weald where it used to meet the sea. Originally a limb of Hastings it was raised to the status on Antient Town on a par with the original five ports. After the great storm of 1287 it was left at the confluence of the rivers Brede, Tillingham and Rother. Further storm damage in 1375 destroyed eastern parts of the town after which ships used the river estuary to approach the town and unload at The Strand, below the current main road bridge. Two years later the town was sacked by the French after which Edward III granted murage rights to enclose with walls and crenellate. The Ypres Tower and Land Gate are the most prominent remains of the towns defences. Whilst a fishing fleet still operates, pleasure boats are now more often seen and the town’s economy is reliant on tourists.

The cellars of the Mermaid Inn date from 1156 but the upper parts were rebuilt in the 1420s with further alterations in the 15th century. Queen Elizabeth I stayed here. Later it was frequented by the notorious Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers in the 1740s and 50s when they could be seen carousing with their loaded pistols on the tables while no magistrate dared to interfere. There was a tunnel leading to The Old Bell in the street behind, which was disguised by a revolving cupboard. By 1770 the building had ceased to be an inn and only returned to that use after Word War II.

For more than 900 years the church of St Mary the Virgin has dominated the skyline of the hill on which the town stands. In 1377 the bells were stolen by the French and fire caused the roof to collapse. The next year men of Rye and Winchelsea sailed to France and stole them back again. One was hung in Watchbell Street to warn of further reprisals.

Rye Town Hall dates from 1742. The original building on this site was burned by the French in 1377. In an upper room the skull of mayor murderer John Breads can still be seen in the iron gibbet cage in which his body was left to rot.

Leg 3 - Rye to Wittersham

The High Weald Landscape Trail runs for 90 miles from Rye to Horsham and is designed to pass through the main landscape types of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Before the current sluice was built at Rye the River Tillingham was navigable well beyond the point we leave it.

Peasmarsh has a population of 1200, one of whom is Sir Paul McCartney. Maria “Granny” Smith after whom the apple was named was born here.

Originally known as the Limen in Roman times the River Rother flowed east as far as Portus Lemanis. By the mediaeval period it reached the sea at New Romney until the great storm of 1287 diverted it to Rye. Below high tide level for much of its route there have been ongoing management works. In the 1330s flow to the south of the Isle of Oxney was dammed but in 1635 that was reversed with flow to the north stopped so the river ran where you cross it now.. Small pleasure boats can still use the river up to Bodiam but even in 1802 16 commercial sailing barges were using the river and in the Norman period small boats are recorded reaching as far as Etchingham some 14 miles upstream from here.

The Sussex Border Path closely follows the inland Sussex border but deviates to avoid roads and follow more scenic paths. Where crossed it is actually in Kent. It runs for nearly 150 miles from Rye to Thorney Island in Chichester Harbour.

4 miles long east to west and over 2 miles wide the Isle of Oxney is no longer an island in the sea but you still have to cross a bridge to get off. At 200ft the highest point is behind the south facing cliffs.

With a population of 1100 Wittersham is the largest settlement on the Isle of Oxney. In WW1 there was an airship mooring base here for when Capel, see later, was too windy.

Leg 4 - Wittersham to Tenterden

Reading Sewer marks the old course of the River Rother. Until the 16th century it could accommodate the largest ships of the day.

Small Hythe was once a major shipbuilding centre making use of the plentiful timber and iron from the surrounding Weald. From the 13th century ships were built on both sides of the modern road including the 1000 ton Jesus commissioned by Henry V. The last large ship was built here in 1546. In 1999 a Time Team broadcast showed excavations that revealed shipbreaking, blacksmithing and brickmaking as well as shipbuilding docks and slipways here. Smallhythe Place is open to the public by the National Trust and contains a theatrical museum as well as exhibitions on shipbuilding.

Tilder Gill is popular with those energetic enough to stray this far from Tenterden. It is renowned for its seasonal display of bluebells and wild garlic. The marshals’ walk might catch it but the main walk will be too late. Gill is the name used locally for a stream cut narrow wooded valley.

