Windy walk Kingsdown to White Cliffs of Dover

We had planned to go to Chatham Maritime museumbut when we got up the weather had changed from the forecast, the sun was out and it was going to be bright all day. I hatched a plan to walk from the National Trust visitor centre at the White Cliffs of Dover, to Kingsdown. After some bad working out which way the wind was blowing we ended up driving to the visitor centre, to get a taxi back to Kingsdown.

The man at the centre was very helpful not only was he able to provide a phone number for Dover Royal Taxis he honestly up and arranged it for us. 5 minutes later the taxi arrived and whisked us away back to Kingsdown for the second time in a day (don’t ask!).

The wind was still cold but with the wind behind us it was not unfortable, and if we kept in from the cliff there was a kind of a lee in the wind. We expected a few up hill sections being a coastal path and all. We were not disappointed after half a mile came the first one it was short and steep and deposited us at the top of the cliff, where a path and track was lined by some lovely houses with impressive views over the channel.

A few miles later adter passing the Walker and Kingsdown  a golf club, we reached St Margaret at Cliffe, where the path dropped down again. We stopped at the The Pines garden tearoom and museum, where we stopped for a coffee and cake. The orange and gooseberry cake was just right. Next was an up hill plus to a high point where the South Foreland Lighthouse, which is owned by the national trust, however on this day it was shut, during the warmer months there is a tea room open.

After the hard slog out of the vilkage to the lighthouse was needed a rest and a suitable bench appeared so we rested for 10 minutes. Over the next brow in the hill i noticed some concrete structures in the hillside, and it sprung to mind that they were parabolic listening mirtorsused to detect distant aircraft before radar was invented. There was a path across Langdon Hole and a steep set of step that led to them, said to Helen that I was going to take a look, Helen bravely followed.

The structures were fenced off but you could get close enough for a good look. There were two one about three metres in diameter the other slightly smaller. The final steps backup out of the valley were very steep and we stopped to catch our breath at the top. It was not far back to the visitor centre, but we took a slight detour to take in a view from the headland, it made us realise how our decision to walk with the wind behind had been the right on, as we walked into the wind back to the path.

Back at the centre we stopped for a cup of tea before heading back to the gut via a supermarket to get some dinner. It had been a really nice walk especially given the weather.

Dover Castle is a big place

With rain threatening we thought we might have to go further afield to find something indoors, but we woke up to a bright day the rain had been delayed until after lunch. We decided that Dover Castle should be our destination, it was just a few miles down the road.

We left the hut at 09:00 and stopped off at the national trust White Cliffs of Dover visitors centre, where we attempted a walk along the coast to the lighthouse tea room, however we only got a third of the way there before the cold biting wind got the better of us. We went to the cafe to warm up and found out that but the lighthouse was closed so it was a good job we turned back, Helen would have been incandescent had we got there and the tea room was found to be shut.

After a pleasant coffee we had and enjoyable hour overlooking the port of Dover and the activities going. I tuned the scanner into the operations team choosing which lanes to load next while my camera took a timelapse of the boat loading. Next stop would be the castle.

The entry fee just shy of £20 seemed a bit steep, but Helen was paying, so i went with the flow. The wind was not letting up and the shelter of the tunnels that we looked at first was welcome. The tours of the medical wing followed by one with a multi-media show explaining the Dunkirk retreat wax very enlightening and done very well. We stopped at the NAAFI restaurant for a cheese scone and a coffee before getting the land train to the mail n event the iconic castle that you can see on top of the hill from the town.

There is an Anglo Saxon church on the highest point which is right next to if not connected to a Roman lighthouse. We had a look around the inside of the church. It was quite different and perhaps had a military influence very regimented and neat. Every pew had the allotted number of prayer kneelers and each was precisely spaced across he length of the pew. I did not spot a grave yard outside which is unusual for a church perhaps because the area id inhabited.

