By Theresa Russell
Vera Lynn commemorated the White Cliffs of Dover in a song suggesting that:
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Just you wait and see
The White Cliffs of Dover were strategic in WWII – the nearby Secret War Time Tunnels are open to visitors. With its history and romanticism, the White Cliffs of Dover enticed us to climb up to the top and explore. We started our hike to the top of the cliffs by walking below them and following the directional signs in the city, passing by typical neighborhoods and eventually reaching a stairway that would get us to the relatively flat part above.
Our view of the two ports below– one used mostly by cruise ships and the other by ferries plying their way across the channel to France, delayed our walk as we watched, mesmerized by the variety of ferries and also wishing that we could sail on one to France.
In the distance we spotted Dover Castle and then a visitor center where we learned about the cliffs and the hike that we were embarking on. Having limited time, we followed the shortest route, skirting the cliffs themselves, keeping us just above the sea below. We encountered several other hikers, several of whom requested the we exchange cameras and document our hike, but the trail was mostly empty and very pleasant in spite of the bit of psychological friction we experienced as we neared the edge. Being high atop the cliffs instilled a sense of privilege as we traversed these iconic chalk structures. How lucky we were to experience a landmark that we had read so much about.
A Beacon Ahead
Far ahead, we spotted the lighthouse that we planned on climbing. We had joined the Royal Oak Foundation in the USA for an earlier tour of the UK; membership free access to several of the National Trust properties in the UK. The South Foreland Lighthouse is one of those properties.
Once reaching the lighthouse, we spent time learning about the area. This is where Marconi received his first international transmission from France. The Goodwin Sands, a few miles off shore, is so treacherous for navigation that many shipwrecks lie at the bottom of the sea.
Our hike on the Cliffs was about five miles, but we had to walk a few additional miles to the port, so we bade farewell to the lighthouse and the excellent views and headed back toward town on a more inland path. Thinking that we could find a shortcut back into the city, we followed a potential path that led us to danger and the chance of falling off the cliff. Realizing that this was not the true path we retraced our steps to safety, vowing not to stray or be tempted by potential shortcuts in the future. What a way to increase your heartrate. Retracing our steps through a stile and down the stairs we found ourselves on street level.
We had to catch our ship and cursed the fact that it would not be stopping in France and planned to someday return and take one of the ferries to France. As we departed the port of Dover, we took in the view of the White Cliffs and remembered our steps with fondness and our missteps with uneasiness.
About Theresa Russell
Claiming her lust for travel began on her first journey through the birth canal, Theresa is genetically programmed to travel and to have fun doing it. She especially enjoys adventure and experiential travel and always finds something at a destination to write home about.