You may realise from its topography that Tenterden itself was never a seaport. In fact it is the town and hundred of Tenterden that joined the Cinque Ports Confederation in 1449 as a limb of Rye. Hundreds were ancient administrative divisions of Kent that usually included several parishes but in this case was almost contiguous with the parish of Tenterden but with the mainland part of Ebony parish. Thus the hundred included Smallhythe and Reading Street, where port activities as well as shipbuilding enabled the requisite ship service to be performed. Tenterden itself began as a pig pasture in the Wealden woods belonging to the men of Thanet from which its name originates. The town’s early prosperity was derived from the wool trade for the surrounding area and today the picturesque tree-lined main street remains a shopping destination for the surrounding villages as well as tourists. The main visitor attraction is The Kent & East Sussex Railway steam heritage line which runs to Bodiam Castle.from its base at Tenterden Town station. The pinnacled tower of St. Mildreds Church, which has 12th century origins, can be seen from afar.

Leg 5 - Tenterden to Appledore

Ebony Church: Hasted 1799: “That part of this parish, northward of the Rother, contains the hamlet of Reading-street, adjoining to the parish of Tenterden, in which there are ten houses, and five more within the island. It lies very low and is a very unhealthy situation, being enveloped with vast quantities of wet and swampy marshes, the gross vapours rising from which subject it to continual fogs”. By 1858 the population had long deserted the island for the healthier and more accessible hamlet of Reading Street, the nearest house was three quarters of a mile away and the fabric of the church was in bad need of repair. With great initiative, the new Vicar and his Churchwarden decided to pull the old building down, to move the stone work by horse and cart over a mile of rough track, and to build it anew.

In 1486, the building of The Regent, a 600-ton 4-masted ship, began at Reading Street. The main mast measured 35m and had a circumference of over 3m and was referred to as “the great tree amidships”. The Regent was lost in the Battle of Saint-Mathieu in 1512 (in which the Mary Rose also took part) when the Breton flagship blew up and took The Regent with it. Henry VIII commissioned as her replacement one of the largest ships to be built in England at this time, the 1400-ton Henry Grâce à Dieu, also known as The Great Harry.

Chapel Bank is the original Isle of Ebony, surrounded by the sea. Only the graveyard and church foundations now remain. They are larger than the current church after lightning started a fire in Elizabeth I’s reign and it was rebuilt smaller to match the declining population. Not even the rough track used to remove the church survives. A population of 351 in 1801 had fallen to just 59 by 1841.

Stone in Oxney was burned by the Danes in 991. The stone from which the village is said to take its name appears to be an altar to the Roman god Apis and is preserved in the village church.

The Saxon Shore Way long distance path runs for 163 miles from Gravesend to Hastings following the coastline as it would have been at the end of the Roman era. Saxon Shore is from the name given to the series of forts the Romans built against incursions by the Saxons. The route here is cheating to avoid the historic Rother estuary detour.

Leg 6 - Appledore to Lydd

Strictly Romney Marsh is only the older eastern sector of the area now commonly referred to as Romney Marsh and including areas properly known, for example, as Walland Marsh and East Guldeford Level. At the end of the ice age rising sea levels formed a bay between Rye and Hythe containing large quantities of flint prised out of the chalk by glaciers. From Roman times, through the process of longshore drift, this began to build up into banks of shingle creating lagoons behind them. The rivers running into the bay deposited silt creating extensive salt marshes. By the Saxon period there was enough land for fishing harbours to develop and sheep were grazed on the marshes. A great storm in 1287 threw up so much shingle and silt that the coastline of the Marsh was changed overnight. The River Rother now flowed out past Rye instead of New Romney which found itself a mile from the sea. Winchelsea was washed away completely. Human interventions then speeded the land creation process by the construction of innings (throwing up an embankment round a section of salt marsh) and the drainage channels seen today. The Romney breed of sheep was developed. Able to graze on the wet grass without succumbing to foot rot it was prized for its wool and became the dominant form of farming. At night you will get some feeling of the remoteness of the open marsh landscape which smugglers found to their advantage together with the proximity of France. (An order has been placed with the weather gods for a smuggler’s mist to evoke the right atmosphere.) Early smuggling in the 14th century began with restrictions on the export of wool and the men involved were known as Owlers from their use of night time signals. After 1700 the importation of heavily taxed luxuries (Brandy for the Parson … laces for a lady) became a more organised illicit operation. Notorious among them, the Hawkhurst Gang and later the Aldington Gang on whose activities the fictional Dr Syn stories set around Dymchurch were based. Changing market conditions and agricultural techniques after WW2 saw potato cultivation flourish but that in turn has given way to fields of combinable arable crops, a fair few of which you will walk through. At the end of the 19th century there were nearly ¼million sheep on the marsh. Now you might not even see a sheep for several miles.

