Walk 18 – Hythe to Folkestone Harbour, Kent
Late July 2012. Martello Towers 14 & 15 stare at me through the gloom. Not a good year if you have shares in suntan lotions. Parking on West Parade near Hythe Ranges, I begin part 18 of my Kent & Sussex Shoreline Walks.
This section takes in the broad shingle beach of Hythe, to the small, sandy bays just before Folkestone Pier, Kent.
In contrast to Hythe Ranges, the groynes are less in number and buried to a greater depth – much easier going. The sea is dead calm while the sun tries to pull its hat on, brightening the cobbles through the murk.
Hoovering the beach
Hardy swimmers, all seniors, are enjoying the wave less ocean. Eager, expectant fishermen, clamber noisily into precarious, rocking dinghies.
A chap, who looks like he is hoovering the beach, is detecting for buried treasure. No luck today but others have borne fruit with keys, coins and mobile phones on the menu.
On my left, grandiose buildings along Marine Parade give way to the flat greens of Hythe Imperial Golf Club. Back on the shoreline, the disappearing tide reveals scant, sandy patches, the long beach dissected by man-made boulder defences and little else.
Nearing Sandgate, Shorncliffe Army Camp lies atop the hillside, while unseen Martello Towers, some homes, some ruins, hide amongst the trees. Being 50 this year (2012), I discovered that Saga HQ is nearby. I don't like getting old…
Slim quarter moon
Rounding a corner, spectrum coloured beach huts line a concrete walkway. Small rocky plateaus appear festooned with sea birds and pigeons. Closer to Folkestone now, families are taking advantage of the slim, quarter moon, sandy beaches, all too brief in their visit.
With the sea wall growing larger every step, the skyline is reminder of ages past. To the left, old modernised merchants houses, framed by a modern hotel in the guise of an ocean liner. In the middle, shining brightly, are the red, white and orange tents of the Moscow State Circus.
Bordering on the right is the drab grey of the redundant harbour tower and the rusting concrete pier, now protecting a defunct and derelict railway station.
Nearing my goal, anglers cast out bait in eternal hope. Deciding to walk the pier turns out to be a good idea. Access is via a decaying rail platform, great for exploring, while an artwork mid-track seems rather incongruous.
The jutting edifice, home to fee paying fishermen, has great views over Folkestone beach with Samphire Hoe in the distance. The dry harbour resembles a parking lot, fishing boats stranded on the soft sand.
Returning requires simple navigation. There is a main path that runs the length of this walk. But just as you pass the main car park, to your right is a coastal park, The Lees, which is a delight to explore.
On this walk…
- Delightful sandy bays
- Interesting pier and abandoned railway platform
- Working harbour
- Lees Coastal Park
- Dave the dolphin used to swim here
- Lees Cliff Water Lift
- OS Explorer map 138 Dover, Folkestone & Hythe