Wednesday, 1 August 2018

White Cliffs and more... I can see France from here


Back to the sea a little later in the year than I would have liked, but often logistic setbacks and huddles have become the nature of the beast.

This trip was planned to be one of the most intense ones yet, the west of Scotland to Dover and back in less than 36 hours. Just under a 1000 miles of travel mostly overnight. 
This speedy dash across the UK would take me most of the length of the country and from one coast to another. The plan is travel out on a scheduled seal watching trip with Dover Sea Safaris based out of the busy town of Dover. 
Early evening boarding the train from my home in Troon I was not looking forward to the two successive nights of overnight coach transport. The now familiar morning in Belgravia's street always coming quicker than you expect for an over night stop /start journey of comfort stops and motorway services. Today the streets of London already heating up early, another blistering day of this years unexpected heatwave.

From one bus to another in the chaos that seems to surround Victoria Bus Station I was on the second leg of my journey heading down through Kent, the Garden of England. Ominous dark clouds filled the sky. This wasn't on the plan, rain??  I was praying to all the travel gods clouds clouds go away!  The irony of travelling as part of a project based on the shipping forecast is that the weather is the ultimate arbiter of each journeys success. Most of the time you are in the hands of the vagueries of public transport, but anything involving the sea, comes down to  good weather in the end.

As we rolled into Dover the weather gods seemed to have looked kindly on me and the rain had held off and the calmness of the hot summer's day was only disturbed by the hint of a strong breeze picking up.  As I had the weather gods on speed dial I was hoping that the weather would stay 'boat friendly'

I was walked down to the promenade the iconic white cliffs came into full view loomed out of the horizon like a giant book end at one end of the town.

The edge of Dover town and the iconic white cliffs.

Heading into to report my arrival to the tour company ,a young enthusiastic lot this Dover Sea crowd, all wetsuits and chandlery and buckets of enthusiasm.  Soon kitted out in weather proof jackets and life jackets we headed down to the marina to board the beast of the inflatable RHIB that would take us up a sizeable section of the Kent coast to the tranquil estuary of the River Stour and its current seal colony. 

Waiting to leave Dover marina

Slowly heading out of the harbour we were halted by a leaving ferry, it is easy to forget that this is one of the congested stretches of water in the World. Once the ferry cleared Dover port on its way to France we headed on our way picking up speed as we skirted the Kent coast. As we left the white cliffs behind us as we headed past Deal pier and Sandwich bay on our way to Pegwell Bay not far from Ramsgate.

The seal colony almost oblivious of our presence

The tranquility of Pegwell Bay 

The great thing about this trip is was one of contrasts , the high speed turns and manoeuvres and then slowly coming to rest of the River Stour in Pegwell bay as you slide slowly down with the tide past the resting seals with their pups.
The estuary used to be a World War One port, so totally out of bounds to anyone but the MOD. The port shut after the wars, but the land remained in MOD hands and subsequently was never developed. It became a nature reserve by accident.
As we slowly slid out of Pegwell Bay back into the against the head wind we were warned of a more bumpy ride on our way back to Dover. 'Its just like riding a horse'  apparently.

Out into the English channel we picked up speed and the power of the RHIB opened up. nothing like being more than a foot off the water.  The return journey took us closer to the shore where you could marvel at the beautiful coloured houses along the Deal shoreline and the beached wooden boats along its shingle shore.
Veering away from Deal pier was more fun-ground ride than nature trip and once again the powerful chalk cliffs reared up above us .

The chalk cliffs studded with flint and topped with green

A moment of stillness after a hot octane dash across the water

A last look before back into Dover marina

You only get a sense of the scale of the white cliffs when your at sea and you can clearly see why they are a Great British icon.

One of the many cruise ship visitors to Dover.

Back into Dover Marina and almost time to leave again for London.
Just time for a well deserved fish and chips before back to the hustle and bustle of London streets.

Back onto another overnight coach, hardly seems 24 hours since I did this, oh yes, it was only 24 hours since I last did this. Soon the delights of nature would be replaced by the drowsy blur of brake lights and the pale hue of restaurant windows as we stuttered out of the congested heart of London onto the misty now cold expanse of motorway.

I would like to thank the team at Dover Sea Safari for an exciting and informative journey along the Kent coast. Well worth the trip if down that way and you have the sea legs for it..


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