3 July 2011 (Sunday) - Exploring Hidden Dover
I woke up in quite some pain today – hardly able to move. That didn’t bode well for the day. But what can a fat bloke do? Get up and get on with it is about all I could do.
Over brekkie I worked on adding a page to the blog – instructions for leaving comments on blog entries. I’m very happy for people to comment on anything I write, but I wish that people would not do so anonymously.
And then on with the business of the day. To Folkestone to collect the rest of the crew, and then off to Dover: the Western Heights. We had a nosey round the Knights Templar church and a gun emplacement, and then we hit the jackpot. Someone has prised open the barred door to the deep military shelters. Now nowhere did it say that we were to keep out; nowhere was there any mention of the place being private property. So we scrambled our way into the hole and had a look-see.
We walked along about twenty yards until the tunnel turned right and we found ourselves in pitch darkness. Fortunately we’d had the foresight to bring torches. (We might be daft, but we ain’t stupid). We found what was once the Commanding Officer’s room; the only one with a fireplace. And then we found stairs going down. So we went down. And down. The shelters were very deep, and went on such a long way underground. They are very much like the tunnels on public display at Dover Castle, but these ones have just been left to decay. It’s criminal, really.
After half an hour of noseying about we thought we’d move on. It had been a struggle getting into the tunnel. Getting out would be easy enough – getting out gracefully would be en entirely different matter. But we (mostly) managed all right. There is even video evidence to show how we managed.
We then moved on to the Redoubt Fortress. This had a sign up saying that it was English Heritage. We had a good look around, but couldn’t find a way into the place. So we moved round to the detached bastion. That didn’t seem to be owned by anyone, and the fence keeping people out didn’t actually look like a fence at all. I honestly think it looked like a stile inviting us in. And it would have been rude to have turned down such an invitation. So we hopped over the stile and wandered round what was very clearly a very well trodden footpath. If we were really trespassing there wouldn’t be anything resembling a footpath, would there?
Having said that, I feel I should point out that it was a footpath through a jungle. It has to be said that the detached bastion has been left to fall into disrepair.
We found a hole in a wall. A small hole at the bottom of a wall. Far too small a hole for anyone to get through. So we had a go at getting through the hole anyway. And succeeded.
It was a bit of a scramble, and more than a tad claustrophobic, but four of our five braved the hole. However the other side of the hole proved somewhat of a disappointment. There was a large courtyard-type area with a room off to one side. The room contained what was once a metal spiral staircase going up. The metal staircase had rusted over the years and wasn’t at all sturdy. So we sent “Daddies Little Angel TM ” up the staircase to have a look-see. She scrambled up and reported a locked door at the top. But then we had a problem. Like her father, and like tiggers, “Daddies Little Angel TM ” can only climb up. Climbing down isn’t something at which she excels. But she eventually came down: she had little choice.
The (main) problem with urban arky-ologee is that when exploring one is very much left to one’s own devices. Whilst not *actually* trespassing, it could be argued (and probably would, were we to phone the fire brigade to ask to get rescued) that we shouldn’t have been where we got ourselves stuck.
With “Daddies Little Angel TM ” off of the staircase we decided to move on. I was the last one to go through the hole to get out, and I had a minor attack of nerves at the thought of squeezing through such a small space. But I’d done it once before, and this time I knew what was on the other side. And getting out was easy, even if I did have to pose for photos on the way out.
Pausing briefly to admire a passing frog we then moved on. We found a very interesting hole in a wall that we couldn’t get to. And then round to the detached bastion proper. We searched and searched for a way into it, and just as we were giving up hope we turned a corner and found a small girl scrabbling up a wall. When she saw us she jumped off the wall, and looked as guilty as a puppy sitting by a pile of poo. We asked her if she’d found a way into the bastion. “No!” she promptly denied; just as her mate leaned out of the opened window to see what the delay was. Her mate too looked rather sheepish, but when the kids realised that we might be four times their age but were still up to as much mischief as they were, they gave us advice on how best to scale the wall to the window. We were soon inside. And once inside I was amazed: the detached bastion is enormous inside. We set off exploring, and the two kids we’d encountered tagged along with us. Not having ropes or torches themselves they suddenly realised that one needs to be prepared to get up to serious misbehaving.
We found all sorts of chambers and passageways, and several staircases leading to the top of the bastion. And then I heard voices. For a moment I thought we might be about to be caught by the Normal People. But it wasn’t Normal People; it was others like us, out to explore. In this case a father with three children. I helped the father get his kiddies over a hole at the foot of some stairs, and left them to it. And then there was some screaming: some teenaged girls were walking round the bastion too. With no torches it was dark and they were terrified. I didn’t wind them up very much(!)
The detached bastion was amazing: in how big the place was, in that we could explore somewhere that had just been left to rot, and in how many other people were mooching about the place. But time was pushing on, stomachs were rumbling, and so we made our way to the local Wetherspoons for a roast dinner and a couple of pints.
And then it was on to Samphire Hoe. Ostensibly for an ice-cream but we arrived too late – the ice cream stall was shut. So we stared at France on the distant horizon and soaked up the sun.
I have so many hobbies that I don’t actually do anywhere near as much as I’d like. Urban arky-ologee is one of them…..