Finally we visited the great tower, and popped into a regimental museum which was a bonus museum on the site. The great tower was a bit disappointing for me because the place was made to look like they think it would have looked in the past but it all looked too new and colourful. We had had our time in the building because they announced it would be closing in fifteen minutes. We exited via the gift shop.

On the way home we heard on the radio that there had been a suspected terrorist attempt at Westminster, and when we got home we followed events on TV.

We went to the Zetland Arms for dinner.

Trip to La Belle France

We were up early for a 09:50 shuttle to France, in fact early enough to just miss the 08:50, but have enough time to grab a coffee before the 09:20. The terminal was very quiet unlike it suspect it would be during the holiday season. Our destination was Cap Gris Nez to have a look at the gun battery and take a walk, then to Wissant a little seaside town with a lovely beach.

It always seems like a bit of a barrier to travel the channel, in the sense that when you are on the continent you can just get in your car and drive to anywhere, even as far as Beijing, from England there is a stretch of water in the way and no easy way across it. You have to book ahead then drive to a place then wait for a while get loaded onto a boat or train then wait till you are delivered to the continent. It would be a bit different if the tunnel was a drive through one because the while booking ahead and loading would not be necessary. In reality you spend 30 minutes being shaken, while you talk shit on you blog.

It did not take long to get accustomed to driving in the gutter. We headed down the lovely smooth autoroute and got off following the signs Cap Gris-Nez, where there is a car park and awalk to some viewing points. Unfortunately the wind was cold so we did hang about. We did notice what we thought were Meadow Pipits and then a Marsh Harrier quartering a field. Next we headed to a museum in a gun battery, however it was shut till 14:00, so we went to Wissant, and parked up on the town square. Lunchtime was approaching so the town was shutting down, so we grabbed a coffee in the loacl bar, before heading down to the beach, where again we did not spend too much the fighting the elements, but headed back to a cafe for some lunch. I had a cheese sandwich and Helen a  cheese gallette.we were in the conservatory so it was nice and warm with the sun shinning in.

After lunch we went to the Twist build battery, where a very big 380mm gun was built by the Germans, opened by Hitler, and surrendered to the Canadians. Now it is quite a good museum with displays of  WWII artefacts and exhibits. In the museum shop you could buy antique war memorabilia, including done genuine Russian and Swiss baynettes!

Next was a drive along the coast towards Calsis., Which was enjoyable withe sweeping vistas as the road ascended and descended valleys. We planned to turn around before we got to Calais but there were road works so we had to go into Valid before turning around and heading to Cite Europe shopping centre.

At the shopping centre we stocked up on food we never normally buy, some wine for Hrkrn and i got a couple of local beers and a box of Cidre doux which is only 2.5% and is quite quaffable. By the time we had shopped Helen has seen enough of France so we headed back to the tunnel terminal and managed to just miss a train but ended up at the very front of the queue for the 17:19 delayed by 5 minutes.

We were back in blighty just a few minutes late, and feasted on out supermarche purchases for dinner.

Sissinghurst and Canterbury

Rain day so we decided to use the car, and do a tour for the day. Main stops would be Cranbrook, Sissinghurst and Canterbury. Whilst having breakfast iIbooked the tunnel for a trip to France on the Tuesday, then we left and drove through thick drizzle, to Cranbrook where we had a coffee and a look around the church and graveyard looking for Helen’s relatives.

By the time we got to the National Trust property at Sissinghurst, the rain had stopped, but it was a bit windy and damp. We had a look at the garden which I image would look fantastic in a months time. There is a tower in the middle of the property and I took the opportunity to trapse up to the top for a look at the view. It allows you to get a good overview of the whole garden which is very extensive, There is a cottage in the grounds where the most recent owners used to live, and we got on the 13:00 tour.

With some time to spare we had some lunch I had some lovely pea, lettuce and mint soup. The tour of the house was very interesting, just a few rooms but they were covered in book shelves and looked lived in. Next we had a look at the library in the main building where they had book conservators demonstrating their work.

