The Battle of Britain Memorial
in the field of human conflict
was so much
owed by so many
to so few”.
One of the few politicians I have any time for, was Winston. And he didn't half give good quote.
This tip is yet another of my off the beaten path tips that is about somewhere very close to a beaten path. Specifically the clifftop path between Dover and Folkestone. Of course even beaten paths are off the beaten path, since the truly beaten path is a ribbon of tarmac nowadays.
This tip is also bogus because its at Capel-le Ferne, nearer to Folkestone than to Dover, but hey ho, I don't have a Folkestone page (Note to self...or do I?)
What's there? Replicas of: a Spitfire and a Hurricane, Memorial Wall with the names of all those who took part in the Battle of Britain, (300 pilots) The Spit replica is painted as that flown by Jeffery Quill, who was Supermarine's test pilot, and the second man ever to fly a Spitfire. In August 1940 he wangled a posting to a front line squadrons: thest plts are tooprecuious to risk icombat, andhe was recalled after 19 days,having scored one ada half kills.
Look at this on Google Earth: it stands out because the site looks like a three-bladed propeller , each blade about 200 m long.
The Grand Shaft is an extraordinary construction. It carries three separate spiral stairways 44 metres (that's 200 steps) up from Snargate Street into the barracks complex of the Western Heights.
All that can usually be seen is the unobtrusive exit arch nestled into the cliff or the rather more revealing access at the top, where the fencing allows a good view of the flight of steps down to the shaft top, with central light-well and triple stairs down. The idea was to enable the garrison stationed on the Heights to pile down to sea level double quick in order to repel invaders, although in the long peace of the nineteenth century, when saying that Britannia ruled the waves was a simple statement of fact, this would have been most unlikely: But the triple stairs enabled a nice bit of Victorian social segregation. One set for the men, one for the NCOs, and the third for officers and their ladies.
The shaft itself is rarely accessible: you have to wait for one of the open days organised a couple of times a year by the Western Heights Preservation Society.
Travel to foreign lands is only one of my passions. Aviation history is another: especially early (pre-1939 but especially pre-1914) is another.
One of the giants of aviation is Louis Blériot, the first man to fly across the Channel in an aeroplane: "Britain is no longer an island" was the baner headline in several newspapers The place where he landed, very early in the morning of 25 July 1909, is marked by an outline of the aircraft in granite setts let into the turf: an outline first established by the huge crowd which gathered round the aircraft, trampling the grass away and leaving the shape of the aircraft an island of green against the bare earth.
Blériot became an instant celebrity and the exploit ensured the success of his aircrt manufacturing company, which until then had been hugely subsidised by his company manufaturing car headlamps: h was, in fact, the inventor of the worlds first truly workable acetylene headlamp, and had the business nousto turn this invention into a considerable fortune.
If you want to know more about this truly splendid man, I can vouch for the accuracy (if not completeness) of the Wikipedia articles on the man and most of his machines, because they are largely my work.
Bleriot landed just over the cliffs at Shortfall Meadow, close to the castle on the far side from the town. It isn't that easy to find, although there are some signs to point you in the right direction. I'd ask at the tourist office.
Traffic is only one way here,its controlled by traffic lights so there no chance of an accident !!! He says !!!
Its only £1 to park you car there for a couple of hours.Great place for some peace and quiet and perhaps a picnic.
"What are we going to do with all this land from the Channel tunnel" was the cry heard from the coast of Dover.This place is called Samphire Hoe,its about 2 miles out of Dover,They bought it all here and concreted over it a bit and left it to see what would grow here.
Its quite a nice spot,plenty of walks along the beautiful coastline,lots of spots for fishing to.
This is the badge of 3(F) Squadron,the F meaning fighter,this was the squadron I was on in Germany and RAF Gutersloh and RAF Laarbuch from 1990 -1993.
The RAF have alot of traditions and history and I for one feel very proud to have been associated with the RAF.
This wonderful sculpture is of an RAF pilot looking out to The English Channel,waiting for the return of his squadron.
It was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 2002,I think .
Around the sides are different Squadron badges depicting the Squadrons involved in the battle.