The Ashford to Hasting Marshlink Line is serviced hourly by two carriage diesel railcars in each direction.

Fairfield is the iconic marsh church standing in splendid isolation surrounded only by drainage ditches and sheep. It was used in the filming of Great Expectation both for the BBC series in 2011 and the 2012 film. The 13th century timber frame was encased in brickwork in the 18th century. The interior retains its Georgian white and black box pews and three decker pulpit.

Before the bypass was built Brookland village had 5 shops, a tea room, garage, blacksmith, abattoir and 2 pubs for a population of 400. Only one pub and the church remain. St Augustine’s is best known for its odd, detached bell tower with spire, made entirely from wood, sitting alongside. The tower is octagonal, and has a conical roof of three diminishing flounces. It was built separate from the church because it was felt that the marshy ground could not take the weight of both the church building and its six bells.

Dungeness branch line is an active railway and the usual precautions should be taken although it only carries about a dozen trains a year and has a 20mph speed limit. If you see one it is likely to be carrying nuclear waste from Dungeness power station. You will cross it twice more later.

Midley Church was once on a small island in the Rother between the larger ones of Romney and Lydd, and the name means "middle island". In the 8th century there was a village on this site, and 23 people still lived here in 1801. Now, only the ruined west wall of the church remains.

The ancient settlement of Lydd grew on an isolated shingle bank facing the sea. The name 'Hlyda', derived from the Latin word for 'shore', was found in a Saxon charter dating from the 8th century. All Saints is the longest parish church in Kent at 199 feet and has been able to seat 1000 people at a time. Some of the fabric/foundations are thought to be Roman. The Rype is an ancient common dating back perhaps 1000 years. It is now a registered village green controlled by the town council.

Leg 7 - Lydd to New Romney

Built in 1954 to operate an air ferry service for vehicles to Le Touquet in France, Lydd Airport, now called London Ashford Airport, is a small local airport located just over a mile from Lydd. It mainly operates private flights but does have commercial flights to Le Touquet in France every weekend.

Leg 8 - New Romney to Dymchurch

The relationship between New Romney and Old Romney is not well understood, both appearing to be of a similar age. Early mentions, including membership of the Cinque Ports, refer only to Romney. Some argue that there was a long waterside settlement the inland end of which was gradually abandoned as the area silted up. The Rhee Wall, a 7½ mile long drainage ditch between two embankments designed with sluices to flush out silt from the harbour was extend from Old Romney to New Romney in 1258 by which time the prefixes had been in use for about a century. Rhee Wall forms the demarcation of Romney Marsh proper and Walland Marsh and now carries the Appledore to New Romney Road after being dry since the 15th century. It was blocked by the Great Storm of 1287 which inundated New Romney. So much silt and shingle was left in the town that the floor of St. Nicholas is well below the new ground level. The church still has mooring rings in its wall from when boats could unload on the adjacent beach. The sea is now 1½ miles away. The lumpy ground over which walkers will enter the town are the result of ancient salt panning with some evidence of activity as far back as the Roman period. Despite the loss of its harbour function New Romney is the largest population centre on the Marsh with some 7000 inhabitants. The main tourist attraction is the 15” Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. The station includes a museum, model railway, and cafe and the steam engine shed can be viewed. As well as running tourists between Hythe and Dungeness it functions as the local “school bus”.