We decided to return back via Canterbury where Helen got some Euro’s for tomorrow and a pair of shoes she hoped would be less slippery that the ones she was wearing. There is a great eclectic museum in the centre full of art, artefacts, stuffed birds and other random stuff, just the sort of museum Helen and I like.

We had burgers for dinner and had an early night as we had reasonably early start to get to France,

A Sandwich Deal walk

We made a leisurely start and headed out the house at 10:00 destination Deal train station, the plan was to get the train to Sandwich and walk back to Deal, via the local coastal path. We arrived early for the 11:00 train so we took a still around town and grabbed some supplies. The train was waiting for us, it was the London train to Start Pancras, I guess it takes a loop around from London via Margate.

The journey was only 6 minutes, and we headed in to town then turned right at the car park by the river and headed out towards the sea. We had a golf course cross and just before we spotted a Ring-necked Parakeet flying over. Once we had crossed the Royal St George golf course with its appropriately red crossed green flags, we to the sea where there was a gathering of Dachshund owners and their hounds. We stopped for a sandwich fittingly overlooking Sandwich Bay.

We walked past Sandwich Bay Estate which was by the sea and made up mainly of houses with more than 10 bedrooms. Apparently one was once owned by the Astor’s and another by Jonathan Aitkin. We noticed one had a robotic lawn mower not sure if that meant they could not afford a gardener. The wind started to pick as we passed another golf course, luckily it was not exactly again us it was coming from the land, and eventually we were able to descend from the sea wall to a path somewhat sheltered by dunes.

The seats on the edge of Deal were a welcome rest, especially for me who had decided it was time to take up running again. My first run in the morning had been 1.5 miles and taken me 17 minutes, not a four minute mile but you have to start somewhere. I used to do sub 10 minute miles for four miles. My aim is to be able to run for 30 minutes.

We stopped for a coffee on the seafront and then wandered back to the station to get the car and Helen booked at table at the Zetland Arms it seemed to be the best pub in the village so we thought we would try it first. On the way back we managed to find the “Ham Sandwich” sign at Finglesham. It was hard to park up but we managed to get a few shots before any traffic came.

Kingsdown – a bonus holiday day

It is holiday time again, in March because we both took a weeks holiday over from last year. We had plans to fly to somewhere warm but when you failed to organise something we ended up booking a cottage in Kingsdown near Deal in Kent. The night before we got a call from the cottage owner explaining that the cottage was ready and we could turn up any time. That meant we could drive straight there and not have to waste time finding somewhere to visit on the way. Essentially we could gain a days holiday, so we got up at 07:30 and headed out at just before 09:00.

The trip around the M25 was traffic free, but one unexpected task was to have to pay for the crossing at Dartford there are no longer pay stations you have until midnight the day after to pay up online. We missed a couple of sat nav instructions and ended up going via the port of Dover, but the detour only added a couple of minutes to the overall journey.

We arrived at the cottage at 11:00 and quickly unloaded the car. The approach to the village has some very tight roads, and there was a lot of giving way to other cars. We soon found the cottage for the week, an end of terrace on an unadopted road that leftover the sea.we were just over the road from a freehouse called​ The Rising Sun, and a hundred yards from The Zetland Arms a Shepherd Neame pub literally on the pebble beach, which after a quick look at the beach we sampled it’s wares. We has a cheese sandwich and a drink each, before taking a drive to Deal for a look around.

We chose Sandwich instead, and before that Pegwell bay, which is mud flat just outside Sandwich. We arrived at a good time as the tide was starting to come in, pushing the waders, closer to the hide. The pictures on the hide wall promised lots of waders but we were happy with Redshank, Curlew, and a start Avocet amongst some ducks.

