11 August 2017 by Robert Peel
While question of which English county has the longest coastline remains hotly disputed, I confidently maintain that the most varied coastline belongs to Kent.
It has chalk, sandstone and clay cliffs, salt marshes and one of the largest shingle habitats in Europe. There are nuclear power stations, wind farms, busy ports, delightful seaside resorts and even views of France. Little wonder then that we in Kent have long been champions of a coast path.
Kent’s answer to Durdle Door
It is now just over a year since Kent’s vision started to become a reality with the opening of the first section in Kent of a path that by 2020 will encompass England’s entire coastline. This path will be perhaps the Ramblers’ finest achievement of the last decade and it has been a hard-fought for success.
National campaigning has been necessary to prevent the whole scheme falling victim to government cuts and locally our volunteers have worked tirelessly alongside Natural England to secure the best route for walkers. In Kent our Coastal Access Officer, Ian Wild, walked the whole route twice – once in each direction – taking photographs and collecting evidence from which he drew up detailed proposals that have largely been adopted by Natural England.
Although you could already walk much of the route in Kent that opened last year, there was a substantial section on the Sandwich peninsula that was completely inaccessible.
A lovely section of path between Folkestone and Dover saved from closure thanks to legal action by the Ramblers
The currently open section in Kent runs from Camber just over the Sussex border to Ramsgate, passing diverse landscapes on the way. Dungeness is like no other terrain in Britain with its unique shingle habitat, military firing range and nuclear power station. Romney Marsh has been reclaimed from the sea over two millennia and is now famed for its sheep.
The Cobbler above Dover
The White Cliffs between Folkestone and Deal need no introduction and offer an exhilarating walk with fine views of France as well as the numerous ships that ply the English Channel. Also to be seen along the route are two national nature reserves and many castles.
South Foreland Lighthouse – great for afternoon tea
With so many incredible sights to see and history to appreciate, we (Kent Ramblers) decided to produce a guide to the route. Our 80 page book contains full-colour mapping at 1:25,000 scale, detailed descriptions of all the sights along the way and background information about geology, geography and local history.
Compiling a guide really forces one to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the geography and history of an area. Many hours of research can be needed to support just a couple of sentences in the book. But nothing can beat the satisfaction when it all comes together in what I’ve been told is an interesting read, a visually appealing book and a reliable companion when walking the route.
We made some interesting discoveries while researching the book. We knew the Kent coast was very much the front line during World War II, but we weren’t aware of PLUTO (Pipe Line Under The Ocean). This military operation supplied fuel for Allied troops on the continent with the pumping equipment at Greatstone and Dungeness being disguised at bungalows, garages and even an ice cream shop.
Approaching St Margaret’s Bay, once home to Ian Fleming
Landscape reflects geology, and nowhere is this more obvious than along the coast. The Kent coastline has changed more dramatically over the last two thousand years than that of any other English county. There are sections of the coast path though Kent that were once under the sea as little as 800 years ago. You can read more about this in our book.
The book is available from Kent Ramblers (www.kentramblers.org.uk/books) for £6.50. Quote “BLOG17” when ordering and you’ll receive the book for £5.50 including postage. All profits support the work of the Ramblers, so not only will you be purchasing a great walking guide, you’ll also be supporting our work to protect the places we all love to walk.
Reculver on the section from Ramsgate to Whitstable
Our coastal story is not yet complete in Kent. The next section to become part of the England Coast Path, which runs from Ramsgate to Whitstable, has been approved by the Secretary of State but the necessary signage and work to make the whole route usable are not yet in place.
Choosing a route from Whitstable and on to Gravesend and Woolwich is also in progress and is likely to be more challenging than the sections already determined as there are more places where the shoreline is not currently accessible – but the Ramblers will be there, every step of the way, seeking the best route for walkers. And, you’ll be pleased to hear, we’ve already started work on another book to guide walkers along the route.