07 July 2017
Author: Robert Peel and Peter Smith
Publisher: Kent Ramblers
ISBN number: 978 1906494711
Known as the ‘garden of England’, Kent’s pastoral landscape is rightly celebrated – but that doesn’t mean that its superb coastal walking should be neglected, and that goes beyond honeypot sites like the famed white cliffs of Dover. This eminently practical 80-page guidebook, produced by Kent Ramblers, does a fine job of showcasing the immense variety of the Kent coast, from the shingle expanses of Dungeness to the sand dunes north of Deal. It covers the first stretches of the England Coast Path to be opened in Kent, from Camber (just over the border in Sussex) to Folkestone and then from Folkestone to Ramsgate, a total of 66 miles.
The book has been produced in full colour, with detailed 1:25,000 maps based on Ordnance Survey data and enhanced by local knowledge from Ramblers volunteers, including the authors. The accompanying text is readable and informative, with plenty of enlightening facts to sustain the interest, while the style tends towards the factual over the expressive. It is helpfully split into eight manageable sections that would make ideal day walks, with full route descriptions provided alongside numerous pages containing nuggets of information on points of interest, complete with identifying photographs. This includes a wealth of castles, towers and other defensive fortifications that reflect Kent’s historical place as the nation’s closest frontier with Europe, from the Norman invasion right up to the Second World War.
There is also supplementary background material about the history, geology, wildlife and geography of the Kent coast, including a succinct overview of how it has changed over the centuries. The best illustration of this is the route of the Saxon Shore Way, which shows just how different the county’s coastline is today, compared to its outline in the 5th Century AD – when, for example, Romney Marsh was underwater and the Isle of Thanet really was an island.
Routes are easy to follow throughout, even in the two places where it is not possible to stick to the coast – at Lydd and Hythe, where there are two coastal military firing ranges. The detours inland are clearly explained, although it is noted that it is still possible to follow the coastline here when firing is not taking place. Alas there are only a few days each month when this is the case.
Additional sections of the book contain beneficial information on cycling the Kent coast, the history of the Ramblers and the input of Kent Ramblers into the creation of the Kent sections of the England Coast Path, working closely with Natural England. It all comes together to form the best guidebook to the Kent coast that has been produced to date.
In due course, a second volume to ‘complete’ the coverage of the Kent coast would be most welcome as the next stretches of the coast path are opened – i.e. around the nose of Kent from Ramsgate, heading westwards to the Thames Estuary. Author Robert Peel assures us that: ‘Work on the section from Ramsgate to Whitstable is well under way and further sections onwards to Gravesend will follow’. Most gratifyingly, he also promises that another guidebook is already being planned to showcase these equally diverse stretches of coastline. Matthew Jones