Sandwich is a nice little town with old buildings that over hang the streets. It seems ytgat Saturday afternoon was notthebest time to visit as some of the shops were shut. We as a wander around then headed back to the car. On the way back we detoured via Finglesham where there is a sign with both Ham and Sandwich which I hoped to be pictured by, however we had not done enough research and would have to return another day.

Back at the hut i watched the Rugby which England lost to Ireland meaning they failed to break the record for consequtive wins and also the Six Nations Grand Slam, they did however win the Six Nations overall.

We were in bed early as the TV at the hut was tiny and we had to use my laptop to watch Amazon Prime.

Capital Ring – Wimbledon to Hanwell

I had been looking forward​ to this section, finally I would be onto a more pleasant section, Wimbledon to Hanwelk would involve two trenches of parkland and two stretches next to water. The parklands are Wimbledon Common where i would be on the look out for Wombles, and Richmond Park where i might spot some deer an other wildlife. At Richmond i would be back next to the Thames and then follow the river Brent. All that sounds much more interesting than the walk so far, although it started to improve on the last stretch.

The weather promised to be cloudy but bright and unseasonally warm, potentially 16 degrees. I consulted Google maps, and there was not much between car and train when i took into account total time as Hanwelk is a bit out of the way, and difficult to get to Wimbledon from. I opted for the train as it would allow me to be more flexible.

I had got a cramp as i stretched when i woke up and my calf muscle was sore and torn, i thought it would ruin my day but i reckoned the walking would do it good.

I got a free parking space but just missed the 08:01, but the fast 08:11 was soon whisking me away to Euston. I went wrong at Earle’s court and has to double back as i got the train going down the Richmond rather than Wimbledon branch, but lost less than 10 minutes. At Southfields I then managed to walk a couple of hundred yards in the wrong direction.

It was not long before I got to Wimbledon Common, after passing the car park full of Chelsea tractors I was soon in woods and fields, and immediately spotted a Goldcrest and mistle thrush. The air temperature was high enough for me to walk with just a t-shirt. Eventually I came to a road which is the border between Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park, interestingly it had a separate crossing g for horses riders who were everywhere. The deer in the park were obviously thriving, there were notices about the cull which has just finished.

Richmond Park is distinctly different in terms of habit, I guess the deer have some influence over that. Again there were plenty of Londoners make the most of the open space and weather. The path is straight forward straight then a 45 degree turn which I missed so walked the long way around an enclosed nature reserve. On the far end there is a car park with a coffee shop which I made use of, it was time for a rest.

There is a lovely meadow after you drop down from Richmond park called Petersham I’m guessing it is not built on due to flooding and I bet is has some rare species on it. The other side of the meadow I hit the Thames but on the other side of river from where I had walked the Thames Path. Soon I was in Richmond, near the bridge there was some boat building and repairing going on in the sun. There was a prty atmosphere with alll the Rugby fans gathering outside the pubs for a beer and some lunch before the match later on.

Whilst stood around taking in the atmosphere a guy walked past he looked professional and had a TShirt on with a website http://richardwalkslondon.com/ on investigation Richard McChesney is a serious walker and has plans to set a record for the first non-stop walk around the M25, he reckons it will take 48 hours, and for the whole time is is not allowed to not be on his feet. I would struggle to do 48 hours staying awake let alone havng to stay on my feet and walk.

At Isleworth i had to take another detour when builders had blocked a section of the river path. I joined the river again at a pub called Town Wharf, where i had  a conversation with a local at the bar turns out he has an interesting job, locksmith at the British Museum. I was keen to sit down so had to make my excuses, i hope i did not offend. The jumbo fish finger sandwich went down a treat on the Riverside terrace. I was sat next to a bunch of Scotland supports who thought they were going to beat England at Twickenham!

Eventually you leave the Thames for the Brent, i realised that getting to Hanwell and then getting home for the Rugby would be a challenge so i bailed out at Boston Manor station. Interestingly the first stop was Northfield which was an interesting balance seeing as i started at Southfields. At Leicester Square there was lots of chanting as more Arsenal supporters got on and supporters of another team were on the platform.