Dymchurch is best known as the location for the Russell Thorndyke novels about smuggler Dr. Syn whose gang rode the marshes disguised as scarecrows. They are celebrated by the biannual Day of Syn pageant. New Hall was the court room of the Leveller of the Marsh Scotts who collected a local tax to maintain the sea wall.

Leg 9 - Dymchurch to Hythe

The parish population of 2800 of St Mary in the Marsh clearly don’t live near the church and are in fact concentrated 2 miles away on the coast in St Mary’s Bay. Like many Marsh churches its size was intended to reflect the local lord’s prestige rather than the need to accommodate the local population which in 1801 was just 45. Edith Nesbit, author of The Railway Children is buried in the churchyard. Noel Coward lived and wrote his first successful play in the cottage adjoining The Star which was built in 1476 and became a pub in 1711.

At Chapel Cottage Farm the chapel in question is Orgarswick church a few stones of which in 1938 were built into a plinth for a wooden cross now to be seen on the right just before the road is reached. The church disappeared in the 15th century but the parish population was still recorded separately in 1801 as 6!

The name Burmarsh originates from the burghers of Canterbury who owned the local marshland. The Norman All Saints church is thought to have the remnants of a Saxon chapel in the chancel. The 15th century Shepherd and Crook is, behind the render, built of the same stone as the church.

Port Lympne Mansion was built for Sir Philip Sassoon in 1914. The extravagant interior decorations were badly damaged while the house was commandeered for use by Czech pilots during WW2 and the building was left unoccupied until bought by John Aspinall to expand his collection of endangered species kept at his other zoo, Howletts near Canterbury. The new zoo opened in 1976 and houses over 650 animals spread over 50 species. You may see, or hear, some of the larger beasts as you walk past its boundary fences.

The masonry walls in the field to the right of the footpath climbing up from the canal are the remains of Studfall Castle, a Roman Saxon Shore fort. Roman forts were almost invariably built to a square format but it seems that having been distorted by subsequent land slips this one may have had an irregular shape. Rebuilt in the 3rd century as one of a chain of forts to protect the south east coast against Saxon raids it sits on top of an earlier Classis Britannica (British fleet) fort. The location of Portus Lemanis they were built to protect has never been accurately identified but is most likely to have been to the south and east towards West Hythe. The River Rother was known as the Limen until the 16th century and it is possible one channel of a delta flowed along the cliff base to enter the sea near here.

Although 13th century in origin much of what you see today of Lympne Castle is the result of Edwardian alterations and additions compared to the 1830 image. It is not open to the public for tours but specialises in weddings if you meet someone on route.

The Cinque Ports Court of Shepway was presided over by the Lord Warden to decide disputes between ports such as over ship service as well as civil and criminal cases. In existence by 1150 it reputedly used to meet on Lympne Hill, and the site is marked by the Shepway Cross. Erected by the then Lord Warden, Earl Beauchamp in 1923, the Cross was dedicated to the memory of the ‘historic deeds of the Cinque Ports’.

The church at Pedlinge is a chapel of ease to Saltwood. Unlike most churches in east Kent which are built of flint this is brick built and only the small cross on top confirms its purpose.

As a harbour Hythe was probably the successor to Portus Lemanis with the Brockhill and Mill streams keeping access to the sea open. But like other Cinque Port town it succumbed to silting and longshore drift. Its waterfront would have been in the vicinity of where the Royal Military Canal was built, The town hall was built in1794 on the site of a covered market. The main chamber is on the first floor.

St Leonard's Church building dates from the Normans but there is some evidence of an earlier structure. It is best known for its ossuary in the amulatory containing 2000 skulls and 8000 thigh bones. They date from the mediaeval period.

