Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Some maritime wanderings

Due to a variety of reasons I have not been able to get out in the water for the last two weeks but that doesn't mean that I haven't had a connection with the sea.  Visiting friends and family in the South East of the UK I have taken the opportunity to visit a number of places for the first time or to re-visit for the first time in a number of years.  Many of these places have a maritime connection, so here are just a few of the places, a number of which deserve a return visit with a kayak at a later date.
Sound mirrors or listening ears which are found on the north east side of Dungeness.  Located on an island they are difficult to get close to.  The 3 concrete structures were built between 1928 and 1930.  They were designed to pick up the sound of approaching enemy aircraft, up to 24 miles away, effectively giving Britain a 15 minute early warning system.  They quickly became obsolete as aircraft became faster and were certainly not needed after 1935 when radar was invented.

St Margaret's Bay is located mid way between Deal and Dover with the cliffs supposed to be the first place in the UK that the sun reaches everyday.  The beach is the closest point to France, which is only 21 miles away and is the place where Channel swimmers commence their challenge.  At one end of the beach is a house where Noel Coward lived for several years after the end of the Second World War.
Dungeness which consists of one of  the largest areas of shingle, in Europe,  is a cuspate foreland. An expression which will bring joy to the heart of any geographer.  We visited on a rather bleaknSunday afternoon but were amazed just how wild the area felt.  There is an old lighthouse, which was first lit on the 31st March 1904 but is no longer used as it is further away from the sea than it used to be and because from some directions it is obscured by the nuclear power station.  Much of the area is a National Nature Reserve and there is a bird reserve.  It was a fascinating place to visit and an area I will plan to return to either to paddle or cycle round.

I am always amazed by Greenwich in south east London, I can't think of anywhere else where there is such a tradition of maritime history.  We visited the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory where it is possible to stand with a foot in either hemisphere

Birling Gap, near Eastbourne in East Sussex is somewhere I have visited numerous times of the years since I first went there in 1977.  Today was like so many others with rough seas breaking against the chalk cliffs.  The erosion has been quite spectacular.  The first photograph shows 10 windows in 1977 by Monday of this week there were only 6 left.

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