17/3/90

We woke up to bright sunshine streaming through the window and the sounds of Saturday morning activity coming up from the street. We hung around waiting for our breakfast to be delivered at 8:30 but decided we were supposed to go downstairs for it. We went down to the dining room and were treated to a huge English Breakfast of cereals, bacon, eggs, sausages and tomatoes with heaps of tea and toast to follow. After brekkie we went up and packed our things then went out to explore the village, leaving our bags on the landing to be picked up later. 

We had a fact sheet about the town of Sandwich with a step-by-step route marked out on it so we set out to explore some of the village’s history which goes back to the days when it was a busy Cinque Port. These were a group of five coastal towns along the coast of Kent which held special privileges because armies came and went through them (en route to- or from wars in Europe) and their residents could be called upon to defend the coast from invasion. One of the privileges the towns received (by Royal Warrant) was the power to try and execute Peers of the Realm. This was done at Sandwich on several occasions and the paddock where the gallows once stood still only has black sheep in it.

Starting at St. Peter’s Church, we walked up Market Street and into Strand Street where, in the attic of a house called “The Pilgrims”, smugglers used to signal the ships coming in with contraband that it was safe to land. Although Sandwich is now about 2 miles from the sea, at one time it was at the seaside. Further along the street we saw a carved lintel over a gate with the date 1605 carved on it.

Sandwich street.

At the end of the street, after passing round the Barbican [fortified gate] built by Henry VIII, we stood on the bridge where the monks of Christchurch in Canterbury collected a toll from everyone who crossed. The toll was only abolished in 1977, ending a tradition dating back to King Cnut, one of the early Norman kings, who granted the monks permission to operate a ferry across the river. 

Holy Ghost Alley

We walked along the river until we came to the Millwall, part of the original defences of the town. At the end of the Millwall, we turned into Millwall Place and walked back to the centre of town past St. Peter’s Church, Holy Ghost Alley and the old town gaol. 

We collected our stuff from the pub and set out to walk the 2 1/2 miles down to Sandwich Bay. Once we were  out of town we were walking through lush coastal farmland and just before we got to the coast we passed through Sandwich Bay Estate, where the second homes of many wealthy Londoners are situated.

We emerged from the grassy sand dunes, and the calm waters of the English Channel came  into view, washing gently up on the shingle beach of the Bay. We walked slowly up the coast towards the town of Deal, just  visible through 5 miles of coastal haze.

We lay for a while on a wooden slipway leading out into the water from the Sandwich Bay Yacht Club HQ,  soaking up the warm sunlight and breathing the clean fresh sea air. A few hundred yards offshore, lighter coloured patches of water marked the position of the Goodwin Sands. A passing couple told us how, at the lowest tide of spring, two cricket teams play a short game on the exposed sands before the water claims them for another year. These britons are crazy!

We left the coast and walked inland across a couple of golf courses to a pub called Checkers for a pint and a ploughman’s lunch, then walked the last 2 1/2 miles into Deal where we caught a train down to Dover. Dover is not a nice place. Cluttered with tourist shops, and swarming with a German and French tourists, it is a far cry from the fabled White Cliffs. We walked down the main street to the wharf where we bought a couple of Mr Whippy’s and sat watching the ferries and hovercraft coming and going to and from the port. Above us, and to the left, the huge portals of Dover Castle stood watch over the port, it’s stone ramparts catching the last rays of the afternoon sun.

We wandered around and had a drink at a pub in town then had some tea. We slept most of the way back to the noise and grime of London.

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