Leg 10 - Hythe to Capel-le-Ferne

A Martello Tower is a fortified 2-3 storey tower of thick masonry on which a single heavy cannon was mounted. Beginning in 1804, 74 were built from Folkestone westwards as part of invasion defences against Napoleon. The were inspired after a tower of similar design at Mortella Point in Corsica resisted a two day bombardment by two Royal Navy frigates. It only surrendered to a land assault because its main guns couldn’t fire inland. British Martello guns could traverse 360°

At the start of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1874 the army purchased 229 acres to provide accommodation for a defensive garrison. Shorncliffe became the training base for the Light Division. In WW1 it was a major staging post for troops heading for the Western Front. The cemetery contains over 600 Commonwealth War Graves, mostly from WW1 when the camp contained a military hospital to which wounded soldiers were repatriated but not all survived. Three graves are those of Victoria Cross winners. The current barracks are home to the Royal Gurkha Rifles.

Sandgate Castle was built 1539-40 at a cost to Henry VIII of £5,584.7s.2d. Originally it was similar in pattern to Walmer Castle, to be seen later, but much altered for defense against Napoleon, partly lost to the sea and altered several times since in shape and use; house, museum, restaurant and now house again.

A major landslip in 1784 created the Lower Leas, a narrow strip of land between cliff and beach. At first only a toll road was built across it but by the end of the 19th century there was a large switchback railway, pleasure pier and other beach amusements accessed by cliff paths. These were superseded by the Rotunda amusement park with boating lake and a large lido open air swimming pool. All have now gone. The Zig Zag Path was added in 1921 but the rocks and grottoes are all made of an artificial landscaping material called Pulhamite. Since 2000, millions have been spent improving the area with new children’s adventure playgrounds, flowerbeds and picnic furniture.

The name Folkestone first appears as Folcanstan in the 7th century while the Jutes of Kent were still distinguishable from their related Saxons. Always a fishing port at the mouth of the Pent stream it became a limb of Hythe within the Cinque Ports at about the time it received its town charter in 1313. Only when seaside holidays became fashionable with the Victorians did the nature of the town change. The local landowner the Earl of Radnor laid out The Leas with its grand hotels and houses looking out over the cliffs to the sea. Trees have encroached on the view but the bandstand and water balanced lift to the beach remain in use. In 2007 a 4.3 earthquake damaged 474 properties in the town.

The 14 metre high stainless steel memorial arch was unveiled by Prince Harry on the centenary of Britain entering WW1. The fundraising campaign was called Step Short after the order given to soldiers marching down Slope Road at it was then known on their way to the harbour and France, so that their boots didn’t slip on the steep cobbles. The war further affected Folkestone with the influx of 64,000 Belgian refugees and an air raid by 21 Gotha bombers which killed 95 people in 1917.

St. Eanswythe was a granddaughter of Bertha, a Christian Merovingian princess of Paris and King Aethelbert of Kent. It was he who received St Augustine’s mission to convert England back to Christianity in 597. In 630 her father built the Benedictine Folkestone Convent for her, the first nunnery in England. The original buildings were sacked by the Danes and later fell into the sea. The current church is a replacement dating from 1137 but again the rest of the buildings have been lost to cliff erosion. In 1885 during restoration work a 12th century reliquary was discovered containing the bones of a young woman (Eanswythe died young born c614 died c640) which led to the conclusion that they were her relicts translated to the new church in 1138 and hidden at the time of the dissolution after which the church became the parish church of Folkestone. The niche where they were found and the contents can be seen in the church today.

Folkestone’s first significant harbour was built in 1820 but the need to continually dredge silt from the Pent bankrupted the operators. It was bought by the South Eastern Railway who built a line down to and across the harbour on a viaduct to their new Horn Pier. The town soon became their principle packet station for continental traffic to Boulogne. 44.000 Dunkirk evacuees were brought through the harbour in 1940. A roll on roll off ramp was built in 1971 and services to Boulogne, Calais and Ostend prospered for a while but the popularity and capacity of Dover caused operations to cease in 2001. Fishing boats still use the outer half of the old harbour at high tides and use quayside handling facilities while the inner half is the preserve of pleasure boats.

East Cliff is the coast end of the Greensand ridge stretching from Surrey along the northern edge of The Weald. An extensive Iron Age oppidum used the stone to produce quern stones on an industrial scale. It was superseded by a Roman villa, excavated after it was revealed by a landslip in 1924.

The Warren was created by a series of landslips, the last major one of which was in 1915 since when the sea defences to protect the Dover-Folkestone railway line, have stabilised the coast. All the trees have grown since then and the area is managed as a country park.

