So then off we go. Continuing with the tab, you’ll have a climb up for a bit, nothing severe and it’s on a nice trail passing communal hillside gardens. The trail takes a gentle left. You might be lucky enough to see a train passing on the tracks below. The trail turns to the right becomes earthen, the grade increasing as you summit the first hill. There’s a bench of sorts here where you can have little rest and enjoy the view.
Once you are moving on again you’ll pass through an almost whimsical copse. On the other side of it you’ll get a first look at Shakespeare’s Cliff beyond. The climb is a bit daunting but steady as you go and take plenty of breaks to enjoy the breathtaking views of both Dover and the Channel. As you make the initial gentle climb to the peak of Shakespeare’s Cliff you’ll pass both a WWII era bunker guarding the landward approach to Dover (if Hitler wanted Dover through invasion he wouldn’t have attacked the port by sea but landed in Hythe and gone after Folkestone and Dover by Blitzing his way along what is now the A20) and one of the ventilation chimneys for the train tunnel underground. Just before the chimney you’ll see on the left what appears to be a headstone. Fear not, nobody is buried here—although Shakespeare’s Cliff has a morbid history to it. Loads of sad people leapt to their deaths from here, including a scorned lover on Valentine’s day 2010.
But I digress. The signage identifies the North Downs Way trail with milage markers for Canterbury, Dover, London and even Paris. No Folkestone though. Don’t worry. You’re heading in the proper direction.
After the challenging climb you will have some nice flat land ahead of you. Maybe you’re wondering what’s that at the bottom of the cliffs to the left? That’s Samphire Hoe, spoil from the Channel Tunnel excavation. And thanks to it, England is a bit larger. You’ll see rows of spinning fans. Those or pumping fresh air into the Chunnel crossing the Channel unseen right there.
As you progress along the cliffs above Samphire Hoe you’ll see a series of bunkers ahead. These are the reminents of the Hougham 8-inch gun Battery. During the Battle of Britain this stretch of coastline bristled with large calibre guns firing upon Kreigsmarine ships in the Straits of Dover whilst ack-ack guns challenged the marauding Luftwaffe. The Battery is long gone, covered over by the A20. But the observation bunkers along the cliffs remain. They’re ever so interesting. Inside you’ll find fireplaces, remnants of wartime paint schemes and even the rusted remains of blast shutters still hanging by their hinges. Take care though, entry can be treacherous. Six bunkers remain. I’ll leave it with you to discover which has the stairs into it. If you find the correct bunker you might just find my fiancé’s graffiti etched into the old bricks.
Continuing along the cliffs you will surely spot even more bunkers ahead. These are the remnants of Lydden Spout Battery. Here were once three 6-inch gun batteries on the very cliff edge. From Google Maps satellite view you can see the outline of the positions, now knocked down and buried. All that remains now are the Warrant Officer’s Mess and cook house in the field on the other side of the fence. Gutted they are presently used to store cow feed.
Lydden Spout keeps a secret though. Between the remaining structures and the remnants of the batteries is an inconspicuous hatch (remember the tv programme Lost?) just off the road. If you can find it and are feeling brave lift the hatch and climb down the rungs. This is the emergency escape hatch leading to the plotting room, part of an elaborate bunker system still intact underground. The main entrance was long ago backfilled but the emergency escape hatch was only concreted over. Intrepid explorers broke the concrete away revealing the hatch underneath. I admit it being quite cool inside, but you’ll need a torch or at the least a flashlight feature on your smartphone. If you want to learn more about Lynden Spout and view photographs of the underground plotting bunker as it is today visit Subterranean History.
Carrying on your tab a few hundred metres and you’ll find the remnants of what I am guessing was some sort of observation post which has gone over the cliff during a slide. I am guessing as I have had no success finding out its actual purpose. Only a circular bricked platform remains. You’d be wise not to venture out onto it for a snap. I am not wise.
Cresting the next hill you’ll see Folkestone harbour in the distance. Don’t be discouraged, it’s closer than you think. Ahead you will see an odd concrete structure poking up from the landscape. That’s where you’re headed.
In Part 3 you’ll visit a Sound Mirror, secret wartime billets, more bunkers and Martello Towers.