I comfortably made the 15:54 from Euston but that would mean missing most of the first half of the rugby. I got the BBC radio app loaded and got most of it when there was a signal.

Capital Ring – Penge to Wimbledon

I fell out of love with the Capital Ring I think because I started it at a time when the days were short, and the first few legs were very urban and not very inspiring. I have been doing some more local outings which made a change. I liked the idea of doing walks with an overall aim or purpose, so I took a look at the map and determined that one more leg and I would be back into a more interesting part which would last for most of the rest of it.

I checked the weather and determined that Saturday was the right day, Sunday promised rain all day. I was up early and aiming for the 08:11 from Berkhamsted. It looked like things were going well, I got the last free parking space at the station, then realised that I would make the 08:01, I got my ticket and had time to get a coffee as the train arrived, I walked out of the coffee shop as the train doors opened.

Three generations of males joined me at the table I had on the train, boy younger than 10, father and grandfather, they were off to Manchester to watch Bournemouth play Manchester United. I commented that Bournemouth did not sound like they belonged in the Premier division, apparently a few years back they had collection buckets going round the stadium to keep the club going.

The start took me up Crystal Palace hill qhuch was the start of a long section high which descended and ascended often. After a particularly steep climb I came Streatham Common where a handy community cafe served me a cortado and a pain au raisin. I rested for a while taking pleasure in watching all the joggers that spring had bought out many of them having to break for bro a walk, probably due to lack of practice over the winter months.

The path crosses quite a few commons some of them divided by roads. I passed through Streatham and Balham before eventually reaching the edge of Wimbledon, where the houses got grandeur. Wimbledon was full of more joggers and appropriately people playing tennis. The weather was reasonable qarmand sunny perfect weather for getting out of the house.

I decided to go to Southfields station to to ensure I had done more than 10 miles, luckily for me there was a chip shop just opposite the tube entrance so I stopped for some and was given a high portion I only managed half of. The journey back was via Victoria and Euston. I was back in Berkhamsted before 16:00.

Local walk – Hughenden Manor to Prince’s Risborough

I had a lie in after my late night at the Buckland Church film night. A monthly event where a film is screened a and supper servered during an interval. Last night’s film was Les Femmes did Sixieme Etage, a French film set early sixties about Spanish maids working for Parisian households. The following on was quite good and a bit of a comedy. They also serve drinks and I had a couple of beers during the film, it is an unusual thing to be doing in a church watching a film and drinking. The only down side was the pews are not very comfortable.

Anyway I digress, I wax my up early so I opted for a local walk, and after some poring over mas I decided to get a bus from Princes Risborough to Hughenden and then find a route back via Speen. I would pass some of the places from my walk the Sunday before. I parked up and walked into the town centre, luckily for me the bus was running late.

I was soon at the Hughenden stop but it had started to rain and being a cold day I did not fancy getting wet and cold. Luckily it was a short walk to the National Trust cafe where a lingered over a coffee, waiting for the rain to stop. The BBC weather app suggested it would pass over between 12:00 and 13:00, I had my fingers crossed. I noticed out of a window that the corner of a table umbrella was dripping quite fast so I timed 50 drips to estimate the rain fall rate, a second count of 50 drips a while later took twice as long so I decided that it was safe enough to venture out again.

I was on familiar ground for a while then turned off the path from the week before to follow a good path with little mud for a couple of miles, before reaching Walters Ash which is where RAF High Wycombe is located, I paused at the entrance to the officers mess which prompted the guard to come out of his hut. Electronics c signs were advertising events happening and how to web surf safely at Christmas.

I crossed the road and was soon back to foot paths, as I left the vilkage the path boatdered a school playing field all that was left of the snow were large snowballs and melting snowmen.

