First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A glorious day of blue sky over the coast of East Kent. At Kingsdown the white chalk cliffs shone in clear light polished and sharpened by sea and sunshine. Along the pebbly shore stood old iron winches, rusted into immobility by salt-laden water and winds. Decades have passed since the village fishermen used them to haul their boats up the steeply shelving beach.
We climbed the steps at the end of Oldstairs Bay and set out on the cliff path with a stiff north breeze pushing us along. A kestrel balanced on the wind, infinitely fine adjustments of wings and body keeping it in place. Looking back, we saw a line of white cliffs curving east beyond the murky waters of Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate’s buildings lying low along the shore, the red roofs of Broadstairs cresting their rise of ground beyond.
The green sea heaved gently below, reflecting a light clear enough for us to pick out the coast of France some twenty miles off – field shapes, woods, radio masts and a long pale line of sandy beaches. Air balloons, stringbag aeroplanes, greasy swimmers and long-range shells from coastal guns – all have crossed that narrow stretch of sea, but never an invading army for the past thousand years.
One dastardly enemy of England did launch a deadly stroke against the capital from these Kingsdown cliffs – arch-villain Sir Hugo Drax with his ogre’s-teeth and sweaty ruin of a face. Lucky for all of us that James Bond was on hand to frustrate his knavish tricks and redirect the London-bound Moonraker rocket to plunge to its destruction in the sea.
Ian Fleming, Bond’s creator, had a holiday home at St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe, just along the coast. We came by the spot where Fleming had Drax’s men collapse the cliff onto 007, near a tall obelisk commemorating the brave Great War deeds of the Dover Patrol. Just beyond we found a magnificent view over the tight, cliff-encircled bay that cradles St Margaret’s, and a zigzag of steps running down to the pebbly shore.
The homeward path led across inland fields sown with winter cereals, a landscape of long parallel valleys and tufts of woodland, with the sea diminished to a green backdrop caught in a vee between one slope and the next.
How hard is it? 6¾ miles; easy; cliff and field paths
Start: Cliffe Road, Kingsdown CT14 8AH (OS ref TR 380482).
Getting there: Bus 82 from Deal
Road: Kingsdown is signed off A258 between Walmer and Dover.
Walk (OS Explorer 138): Coast Path south for 2¾ miles to St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe. ½ mile past Dover Patrol monument, left down steps to shore (369446; yellow arrow). Right to seafront. Up road beside Coastguard PH (368445). On right bend, ahead up steps (367444, fingerpost/FP). Fork right at top to road (366444); right, in 150m, fork left on Hotel Road. In 100m, left (368445, FP) up steps; on up Cavenagh Road; on up grass path (FP) to The Droveway (366448). Right; follow road for ⅔ mile to Bockhill Farm. 150m beyond farm, left at path junction (372455). Keep ahead up field margin path; in 600m it bends sharp left, through kissing gate; in 100m, right down tarmac track (367459, cycleway No 1). In 400m pass tall pole on left (368464); in 100m, left through hedge; half right on path across field. In 1 mile keep left of houses (373478) to road (374481). Left; right down Upper Street into Kingsdown.
Lunch: Coastguard PH, St Margaret’s, CT15 6DY (01304-853051, thecoastguard.co.uk)
Accommodation: Five Bells, Ringwould CT14 8HP (01304-364477, fivebellsringwould.co.uk)
Info: Dover TIC (01304-201066)