St. Mary’s Church, c1100, at Capel-le-Ferne, has for long stood some way from the bulk of the village after 700 building plots were auctioned off near the cliff top in the early 1900s, although they were not all built on straight away. It is now further separated by the new A20. During WW1 the main naval airship base for anti submarine operations was to the east of the village using airships built at Wormwood Scrubs. At the west end of the village is the Battle of Britain Memorial. It is formed of a large propeller-shaped base, with the carved figure of a seated pilot sitting at the centre. The Memorial Wall, carries the names of the almost 3,000 fighter aircrew who flew in the Battle. Michael Fish’s 1987 hurricane caused havoc among the village’s caravan sites.

Leg 11 - Capel-le-Ferne to Dover

Earthworks were first dug on the hills to the west of Dover in 1779 as a defence against French involvement in the American War of Independence. The Western Heights were greatly enlarged and built in stone during the Napoleonic Wars. The fortifications were further upgraded in the 1850s to suit the needs of modern artillery. Works included the Grand Shaft, a triple spiral staircase through the cliffs to speed access of troops from the barracks to defend the harbour. Construction obliterated remains of the Roman lighthouse, twin to the one still to be seen in the grounds of Dover Castle on the opposite hill, apart from a lump of masonry called the Bredenstone. Lord Wardens of the Cinque Ports were installed at the Bredenstone until 1914.

Of all the Cinque Ports towns and limbs visited only Dover is today an operating port of comparable significance. In fact it is the busiest passenger port in the world with ferry services to Calais and less frequently Dunkerque. The discovery of the 3600 year old Bronze Age Boat in 1992 and a wreck of similar age with a cargo of scrap bronze outside the harbour evidences how long Dover has been used as a port. The Romans invaded through Richborough to the north but soon there were lighthouses on either side of the estuary and the Roman Quay pub in the town centre stands where the old waterfront was found during post war reconstruction. When building their Saxon Shore fort in Dover the Romans partly demolished a mansio, a lodging house for travelling officials, but inadvertently preserved the remains which were uncovered in the 1970s and are now open to the public as the Roman Painted House. The early Jutes/Saxons avoided old Roman towns but by 640 King Eadbald of Kent (father of Eanswythe) founded a priory of 22 canons within the castle, meaning the Roman fort. In the Domesday Book the mill of Odo Bishop of Bayeaux is said to disturb the waters to the endangerment of shipping. This may have exacerbated the silting of the estuary and by the 13th century the river was divided in two. The eastern arm and adjacent beach was used by small fishing boats until it was blocked by a cliff fall. Over the ensuing years numerous schemes of piers and sluices were built on the western side but all suffered from storm damage and the build up of shingle until the government paid for the harbour walls seen today which were completed in 1909 enclosing a square mile of water, sufficient to shelter a sizeable naval fleet. There has been substantial land reclamation within the harbour to provide space for the current ferry operations. Dover was often bombed in WW1 by Zeppelins but in WW2 it was known as Hellfire Corner and significantly damaged by both bombing and cross channel shelling, pockets of which have never been rebuilt. The town has never regained its pre-war population.

Leg 12 - Dover to St Margaret's at Cliffe

After his victory at Hastings, William the Conqueror marched on Dover and when it didn’t immediately surrender he burnt the town and then began work on a castle. There were probably already Iron Age earthworks on the hill. Dover Castle was transformed by Henry II to its present form of concentric rings of defence around a central keep. The French siege of 1216 brought down the north gate and wall but didn’t take the castle. However the main entrance was afterwards moved to the new stronger Constable’s Tower. The castle fell into disuse but for the Napoleonic wars the keep was strengthened with brick vaulting and new bastions added so that artillery could be mounted. Miles of tunnels were dug into the chalk to provide accommodation for the enlarged garrison. The tunnels were improved and reused during WW2 and it was from here that the Dunkerque evacuation was co-ordinated. They remained secret after the war and were to act as a bunker for local government in the case of nuclear war. After they were no longer required for that, they were opened to visitors to the castle which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country with 350,000 visitors a year.

