Dover, it is always one of those places that you an count on to fill a dry spell. Nestled on the White Cliffs it has been chopped, changed and occupied by the military for centuries whilst they have pointed guns of all sizes at the narrowest point in the English Channel. Leaving behind in their wake a treasure trove of abandonment. During the Napoleonic ear, Dover was heavily fortified in an attempt to repel any would-be French invader. As is generally the way with most military hardware it was obsolete before it could be put to use, leaving behind vast citadels that had little point. Dover was also famous during for the coastal batteries that peppered the French coast line as they bristled like angry porcupines during World War 2. Now all that remains are a few scars on the landscape and hidden underground structures that supported them.
We found ourselves being rudely awakened by the alarm clock at 5:30 in the morning and begun to make the long journey down to the coast. Part of us was jealous that the majority of the UK population would still be tucked up in bed, but we managed to find some consolation in a short stop at McDonald’s for breakfast. We have visited Dover a handful of times, and each time we have ventured into places we have not seen before. We have found that our trips have always had one particular theme in common, the weather. Being a coastal town it is ravaged by the wind and rain and we have yet to experience Dover in the sunshine. Our only solace has been the shelter offered by the networks of tunnels that we planned to visit. With the militaries love of elevated positions, our visits to Dover have revolved around standing atop the cliffs in the bracing wind and rain trying to figure out where exactly the tinniest of entrances is located.
With explorers, Dover is infamous for the high number of deep shelters that were located next to the coastal batteries. These deep shelters were constructed throughout Dover to protect gun crews from German bombardment. Their original entrance have long since been demolished and the only remaining entrances are closely hidden in the grass. Our most recent visit saw us go to Lydden Spout, which requires a short and very vertical climb down the cliffs. Not something we had ever expected, but thankfully the weather was holding back and the climb was dry. We can only imagine what it would have been like to attempt it in rain. Other deep shelters entrances have included squeezing down past the original concrete capping and onto a clay covered stair case, or sliding down a slippery slope and past a small opening that would given us a quick lesson in gravity.
The other side of exploring life down in Dover is the napoleonic forts. Dover castle may be the pride of English Heritage, but there is another fortification of similar size and grandeur over on the western heights. Around half of the site has been converted into a government complex, but there remains many other parts to explore. Bastions, batteries, casemates, barracks and dry moats surround the main citadel in a state of dereliction. With the ever shifting landscape of exploring, their availability for exploration varies wildly (Dover is currently going through a state of closure) and access can be problematic. We haven’t seen as much as we have of the WW2 installations, yet the parts we have ventured in have been a breathe taking mix of dereliction and arched brickwork.
Whist we don’t get out and explore as mush as we would like to, we can always count on Dover to provide us with a mix of laughs and new sites to explore. We have barely begun to scratch the surface!