We had a few hours to kill,so off we went,in search whatever we could find.After Samphire Hoe we carried on up the M2 and found this museum.Its about 5 miles from Dover.
Dedicated to the brave ,young fearless pilots of the Royal Air Force whose efforts helped to win the Battle of Bitain in August 1940.
Being an ex- RAF Seviceman I found this very worthwhile and a great touching tribute to "The Few" as Sir Winston Churchill called them in his famous speach celebrating the end of the Battle.
Just outside St Margaret's Bay and to the east of Dover lies the South Foreland Lighthouse, which is the first lighthouse to have been powered by electricity. It was built by the Victorians on the site of an earlier lighthouse to alert ships to the dangerous Goodwin Sands in the seas below. What makes it unique is that Faraday conducted some of his experiments here, and Marconi used it to send wireless messages in the late 19th century.
Entrance to the lighthouse is as part of a tour, which was very informative and interesting. The views from the top are great, although possibly not ideal if you don't have a head for heights!
It's not accesible by car, but you can walk from the White Cliffs visitor centre in Dover along the Saxon Way footpath - about 2 1/2 miles.
Adult entrance is £2.40 (2005 price), free to National Trust members.
The Dover Patrol worked the Dover Straits during the first world war, ensuring that tropp ships could reach the French and Belgian coasts and that the wounded could return home safely. The patrol also detonated mines. Many men lost their lives on the Patrol, and this obelisk, built in the 1920s, commemorates them.
It is situated on the cliffs just outside St Margaret's Bay, and it is a very pleasant walk across the clifftops from the village to reach it. There is a small cafe by the memorial, and a car park in case you don't fancy the walk.
A walk along the cliffs near to Dover reveals remnants of its wartime past. There are several of these pillboxes along the cliff tops. These would have armed with weapons such as anti-aircraft guns, to be used in the event of attack or invasion during the second world war. Most are derelict now, but you can peep inside and see where the soldiers would have worked.
When they dug the channel tunnel there was a large amount of material to be dumped.
This was all piled in between Dover and Folkestone between the railway and the sea. This spoil was basically infertile and someone came up with the bright idea of making it a nature reserve.
The plan is to watch nature restoring life, at present some grasses, butterflies, and small furry creatures have made their homes there.
It is quite a nice place for a picnic and there are signs to indicate what is happening. A lot of people go there to fish from the sea wall (there is no beach so swimming is out).
To get there you need to leave Dover on the main A20 heading for Folkestone (or London) and Samphire Ho is signposted to the left, you enter the area via a tunnel.
An interesting little diversion!!!
Shakespeare Beach is the stretch of shingle beach to the west of Dover Harbour, from the Admiralty Pier
The cliff is now called Shakespeare Cliff due to the fact that it was mentioned by William Shakespeare in his play ‘King Lear’ and some of the action takes place around Dover. In 1605 Shakespeare’s theatre company, visited Dover and it is rumoured that the great Bard himself was with them at the time of the visit.
To get down to the beach there are about 100 steps so it is not wheelchair friendly.
The Grand Shaft in Dover was originally built for the troops in the early 1800’s. It was built to get the troops from the Grand Shaft Barracks and the Drop Redoubt Fort on Western Heights to the bottom and to the harbour very quickly. It is an unusual design as it is a 140ft triple staircase. Invasion never came and so the staircase was used as a way for the soldiers to quickly get to the pubs and brothels in Snargate Street where it stands.
The staircase was used for 'Officers and their ladies', 'Sergeants and their wives' and lastly 'soldiers and their women'
The Grand Shaft was restored in the 1980’s and I had the pleasure of holding a tea party inside it in 1996. There were 26 children and 6 adults and the occasion was Beaver Scouts 10th birthday. The children (and the adults) had a great time.
The Grant Shaft is open in the summer and not every day. Check with Dover museum.
It is situated in Snargate Street a 10 minute walk from the station.
Calais is located just across the Straits of Dover on the northern tip of France. It is the most important cross-channel ferry terminal on the French side and one of the chief ports for trade with England. Calais is the eastern terminus of the Channel Tunnel which opened in 1994.