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.

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.
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.

Distance: 11 miles

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.
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.

Harwich to Kirby Le Soken 19.07.12

21. Harwich to Kirby Le Soken 19.07.12

P1020494Two sweet sixteen year old girls lead me to the library where I photocopy an OS map of the area – I don’t want to get lost in the meanderings of the estuary today. Poor run down Dovercourt still sports a presentable promenade marked by a familar figure. I set off in the warm sunshine, the mighty cranes of Parkeston Quay behind me, the sea wall turning into a narrow concrete path running parallel to the beach past the acres of sterile caravan parks.

Gradually the path loses its profile, miles of long grass and brambles sap my energy. Small hamlets perched on the edge of the silted landscape, boats abandoned and left to rot, beautiful wild flowers play around the edges of my eyes, butterflies flutter from under my feet. Finally, the path leads off, away from the marshlands and exhausted I throw myself onto the grass opposite the enchanting “Pilots Cottage” where I rest, watching the ducks fuss contentedly in the pond.


Aldeburgh to Butly | 18.07.12

20. Aldeburgh to Butly | 18.07.12

Finally out of Aldeburgh and a forest walk to Snape, complete with ceramic sculptures. Then along the road in the rain to welcoming tea and scones at the Maltings. Crossing boardwalks through marshlands and miltary camps of pig sheds, I come across what has to be a mispelt joke. From Butley to Woodbridge I am the only passenger on the bus.

Dunwich to Aldeburgh | 17.07.12

19. Dunwich to Aldeburgh | 17.07.12

P1020465P1020461Heading out in the unusual bright sunshine I stomp through the shingle for half an hour until the sea retreats to reveal damp firm sand perfect for walking. Looking out to sea I spy an animal and this time it’s not a seal, it’s a real labroador. Sizewell’s unearthly dome shimmers in the distance and getting closer I scuttle past not wanting to linger.P1020480 Head down I walk to my own rhythm, passing the grand, coloured houses of Thorpeness and soon Aldeburgh with its “fresh fish, anything fresher is still swimming”.
Strains of music reach me, or is it the wind? Tired and happy I stare at the words on the Scallop – “I hear those voices that will not be drowned”. Did I?

Southwold to Lowestoft | 08.07.12

18. Southwold to Lowestoft | 08.07.12

P1020452Leaving the Jubilee bunting of genteel Southwold we head northwards ignoring the dark purple clouds massing behind us. Caught up in the sight of the stark dead trees on the beach we miss the first drops of rain, which quickly become a heavy downpour. No shelter in sight I carry my rucksack close to my body in an attempt to protect my camera and iphone, feeling like a refugee carrying a child away from danger. I back up under a dead tree, bent double under a low branch, like a cow sheltering from the storm.
Taking tide advice from a lone fisherman we leave the coast for
overgrown trails through muddy fields and dripping woods – now so wet it didn’t matter. A brief hole-up for a cup of tea and a couple of deviations later we hit the coast again and squelch our way into Lowestoft under Triton’s watchful gaze.

Lowestoft to Caister | 07.07.12

17. Lowestoft to Caister | 07.07.12

P1020426Just north of Lowestoft a deserted nudist beach, quickly turns into a concrete path. Low boom of the waves slapping against the sea defences makes me spin round – is there somebody behind me? But no I am very much alone and soon a familiar sight challenges me – I decide to walk on.P1020430
Reaching family run Gorleston I turn to follow the river up to Great Yarmouth passing industrial docklands and occasional glimpses of a previous era.
The sun comes out to greet me as I wander through the plastic glories of Yarmouth market and the neat flower beds and statues in the courtyard of the Fisherman’s Hospital – an 18th century care home for fishermen over the age of 60 and their wives.Following directions from a jolly Pole I start walking through the dunes to Caister-on-Sea entranced by the bird song and the surreal vision of a No. 3 double-decker bus a long way from Westminster.


Deal to Sandwich | 08.06.12

16. Deal to Sandwich | 08.06.12

P1020411After the headwinds of my last walk, forecasts of 50 mph winds lend weight to a decision to walk anti-clockwise. Walking out of old-fashioned Deal feeling smug, the strong wind behind me blows me like a rag doll alongside the billiard table turf of the royal golf course. Sandwich Bay, pristine and deserted offers up a tantalising footpath through a nature reserve, which swallows me up and leads me to the whipping muddy waters of an impassable estuary. Three miles back against the wind, feet aching, I trudge into “historic” Sandwich, my Noah’s Ark – Pegwell Bay will have to wait.