A overnight hike and wild camp was hastily planned for the May bank holiday weekend in the last week of April, the Coast of Kent from Sandwich Bay through to Dover was agreed upon.
All was going well until 40 mins into the drive a call was received by the other participant to say their petrol fuel cap was stuck shut which threw the journey in early doubt. After a comfort relief and some coffee at a motorway service station followed by a call to confirm the fuel cap had been freed and the hike was back on.
After meeting and leaving one car at Aycliffe just outside the port town of Dover we then drove to the village of Sandwich where a little late lunch was swiftly consumed. So, the delayed hike began setting off for the stone beaches of Sandwich Bay via the river Stour and across Royal St George's Golf course where a zig zagging detour had to be taken due to some grown men in tartan trousers swinging sticks at white balls.
We hit the coast after an hour or so crossing the back end the golf course to Sandwich Bay with Ramsgate and the North Sea to our back we made our way towards the town of Deal and the strait of Dover and English Channel passing another golf course to our right with blue skies and stone beaches to our left.
With mounting complaints about the heavy packs we decided to ease the pain with ice cream cones and witnessing an overzealous blues band at a beach front pub garden at the town of Deal passing the pier followed by Deal Fort then Walmer fort with a 25min detour to stock up on beer and twiglets before we started the evening climb onto the white cliffs.
A Further 3 miles or so we started to make the turn along England's south eastern tip into the English Channel and the White Cliffs of Dover coming to the beach front of Kingsdown. Here we had the option of taking the English coastal path along the foot of the cliff or the Saxon shore way along top. Given the notices the slight chance of going over the cliff face seemed a better option than being crushed by the tides and drowning.
After climbing up and along a stretch of the white cliffs known as the Leas time was getting on with sundown estimated to be about an hour off, so eyes were peeled for a good wild camp spot. The options were a secluded well-hidden dip in the cliffs or on the cliff edge. We chose the cliff edge part obscuring ourselves behind bushes from a nearby coastguard station which was alongside the Dover patrol memorial a great spier rising up from a cliff peak.
Camp was set just as dark descended with the sun setting behind us. Before this refreshments were taken and a less than pleasurable meal was prepared via hot water from portable stove. It was agreed setting fires and beaming head touches across the world’s busiest shipping channel would be unwise. Fortunately, we had the lights of Calais, France and various buoys, lighthouses, shipping and ferries which provided the evening's entertainment along with the Whiskey until 11pm when temperatures made us retreat to our tents and sleeping bags.
After a very still and peaceful night I was awoken by the sound of an outboard engine and the call of nature to see the quite spectacular sight of the tranquil moonlit skies and just the first signs of the sun arising from the French shores. Another 50mins of rest and tents were disassembled with numb hands before breakfast and the path forward to St Margret's Bay and Dover further on.
The Dover Strait which we were now passing alongside is as well as being the world’s busiest shipping lane is also the closest point of mainland England to France just 20.7 miles this was not only noticeable from being able to see the French coast on a clear and fresh morning but also our mobile networks.
Still early morning we climbed up down and across to St Margert's Bay which had a distinct French feel in comparison to Deal and Dover’s more traditionally English seaside affair. We now made the climb from the bay to South Foreland Lighthouse where after the green slopping downs opened up to a lot of apparent birdlife the ever-present seagull and a birdsong which seems to come from all around us and an occasional glimpse of which we believe were skylarks nesting in the wildflower grasslands.
Now following the well-trodden cliff top paths with much peering over edges at the white cliffs and the sea with its stone shore now more exposed we got our first look at Dover and the sea walls of the harbor and view of the source of the many ferries we had been seeing over the past 12 hours.
As talked turned to food purchases having had only meager overnight rations, we began to get a full view of Dover passing through a ridge just above the Harbor and turning a corner to see Dover Castle above us taking the downhill route to the town and bacon and egg baps and coffee.
Along our way to a proper breakfast, we passed under an overpass and into an old part of town with the White Cliffs looming large just behind.
After a late much need breakfast at a beach front café probably the first dark clouds of the journey came into view, so with first spots of rain being felt we made our way to our second car parking spot going through the marina still being able to see Dover Castle in the distance standing guard over the port town and up the hill we went to Aycliffe and the Finish.
Distance covered 24.3 miles