Last Tuesday my mate Phil and I set out on the “big one”, from Deal to Broadstairs, the missing segment of my Kent coast walks. Completing this 25-or-so-kilometre walk would mean over the last few weeks, I’ve walked the Kent coastline from Faversham to Dover, a distance of around 100 kilometers.
We knew the weather was going to be wet, very wet, at first, but we prepared for it and with the prospect of a decent pub and the delightful Viking Bay as the destination, we set off from Stratford International, heading for the coast.
Unfortunately, the weather forecast was spot-on. Torrential rain and strong, blustery winds greeted us as we stepped from the train at Deal and continued for the first hour or so of the walk. Luckily the wind was behind us, so the conditions were not quite as bad as they might have been, but the wind and rain minimised the number of photo-ops for the first three or four kilometers. In one sense, it hardly mattered as this stretch of the walk is mostly on the top of a compacted shingle dyke separating the North Sea from the Royal Cinque Ports Golf club and the landscape stays pretty constant (quite boring really).
a long detour
As we got closer to Pegwell bay, things improved, the sun came out, the landscape became more varied – although we were still walking alongside golf courses – and our mood improved considerably. The one frustration of this walk is that it’s not possible to cross the mouth of the Stour at Pegwell bay, you have to turn back into Sandwich to cross the river and continue up the other side. Which is a pity as a sunny Ramsgate was visible tantalisingly close, just across the bay.
The walk back into Sandwich follows the eastern bank of the serpentine Stour and it’s a pleasant walk and a popular one in the dry. Unfortunately for us, the rain closed in once more, so it was back on with the waterproofs and the end of photography for a while. It’s a pity I don’t have an underwater housing for the M9, the skies were pretty spectacular, I managed to grab a couple of shots, but it was impossible to keep the front of the lens dry.
The inability to cross the river at its mouth, may be great for the local wildlife, but it meant we had to trudge alongside a busy dual carriageway for almost 5Km, north from Sandwich. This was so we could get around the giant, now idle, Pfizer complex and a few other industrial units that blocked access to the river bank on this side. Eventually, you arrive at the publicly accessible side of the Pegwell Bay nature reserve (complete with car park, paths and hides) and the scenery improves once more. Whilst I’m a fan of industrial landscapes, it was a relief to get away from the noisy road and hard tarmac.
a surprise round the corner
The walk became much more straightforward, once we’d got back to the coast, and took us a long the cliff tops and then down through a grotty grotto onto the road that leads to Ramsgate’s ferry port, where, once more, we found ourselves in a tired, but functional, industrial landscape. Which set up something of a surprise, because, as you walk from the dreary ferry port into Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour, you suddenly find yourself in a bustling marina, with gleaming yachts, brightly painted service catamarans for the offshore wind farm and a handsome Victorian backdrop. On closer inspection, some of the town’s buildings could do with a lick of paint (and more) but the overall impression is, as I mentioned earlier, surprising and splendid. All the more so, as the sun had come out for us to light up the scene.
North, out of the port, the beach is once more bounded by concrete and tarmac and eventually you have to climb to the top of the cliffs, to walk onwards to Broadstairs.
By this time were pretty knackered, the sun was going down and we’d worked up quite a thirst for a pint or two. We pressed on quickly, stopping infrequently to get photos, until we’d rounded a corner and saw the setting sun lighting up Bleak House, Broadstairs and Viking Bay, which caused us to pause for a while. After a few more snaps, we descended into the bay and, finally, we were in the pub by the harbour. We were damp, a little footsore and mightily pleased to have completed a longish stretch – almost 30Km today.
The weather put paid to a lot of photo opportunities and, by the time we found ourselves in interesting locations with good light (and no rain), I was a bit too tired and hungry to concentrate. Nevertheless, one or two images worked quite well and might get into a portfolio. I find I shoot more photos on shorter walks, than the long ones, as there’s less of an imperative to cover distance in the available light.
Our route for Monday’s walk is here.
posted on 19 April 2012
category: daily photo