Our first full day of touring and we set a cracking pace. We really wanted to see the White Cliffs of Dover, having heard of them many times over the decades. We knew the weather was going to be a problem early in the day, but decided to go there first. It wasn’t too bad when we finally got to the Cliffs visitor centre. That’s a story in itself. Dover is only about half an hour from Ashford. Along the way we passed some lovely rolling golden fields, probably canola, but could not stop to view and take pictures. Rest areas do not seem to exist in this part of the country. This is most regrettable as the countryside is worth stopping to look at.
Determined to follow the GPS we almost got ourselves in serious trouble when we realised it had mistakenly led us into the heart of the Dover ferry terminal. Joan was having a panic attack out of fear that we might land up in France. We eventually found the Cliffs Visitor Centre going an ad hoc route. I happened to be lounging about waiting for Joan when one of the staff arrived and asked if he could help. Even though the centre was not open yet, he got a walking map for us and showed us where to go. We were amazed at this degree of helpfulness. So far we have only encountered polite and helpful people. Good on ya, Poms!
The walk along the cliff tops was just delightful, even if it wasn’t a clear day. In fact the fog became worse as we set out. Luckily it’s quite transient, and the sun did eventually peek through a few times, which opened up the vista a little, even if we could not see France. Due to indentations in the cliff coastline, it is possible to get some very good views of the chalk cliff faces in both directions. The white colour of the chalk is quite starting to those like us who have not seen the like before. There were ample signs at various locations along the top that this is a very unstable material. One could see where crevices were beginning to form, many metres from the cliff face.
The official walk goes from the visitor centre to the lighthouse, perhaps 3 Km away. We did not go all the way there because it was covered in renovation scaffolding. We thought it would be a good idea to take the paved road back that the visitor centre chap had mentioned, as we expected it to be quicker – important since we still had Sandwich and Canterbury to go. After a while on the road we began to lose confidence that this was the right way. Full of doubt we turned back and soon discovered that others must have had the same doubts as we could see where people had walked through a wheat field toward the coast. We decided to follow it even though it was green and wet with dew. The wheat grew longer the further downhill we went and our shoes and trousers became soaked. We reached a double fence line, with the nearer one having a very taught stand of barbed wire at the top, over a metre high. Joan was sure she would never get over it, but in the corner of the field was a post with slanted wooden bracing covered in wire mesh. This proved to be eminently suitable for even mobility-challenged individuals to get over.
After morning tea at the visitor centre we motored off to Sandwich, once on the coast in the middle ages, now 6 Km inland. We walked around for a while admiring the old buildings before having another fish-and-chips lunch.
Then it was off to the day’s main event – Canterbury Cathedral. By good fortune we managed to park adjacent to the city wall that encloses the cathedral precinct. A helpful local walked! us in the right direction.
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The Cathedral is an overwhelming structure that brings tears to the eyes. We both felt that it was the one of the most exquisite that we have seen [and we have clocked up quite a few!]. Its history begins with St. Augustine, and is most famous for being the site of the murder of St Thomas a Becket, making it a place of pilgrimage associated with “The Canterbury Tales”. Again, we encountered two very eager and informative guides who spontaneously gave us a detailed history of the area we were standing in. The stained glass windows that have managed to survive the Puritans are exceptional.
After visiting the cloisters, our legs were telling us to call it a day, so we drove back through the beautiful Kent country lanes, awash with all the wild flowers that I remember from my youth. This part of the country is the appropriate setting for “The Darling Buds of May”.
On the way back to Ashford we stopped briefly in Chilham to admire its medieval buildings.
Back at base in Ashford we were informed that we had been promoted yet again, from our temporary upgrade to the top floor apartment. Incredibly spacious with two bedrooms and five beds, full kitchen, bathroom with shower, bath, and his and hers sinks.
Electing not to eat out, we set out to find the Sainburys store we had seen yesterday on the way into Ashford, in order to buy some ready meals. We couldn’t find it again, so looked for other supermarkets. The first was too primitive, the second, a Lidl, was closed for renovations, and then we found a Waitrose that had what we wanted, plus some extras. As luck would have it, on the way back we passed the Sainsburys that we had been looking for.
The ready meal was blah but the Montepulciano wine was very good.