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Please see the Saturday Walker's Club This Week's Walks page.

This is an archive of walks done by the Saturday Walker's Club. You should only need to use this page if the SWC website is down.

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Saturday, 13 July 2019

Saturday Walk - Dover to Deal - the White Cliffs and a swim

Length: 17.7km (11 miles)
Toughness: 3 out of 10 T=2.30

9.34 train from St Pancras International to Dover, arriving 10.41.

Buy a day return to Deal. The cheapest ticket is a Super Off-Peak Day Return, but this is only available from Southeastern ticket machines (eg the ones on the high speed level at St Pancras).

For walk directions click here. For GPX click here. For a map of the walk click here. Or keep the sea on your right.

To my surprise this classic walk has not had a Saturday posting for two years. It needs little introduction - a walk along the White Cliffs, with views of the EU on fine days, then a flatter ending along a shingle beach into Deal.

Lunch is at the Coastguards pub in St Margaret’s Bay, which can be busy: a nearby tea kiosk and the St Margaret’s Museum cafe offer light lunch alternatives. Mobile phones still switch to French networks here, but till October 31 this is not a problem as most of us have free roaming.

Sea swimmers might face an agonising choice between lunch and a dip, as St Margaret’s Bay is a good place for a bathe. Low tide is at 4.17 and too close to this there may not be enough depth (the beach is rocky at low tide). So a swim, then lunch would be more sensible than the reverse.

Other swimming options are in Dover at the start (don’t laugh: there is a beach) or from Kingsdown to Deal, where there is always enough depth but fairly strong currents lateral to the shore: ie don’t go too far out here.

The Zetland Arms in Kingsdown is usually open for an afternoon drink. The spectacular shingle beach flowers just beyond it will alas largely be over. The cafe at the end of Deal Pier has now reopened and is recommended for its gorgeous views. The little 15 minute tour of Deal’s backstreets is also well worth it, even though most people skip it.

Trains back are at 31 past and take 1 hour 23 minutes.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

You can also visit the interesting 16c. Walmer Castle (English Heritage) just before you reach Deal and have tea on the terrace or have a stroll in their gardens. All very pleasant.

Walker said...

Walmer Castle is indeed most interesting, but just checking its opening hours on its website I discover that the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports (whose official residence it is) will be in residence this weekend, and hence it is closed to the public,

PeteG said...

I've been looking at tickets & without a railcard you need to look for the £25 promotional fare. With a railcard it looks like off-peak £22.40 is the cheapest on the high-speed. This train was very busy 2 weeks ago.

Walker said...

Trains to the coast can be busy on fine summer weekends, yes. But two weeks ago was exceptional - a one day heatwave that had been widely trailed in advance by the weather forecast. They spent most of the previous week saying how that one day would be uniquely hot and sunny. This kind of behaviour tends to boost passenger numbers.

JohnL said...

For those well South of the River the 09:13 from Sevenoaks arrives Dover Priory at 10:33

Walker said...

PeteG was right and I woz wrong. The train was almost as crowded as two weeks ago, for reasons mysterious to me. I suppose Southeastern offering cheap tickets to the seaside in summer may be a factor, but a big party of youf also got off at Dover. Was there a music event? A vlogger holding court in the castle? Anyway, we never saw them again and the White Cliffs were no more than ordinarily busy - ie quite busy, but not insanely.

If the train crowds were tempted out by the bright morning sunshine, the weather gods had a disappointment in store for them as there was w=grey-cloud by the time we got to Ebbsfleet and so it remained. It was fairly sticky in the morning and fresher later. Right at the end of the day the clouds parted in Deal, bringing a golden end to the day.

15 disembarked from the high speed train at Dover. We later met three more who had got the slow train from Sevenoaks. So n=18 in all. The grey skies apart, the White Cliffs were glorious, carpeted in every downland flower known to man and with a zillion white butterflies (mainly Small Whites, some Marbled Whites) flitting about. This was true all the way to Kingsdown, and after that the shingle beach flowers were good too - not as intense as in early June, but really quite impressive all the same.

Four of us swam at St Margaret’s Bay, the sea rather colder than expected (due to offshore winds) but the setting grand. We then joined the others at the Coastguard Inn for lunch, the order taking being reasonably rapid but the production of food from the kitchen taking a long time, as it always seems to at this pub. But there are worse views to look at as you wait.

We regrouped later for drinks at the Zetland Arms, after another swim in which eight participated. The current here was strong enough to stop a bullet: the only time I have actually gone backwards while trying to swim forwards. It was just after this swim that the skies cleared, but sadly no one was up for a third dip.

Five of us had very nice fish and chips from the Mermaid fish and chip on the beach as the sun dipped and caught the 7.31 train (much less busy than in the morning, happily). Many interesting topics were discussed on the way home while we tasted different types of chocolate and drank red wine. All in all, despite the cloud, a grand day out.