Louis Bleriot was the first man to fly across the Channel in 1909. Using an aeroplane of his own design he won the £1000 prize offered by the Daily Mail. At the time, his landing site was a clear grazing meadow. For the centenary, some of the scrub was cleared and the memorial refurbished and improved. A re-enactment in 2009 included a flight by a replica plane which landed at Duke of York’s School, but a day late because of high winds.

Replacing an earlier version, two lighthouses were built on this headland in 1840. The smaller one is closer to the cliff and now in a private garden. It is unclear how the lights combined to aid navigation. South Foreland Lighthouse, the larger lighthouse, was the first in the country to show an electric light in 1875. It was here that Marconi received the first ship to shore wireless message from the East Goodwin Lightship and then the first international transmission from Wimereaux in 1899. The National Trust now opens it to the public for views from the top.

Separated from the parish church by a valley, St Margaret’s Bay has a small park and museum; The Pines Gardens. Among its famous residents have been Ian Fleming, Noel Coward and Peter Ustinov who bought a house after being posted here during the war.

Leg 13 - St Margaret's at Cliffe to Deal

The Dover Patrol was a WWI naval command whose main task was anti-submarine patrols in the Strait of Dover. The memorial was unveiled in 1921. A similar obelisk stands across the Channel on Cap Blanc Nez and regularly features on Kent Group social walks.

Although only a small beach fishing community in the parish of Ringwould centred a mile inland Kingsdown was a Cinque Ports limb of Dover. The village got its own church in 1848 and is now much more populous than Ringwould. It is located at the northern end of the White Cliffs of Dover.

Hawkshill Down was a WWI landing strip set up in 1917 to defend shipping in The Downs anchorage from German air attack. There is a small memorial to 16 men who served here and lost their lives, on the left as you enter the open ground.

The southernmost of the three Henrician forts built to defend The Downs, Walmer Castle was built in 1539-40. In 1708 it became the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. Successive Wardens developed the castle into a comfortable country home and garden. William Pitt the Younger directed the Napoleonic War from here. The Duke of Wellington died here. The previous Lord Warden, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, stayed one weekend each summer. English Heritage open the gardens and castle to the public where an original pair of Wellington’s boots can be seen.

In 1989 the IRA exploded a time bomb in the nearby Royal Marines School of Music killing 11 bandsmen. The Marines had been present in Walmer since 1869. The school moved to Portsmouth in 1996 but the band comes back each year to play a concert at the bandstand built in memory of those killed.

Deal Castle is the central and largest of the three artillery forts built to protect The Downs anchorage by Henry VIII after he had upset the continentals by divorcing Catherine of Aragon and feared invasion in retribution. It has a three storey central keep with two sets of 6 offset semi circular bastions projecting from it, set in a stone revetted dry moat. From above the pattern looks like a Tudor rose. The later addition of a house for the Captain was removed by a German bomb in 1942. English Heritage open the castle to the public with the large cannons facing the sea being a favourite photo opportunity.

The first recorded event in British history occurred at Deal when Julius Caesar landed on the beach in 55BC then wrote about his exploits in propaganda pieces sent back to Rome. The town sits on and behind a shingle spit created by longshore drift. At first only a few fisherman’s huts were built on the beach with the main settlement a mile inland. But with Dover and Sandwich becoming less accessible, ships increasingly made use of The Downs, a large anchorage protected by the Goodwin Sands six miles offshore from all but the worst storms, while they waited for a favourable wind to continue round into the Thames Estuary or down the Channel. Provisioning of these ships became more profitable than fishing and a town grew up around this trade. By 1699 it gained independence from Sandwich with a Charter of its own but remained a limb of Sandwich for Cinque Ports purposes. A naval yard was built near the castle to service Royal Navy ships including a mechanical semaphore tower used during the Napoleonic Wars to sent messages to the Admiralty via a series of repeater stations across Kent. Later it became the Timeball Tower still seen today which was used to send time signals to ships offshore so that they could set their navigation chronometers accurately. With the advent of steamships the town fell into decline. Unlike other coastal towns It never succeeded in becoming a major seaside resort but from the 1920s to 1980s it was a coal mining town with many of the 2000 men working at nearby Betteshanger Colliery moving in. The pier is the only post war pleasure pier in the country, replacing an earlier one destroyed by a drifting mined ship in WW2.

