Kent and Sussex Shoreline Walk

Walk 9 – St Margaret's Bay to Walmer Castle, Kent

St Margaret's Bay, Kent is a sleepy, cliff guarded hollow but if you look past the pretty houses and glorious sunrises, there are stories waiting to be told.

St Margaret's Bay, England's closest point to France, is often the starting point for greasy channel swimmers. Six decades ago 'Winnie' and 'Pooh' were stationed here during WWII – two 14 inch guns from HMS King George V.

Private (Sir) Peter Ustinov was also stationed at St Margaret's Bay. The one time batman to David Niven bought a house here after the bombs had ceased. Walk east along the beach and you will discover slowly decaying cottages, former homes of Ian Fleming (author) and Sir Noël Coward (playwright and director).

Cobbled beach

For me, the day starts with a golden dawn. Tiny fishing boats dot the ice smooth channel. Passing the once celebrity owned cottages, I drop down onto the grey cobbled beach. My first find, rather sadly, is a dead badger. It must have fallen from one of the sett tunnels, visible high in the chalk above.

I personally like walking under cliffs. Dangerous yes but strangely calming and peaceful. Speckled with rubbish filled caves and tide eroded algae stained 'chalk waves', they have a mysterious appeal. A nice back drop to rusting car wrecks, the 'I refuse to decompose' tyres and foe of local wildlife – ruined fishing nets.

Giant slabs

After a couple of miles, a mysterious concrete wall stands defiantly before me. The tide is at full ebb which allows me to gingerly skirt around it. A scene of destruction then greets me. The wall travels off into the distance leaving behind broken columns, giant slabs and large metal cylinders. It has the air of a once great ancient citadel. On further investigation, this sea defence houses a former Royal Marines firing range.

At Oldstairs Bay the high rise chalk, now matted with vegetation, fades away. Kingsdown beach is lined with cottages and houses as I search for Walmer Castle, while wooden coastal defences are a constant pain in the groyne. But with perseverance the 39 gun Device fort (built by Henry VIII around 1540) is soon photographed and around I turn.

With the tide slowly creeping home, I join the Saxon Shore Way and White Cliffs Country Trail path which leads me, via panoramic cliff tops, to St Margaret's Bay. A glorious day out.

On this walk…