My next stop was Speen where I had vaguely planned but the King William IV was shut so I settled for a packet of crisps and a Chelsea bun from the village shop which was just about to close for the day, but not before the kind lady told me the the story about the now closed pub. I had lunchand in a bus shelter, as it had the only dry seat I could find, however the day was finally getting brighter.

The final few miles were familiar to me from previous walks and eventually I got to the Whiteleaf car park above Prince’s Risborough. I followed a footpath which ran parallel to Kop Hill famous for its hill climb. I was tired by that point probably because of the cold weather, so did not linger too long BT did get a reasonable shot of the sunset.

I picked up a couple of 2.7℅ beers from Mark’s and Spencer when changed I have found to be very flavoursome.

Capital Ring – Falconwood to Penge East

Early start at Berkhamsted
Early start at Berkhamsted

Late night Boxing Day party I thought would have dampened my enthusiasm before a walk, but I got to bed at a later but reasonable hour, and felt refreshed rather than hung over. A quick breakfast of left over Christmas food, hot cross buns, and a coffee and I was set to get the 08:53 from Berkhamsted. There were lads of free parking spaces, but I managed to miss the 08:46 while I got my ticket, annoying especially as the coffee shop was shut. I had time to spare so headed into Berkhamsted town to see if data could find a coffee shop open. I thought I was out that for luck but then noticed that Love Food Dining was open, they sold take away coffee and dam fine coffee in my opinion.

Eltham Palace water supply
Eltham Palace water supply

The train was packed but I found a seat. It was a frosty start to the day, and quite cold at -1 degrees C, but the weather forecast was a fine day, and with the sun almost as low as it get the photo opportunities were there for the taking. The train was delayed a little bit when we were held waiting for a signal outside Euston.

The transit to Falconwood was via the Victoria line to Victoria then a Southeastern train to my destination. The train was a bit slow and stopped for what seemed like every station, but eventually I got there. I was planning about 10 miles for the day, and was hoping I might get get to a camera shop at Euston on my way home to buy a new lens to replace my mid zoom which had finally packed in after over 10 years of service. I was going to invest in a 16-35mm f4.0 L IS USM.

Extreme Christmas
Extreme Christmas

En route to Waltham I passed through yet another Leafy London Suburb with lovely houses. I passed by Eltham Palace which is run by National Heritage. It was a strange building from the outside, some of it clearly less than 100 years old, but it has a mixture of parts that suggested that there had been some sort of building there for a very long time. It also had a moat.

On the other side of the track things were a bit more run down and I spent a couple of miles waking along paths between by run down housing estates, however I got great views as of Docklands from the slightly elevated path.

Cyclo-cross rider at Beckenham Park
Cyclo-cross rider at Beckenham Park

At Downham high street I looked for a cafe but could not find one that looked worth trying. Eventually I came across a McDonald’s drive thru, so stopped for a filet-o-fish and some chips washed down with a coffee. It is an interesting process these days, rather than talk to someone you use a large, 40 inch touch screen to order and pay then your food is delivered, although I realised once I was tucking in that you could order in the traditional way at the counter.

Things got a bit rural for a while as I passed through Beckenham Park, there was a cyclo cross competition going on, so I paused for a while and took some shots of the action. I carried on and things were pretty urban for the rest of the section with ntil I got to Penge East. As I approached I could see the Crystal Palace aerial beckoning in the distance.

Kent County Cricket Club
Kent County Cricket Club

I had a bit of a wait for the next train to Victoria again a bit busy but it is easy for one person to find a seat. The connections went well and at Euston I had a 30 minute wait for the next train, and with a Calumet (photographic shop) just around the block it seemed rude not to pop in and have a look. As luck would have it they has the lens and in stock and it did not take long to negotiate a better price than those list, I was a few hundred pounds lighter. Probably the most expensive wait for a train I have ever had.

I grabbed the rear most carriage to ensure easy access to the exit at Berkhamsted Station. I had got be another 10 miles of the Capital Ring and has a new lens, which will be taking pictures for this blog in the very near future.