White Cliffs of Dover, England Coast Path

White Cliffs of Dover

White Cliffs of Dover

Date

26 October 2016

Location

Dover Kent

Between White Cliffs Vistor Centre
TR 33625 42217; 51.13154°N, 1.33781°E

and South Foreland Lighthouse
TR 35938 43335; 51.14063°N, 1.37154°E

Information

The White Cliffs of Dover (National Trust)

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South Foreland Lighthouse

South Foreland Lighthouse

South Foreland Lighthouse

Date

26 October 2016

Location

South Foreland, St Margaret’s at Cliffe, Kent
TR 35938 43335; 51.14063°N, 1.37154°E

Information

The Goodwin Sands – a massive sand bank in the English Channel between South Foreland and Ramsgate – have been a hazard to shipping for centuries and there are records of lights on the White Cliffs to warn mariners of the dangers since the 14th century. In 1635 two open-fire braziers were erected at South Foreland and there have been two lighthouses there ever since. In 1793 the Upper Light was converted to use oil lamps and in 1795 the Lower Light was similarly converted. Both lighthouses were purchased by Trinity House in 1832 with alterations being carried out to the Upper Light in 1842 and the Lower Light being totally rebuilt in 1846.

By 1875 South Foreland was equipped with carbon-arc lamps making it the first lighthouse to use electric light. The lighthouse was also later used by Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) as a base for his experiments in radio transmission and it became the first ever site to receive a ship-to-shore radio message and in 1899 it also received the first international radio transmission (from Wimereux, between Calais and Boulogne in France).

By 1904 the Goodwin Sands had shifted by such an extent that the visual alignment of the two lights no longer provided an accurate indication of the location of the sand bank and so the Lower Light was decommissioned. The Upper Light was fully automated in 1969 and it remained in service until 1988 when it too was decommissioned, modern navigational aids having rendered it redundant. The National Trust took over the site in 1989 and opened it to the public in 1990.

Further Reading

South Foreland Lighthouse (National Trust);
South Foreland Lighthouse (Wikipedia)

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Fan Bay Sound Mirrors

No. 1 Sound Mirror, Fan Bay

No. 1 Sound Mirror, Fan Bay

Date

26 October 2016

Location

Fan Bay, Dover, Kent
TR 35221 42799; 51.13611°N, 1.36095°E

Information

Concrete sound mirrors were developed in Britain to provide early warning of approaching aircraft. The dish-shaped acoustic reflectors focused sound waves to a point in front of the mirror where a microphone would be placed, or an operator equipped with a stethoscope would be positioned. The technology became obsolete in the 1930s with the advent of radar.

The two 4.5 metre World War I sound mirrors at Fan Bay, the site of which had been filled in in the 1970s, were excavated by the National Trust as part of its restoration of Fan Bay Deep Shelter. An archaeological dig took place in 2014 to find the mirrors and 600 tonnes of spoil was removed to uncover the devices. The guided tour of Fan Bay Deep Shelter includes an opportunity to view the sound mirrors at close quarters.

Further Reading

Sound Mirrors;
Fan Bay Deep Shelter;
First World War ‘sound mirrors’ restored on White Cliffs of Dover (Centenary News)

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Fan Bay Deep Shelter

Fan Bay Deep Shelter

Fan Bay Deep Shelter

Date

26 October 2016

Location

Fan Bay, Dover, Kent
TR 35178 42814; 51.13626°N, 1.36035°E

Information

In 2012 the National Trust raised £1.2 million to purchase a 0.8-mile-long stretch of the White Cliffs of Dover to fill a gap in the five miles of coastline it already owned, the first stretch having been bought in 1968. The newly acquired section included Fan Bay and a team of 50 National Trust volunteers worked from 2013 to 2015 to clear the deep shelter there, in the process removing 30 tonnes of rubble from the 125 steps down into the shelter and a further 100 tonnes from the tunnels 70 feet (21 metres) below the surface.

During World War II the site of two World War I sound mirrors at Fan Bay was chosen as the location of a new artillery battery comprising three six-inch guns. The facility was constructed in 1940-41 and the deep shelter was excavated to serve as a bomb-proof shelter for the station’s personnel.

Further Reading

Fan Bay Deep Shelter an excavation of epic proportions (National Trust)

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Dover Castle

Inside the Keep, or Great Tower, built by Henry II c 1181-88

Inside the Keep, or Great Tower, built by Henry II c 1181-88

Date

25 October 2016

Location

Dover, Kent
TR 32666 41886; 51.12896°N, 1.32391°E

Information

Dover Castle – the largest in England – is a Grade I listed building and is owned by English Heritage. Its strategically important location on a clifftop overlooking Dover Strait in the English Channel was the site of an Iron Age hillfort. A lighthouse – the oldest still surviving in the UK – was also built there by the Romans in the 2nd century. Much of the existing castle was built by Henry II in the 12th century. Major additions were built at the end of the 18th century during the Napoleonic Wars and a network of tunnels beneath the clifftop were excavated to serve as barracks to house the extra troops stationed there at that time. During World War II the tunnels housed an underground hospital and a command centre, from where Vice-Admiral Ramsay led Operation Dynamo to rescue British and French troops stranded at Dunkirk.