Leg 14 - Deal to Sandwich

Sandown Castle was a smaller version of Deal castle having only four bastions. None of the castles saw action in the purpose they were designed for but when the civil war resumed in 1648 they declared for the king and were besieged by Parliamentarian forces falling one by one over the summer. After the restoration Colonel John Hutchinson was imprisoned here for signing Charles I’s death warrant. In 1786 storm seas broke into the moat and it became increasingly derelict. The remains have been concreted into the sea defences at the northern end of the promenade.

Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club has held The Open twice in 1909 and 1920. It remains of the required standard but accessibility for the large crowds now attending is considered inadequate.

A stone and later sign mark the spot where 23 year old local woman Mary Bax was murdered by a Swedish sailor in 1782. He was caught and hanged at Maidstone.

When the Romans invaded they used the wide Wansum channel that separated the Isle of Thanet from the mainland to land at Richborough, north of Sandwich. The shingle spit continued to grow north from Deal while another developed south from Thanet creating a U shaped haven at the bottom of which a sandbank grew and Sandwich was founded; it is first mentioned in 664. By the time the Domesday book was written it appears as the fourth most valuable port in England. It was pillaged by the French in 1457 and the mayor killed, since when the Sandwich mayor has worn a black robe instead of the red that the other Cinque Port mayors have. The French came from Honfleur which is now twinned with Sandwich. The haven continued to narrow and Sandwich was reduced to a less functional river port. Development almost ceased leaving it to be described by researchers as the “completest mediaeval town in England” with 160 houses dating before 1600 including considerable architectural evidence of Flemish and Huguenot refugees from the 16th century. The line of the town defensives survives in the form of a moat and bank. It probably never had a complete stone wall away from The Quay where, of the gates, only Fisher Gate and the Barbican, which later served as a toll booth for the 1892 swing bridge across the river Stour, survive. The Guildhall dates from 1579 but the rear portion was added in the 1980s.

The Stour Valley Walk runs from the coast across St. George’s golf course, then from Sandwich roughly following the course of the river to its source near Lenham; a total of 51 miles.

The duck pond at Worth was anciently the head of a reach from the sea. The village has long relied on agriculture and more recently market gardening. The Crispin was built in 1420 as a farmhouse; it became an inn in the 17th century.

Just off route, half a mile from Ham, is the most often stolen road sign in the country.

Mentioned in the Domesday Book the manor of Betteshanger was granted to Hugo de Port at the end of the 12th century for his help to the Lord Warden in defending Dover Castle. The mansion behind the church wasn’t built until 1856 and is now a public school. At the other end of the parish a large colliery was opened in 1927. It acquired a militant reputation being the only one to strike during WW2 and the last to return to work after the 1984/5 national strike. Betteshanger is on the LDWA’s Four Pits Walk, an Anytime Challenge, and the council promoted Miner’s Way Trail.

Telegraph Farm was the first repeater station on the line of semaphore telegraphs leading from Deal naval yard to the Admiralty in London. It stands on the Roman road from Dover to Richborough.

Studdal, strictly East Studdal as West Studdal is just a farm today, has outgrown the original parish settlement of Sutton over the hill to the east.

When the North Downs Way was opened in 1969 36 miles of new public rights of way were created. It runs 153 miles from Farnham in Surrey to Dover.

Founded in 1803 as the Royal Military Asylum in Chelsea for the orphans of soldiers killed in the Napoleonic Wars Duke of York's Royal Military School was moved to the new site and buildings in Guston in 1909 and renamed. Part of the Ministry of Defence, entry was restricted to sons of military families. Girls were admitted in 1994 and after it became an academy in 2010 entry restrictions were lifted but military traditions were retained and included a large marching band. Although a boarding school the education element is state funded with parents only paying for accommodation.