We arrived in Dover on Wednesday planning to have a day off and continue on into the Thames Estuary. However, the weather had other plans, and a forecast of strong winds meant we decided to stay put here until the storm has blown over.
So, a chance to find out a bit more about this corner of Kent. I realised I knew very little about Dover – apart from the fact that it’s a ferry port, has white cliffs and is very close to France. Its really close to France – we could see the French coast clearly; it is only 20 miles away and ferries are going to and fro all the time – one operator advertises 54 crossings a day. Dover itself is busy with traffic going to and from the ferry port, which has a network of roads taking traffic onto or off the ferries. We looked down on it from the white cliffs, and it looked rather like a toy railway track, with vehicles constantly moving.
We asked a local what there was to see in Dover. “Nothing really”, she said. “There’s Dover castle” (it dominates the town from its hilltop position, and is a fascinating mixture of medieval buildings, a labyrinth of tunnels used in the Second World War and later as a nuclear bunker, and the oldest building, a Roman lighthouse). “And there’s a Banksy”. This visual representation of Brexit covers the whole wall of a building in the centre of the town, visible to all travellers going to the ferryport.
When pressed, another local divulged Dover’s best sources of food and drink, and after a long walk past dozens of takeaways and betting shops we discovered the Breakwater micro-brewery, which was buzzing.
Dover has therefore proven to have plenty to keep us interested – especially its history – and despite evidence of decline (for example the ‘Discovery Centre’ which proved not to be), there’s now lots of new development going on, including a smart new marina due to open in 2020 in the Western docks.
Storm-bound for another day, we took the train to Folkestone. The ‘Harbour Arm’, where the ferry port and railway station used to be, has been redeveloped and you can walk along the harbour wall and take your pick of places to eat, listen to music or walk down steps (at low tide only) and see an Antony Gormley figure staring out to sea.
It was chilly and a bit windswept when we visited, but last weekend in the sunshine I was told there were thousands of people enjoying this newly developed area. The town is full of art installations – there is a thriving creative community, lots of public art and an attractive centre with quirky shops, cafes and art galleries. A good day out.
The wind is beginning to calm down, so all being well we’ll be able to sail on to Ramsgate tomorrow.