Faversham to Whitstable 19.08.12

Faversham to Whitstable     19.08.12
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An early start in Faversham, down to the Creek in sunshine already hot. The path is easy to find through a boat yard strung with drying washing and out on to marshes and mud. A deviation from the cycle path takes us inland through acres of strawberry fields, juicy temptations, an easy pick. Later, thwarted by sluggish streams too wide to jump, the hole in the hedge appears and takes us through corn fields to the gentle lapping waves of Seasalter with its run down seaside shacks and ancient groynes.

After a horrible cheese and ham sandwich I swim in the salty green weeds and accidentally leave my drying swimsuit to its fate.
On red and white gingham tablecloths we eat squeaky fresh seafood and glasses of white wine in the friendly noisy oyster store in Whitstable.

Birchington-On-Sea to Broadstairs 16.08.12

Birchington-On-Sea to Broadstairs 16.08.12

I have a companion today, Sharon, a friend I’ve known from primary school in Wales. Out of touch for 20 years and now together again in London. Out of the station we hit the sea front earlier than I remembered from my walk to Birchington and before us are high chalky cliffs sweeping down to the familiar concrete promenade meandering into the distance.
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Following the sea wall we reach Margate quickly and wincing at the gaudy shop fronts we duck into Tracy Emin’s ugly gallery for a cup of tea. Whisking past her ineffectual drawings we stand for a while and take in Rodin’s The Kiss – such passion – it all seems so long ago!
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After tea we head up a main road out of Margate and at the first opportunity down to the beach.P1020646
The tide is out, sand becomes rock, which is gradually covered with soft springy layers of dark green seaweed – clouds of flies with every sloshy footstep. Progress is difficult but rounding a corner we are rewarded with the sight of Kingsgate Castle spread out on the clifftop.
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P1020649A couple of soggy tuna sandwiches later and we find ourselves in a very lively Broadstairs, our arrival marked by a sober plaque on the wall of Bleak House.
Unbeknown to me my watch has stopped and is registering 3.30pm, so we dawdle a little among the beery folk festival crowds. Later I realise that we are running three hours early and that my slight disapproval of heavy early afternoon drinking was totally unjustified. It was a good day.

Kirby Le Soken to Clacton-On-Sea 31.07.12

Kirby Le Soken to Clacton-On-Sea 31.07.12

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The foot ferry to Harwich fights its way across the choppy water, the dark cranes of Felixstowe silhouetted against the grey sky. Narrow alleys lead to the deserted station of Harwich Town and a convoluted journey to Kirby. On the tarmac to Walton on the Naze and its pier snaking out to sea.P1020572Miles and miles of beach huts through Frinton, easy sand walking at low tide, groups of children screaming at crabs and then the long concrete sea wall to Clacton.

Astonished I catch sight of something moving towards me up ahead – the toy train duts its horn to greet me.
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Butley to Felixstowe 30.07.12

Butley to Felixstowe  30.07.12
P1020541Through fields and lanes to a path following the meanderings of the River Deben all the way to Bawdsey and the one man ferry across to Felixtowe.

P1020553P1020547Surrounded by the chatter of young crabbers with their dripping buckets I clamber into the small boat and five minutes later I’m listening to Elvis and eating scones in the retro café on the other side of the river.

P1020548A tramp along the sea wall, past the miles of beach huts, to what was once the grand Hotel Orwell, with its dark wood and tired drapes of another era. I breakfast among the dark portraits of local dignitaries to the sound of pensioners spluttering into their porridge.
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Whitstable to Birchington-On-Sea 25.07.12

Whitstable to Birchington-On-Sea 25.07.12
P1020528Arriving late in Whitstable I scuttle around for provisions and a hat – it is going to be a very hot day and I will be walking into the sun. Walking quickly through the bustling harbour with its tempting sea food stalls I follow the seafront promenade feeling a bit self-conscious in my leather boots among the flip-flops, sundresses and swimsuits heading down the sand spit to paddle and fish.
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P1020530Up on the horizon a flock of kites dance merrily in the sky but my enchantment is suddenly broken by a faint boom which stills the air. Is it a gun? A bomb? And from where? The Olympic site in London?
I am to hear the same sound twice more as I pound the concrete of the sea wall all the way to Herne Bay with its neat garish flower beds, colourful beach huts and obese holidaymakers, spilling over the side of their deckchairs.
After resisting the inviting sight of the glassy sea water for hours I finally give in to temptation and find a quiet spot to swim. Floating in the cold, soft waves I stretch my aching toes and sunburnt thighs in the salty water.

From there the path leads upwards onto a broad grassy lane on top of the cliffs, the perfume of the wild flowers rising up to greet me, the corn fields of Kent on my right and the bright blue sea on my left.P1020535P1020538

In the distance I see the two towers of Reculver perched on the cliff edge. Once a Roman fort, then a monastery and before it succumbed to the sea, a parish church. For me they mean a cup of tea.
Refreshed I continue east on yet another sea wall that will burn my feet, ejecting me at Minnis Bay and Birchington. Reluctantly I squeeze into the packed noisy train from Margate back to London.
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Littlestone to Camber Sands 23.07.12

Littlestone to Camber Sands 23.07.12

P1020521The road past Derek Jarman’s poetic house at Dungeness leads us to the lighthouse, the grey fortifications of the power station, the old coastguard cottages and the endless shingle trudge across the nature reserve to Lydd.P1020524

No tea house to fortify us for the 5 miles of tarmac path to Camber, past fishing lakes and wind farms. Feet throbbing we make it to Camber Sands and make a quick exit away from the relentless holiday makers. Looking back at the nuclear power plant I wonder if it would have been less painful to walk along the shingle bank. I will never know.

Dover to Folkstone 22.07.12

Dover to Folkstone 22.07.12

P1020509Snorting exhaust fumes out of our noses from the busy road out of Dover we clamber up the steep path to the top of the first cliff. Greeted by the sight of people bent double over their allotment patches we tip toe past. Startled by the quiet approach of a hang glider over my shoulder I scrabble franctically for my camera and catch the next one swishing past.
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Five minutes later and the peace is shattered by a group of off road motorbikes roaring around the clifftop tracks. Surely they shouldn’t be here? Someone calls the police.A quick visit to a memorial site and a Churchill speech P1020515
“The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
P1020517And then a stroll across the clifftops down to the bobbing boats in the harbour and squealing of excited children on the beach at Folkestone.