Further Reading

Dover Castle (Wikipedia);
Dover Castle (English Heritage);
More posts in the Dover series

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Dover Eastern Docks

Eastern Docks, Dover

Eastern Docks, Dover

Date

11 February 2013
Location

Dover, Kent

TR 33802 42150; 51.13086°N, 1.34028°E

Information

At a distance of 21 miles across the English Channel from France, Dover is Britain’s closest port to continental Europe. Its sheltered location at the mouth of the River Dour has been associated with maritime transport as far back as the Bronze Age, and the Romans built a harbour there — in fact, Dover was the base of the Roman fleet in Britain. The Port of Dover has been owned and operated since 1606 by the Dover Harbour Board, established by Royal Charter by James VI and I. Major improvements, involving the construction of new piers and breakwaters, were started in the 19th century to create a harbour of refuge for the Admiralty’s fleet and to put an end to the centuries-old problems of the harbour silting up with shingle.

The port comprises a square mile of enclosed water. Its Eastern Docks are home to the passenger and freight ferry terminal, while a cruise-liner terminal and marina are located at the Western Docks. At the latter there also used to be a railway station, which closed when the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994, and a hoverport, now demolished but which operated a hovercraft service until 2000 and a catamaran service until 2008. Currently there are plans to redevelop the Western Docks to create an additional ferry terminal.

With a throughput of 11.9 million passengers in 2012, Dover claims to be the world’s busiest passenger port. Four ferry companies run services from Dover to Calais and Dunkirk, and there is on average a departure every 30 minutes.

In 2010, the Dover Harbour Board, a statutory body with no shareholders, sought permission to privatise the port. In response to this, the Dover People’s Port Trust was set up by local campaigners with the aim of purchasing the port and running it as a ‘Big Society’-inspired community trust. Local residents voted decisively in favour of these plans in a non-binding referendum in March 2011. In December 2012, the Government tuned down the Board’s application for privatisation.

Dover Harbour Board (official site);
Port of Dover (Wikipedia);
Dover People’s Port

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Langdon Lights, Dover

Langdon Searchlight Battery

Langdon Searchlight Battery

Date

11 February 2013
Location

Langdon Bay, Dover, Kent

TR 34478 42483; 51.13358°N, 1.35014°E

Information

Langdon Lights were three wartime searchlight emplacements – of which two survive – near the foot of the chalk cliffs at Langdon Bay on the east side of Dover. Night-time maritime traffic entering the port could be monitored from the batteries under the illumination from the searchlights.

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Swingate Chain Home Station, Dover

Transmitter towers, now in use for BBC FM transmission

Transmitter towers, now in use for BBC FM transmission

Date

11 February 2013
Location

Swingate, Dover, Kent

TR 33591 43178; 51.14018°N, 1.33795°E

Information

The Chain Home system was a network of coastal early-warning radar stations initially set up before the start of World War II to detect approaching aircraft. Swingate, constructed from 1936 to 1938, was one of these stations. The facility originally had four 350-ft steel transmitter towers and four 240-ft wooden receiver towers. After the war all four wooden towers and one of the four steel transmitter towers were demolished. Of the three remaining towers, one was later replaced, one was taken down in 2010, and one still survives. The station now serves as a BBC FM radio transmission site.

Swingate Chain Home Station (Underground Kent);
Swingate transmitting station (Wikipedia)

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Western Heights, Dover

St Martin's Battery, first built in 1804 to provide additional protection for the harbour below

St Martin’s Battery (A), first built in 1804 to provide additional protection for the harbour below

Date

10-11 February 2013
Location

Dover, Kent

(A) TR 31450 40760; 51.11934°N, 1.30584°E
(B) TR 31562 41237; 51.12358°N, 1.30775°E
(C) TR 30718 40799; 51.11999°N, 1.29543°E
(D) TR 30451 40351; 51.11607°N, 1.29133°E

Information

The Western Heights is a complex of fortifications built on the high ground in the west of Dover to protect the port from attack from either land or sea. The site was developed in several phases. Firstly, simple earthworks were constructed at the end of the 18th century. Then, amidst fears of a Napoleonic invasion, work on more substantial fortifications took place from 1804. And, again owing to concerns over national security, the defences were further bolstered during the 1860s.

There are two main forts in the complex: the Drop Redoubt and the Citadel. The latter, having previously functioned as a Young Offenders’ Institution, is in use today as a detention centre (the Dover Immigration Removal Centre). Military use of the site ceased in the 1950s, after which the local council embarked upon a plan to raze the rest of the complex. Most of the barracks had already been demolished before protests over the loss of the historical assets put a stop to the destruction. Most of the site is now owned by English Heritage and in the 1990s restoration work was carried out on the Drop Redoubt and the Grand Shaft. The latter is a 19th-century triple spiral staircase sunk into the cliff in order to facilitate troop movements between barracks and coastal defensive positions. Ongoing restoration work is being undertaken by the Western Heights Preservation Society.

Western Heights, Dover (Subterranean History);
Dover Western Heights Preservation Society

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Abbot’s Cliff Acoustic Mirror

Acoustic Mirror, Abbot's Cliff

Acoustic Mirror, Abbot’s Cliff

Date

10 February 2013
Location

Abbot’s Cliff, Folkestone, Kent

TR 27188 38605; 51.10170°N, 1.24369°E

Information

Before the advent of radar, there was an experimental programme during the 1920s and 30s in which a number of concrete sound reflectors, in a variety of shapes, were built at coastal locations in order to provide early warning of approaching enemy aircraft. A microphone, placed at a focal point, was used to detect the sound waves arriving at and concentrated by the acoustic mirror. These concrete structures were in fixed positions and were spherical, rather than paraboloidal, reflectors. This meant that direction finding could be achieved by altering the position of the microphone rather than moving the mirror.

The acoustic mirror at Abbot’s Cliff is located on the cliff top almost midway between Folkestone and Dover.

Acoustic mirror (Wikipedia);
Abbot’s Cliff sound mirror (Andrew Grantham)

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