One day I want to experience a mist thick enough to conceal my outstretched hand. It will be the grandfather of all the foggy nights described in the fairytales of my youth. Nothing will entertain my sight except my vivid imagination. I almost experienced that sensation recently. The fog settling in to greet me at the Cliffs of Dover was a youngster aiming to please, but not quite legendary. Still, as it swallowed up my sister and gluttonously gobbled down my partner too I found myself left in an impressively tiny sphere of existence. Soon my only company was the squelch of mud under my boots and the soft smell of wild grass bathing in dew.
Until the shadows began to emerge from the misty curtains.
DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNNN.
Hahaha, we’ll get back to that, but I’m going to use an age-old storyteller trick and drag you back to the very beginning of the journey. Stop fidgeting, this is a funny series of events. I promise you’ll at least chuckle.
It began with my little sister coming from Canada for a visit. My partner and I were looking for something awesome—but budget healthy—to show my sister. I’ve become a super bicycle fan, but they preferred using their legs to travel. So, in true democratic fashion my campaign for a biking trip was squashed and we took out the hiking map.
“How about Dover?” my partner asked.
“Do we really have to walk?” I moaned for the seventieth time.
“We could walk from Folkestone to Dover and then Dover to Cantebury,” my partner continued, ignoring my dramatic slumping, humming and hawing.
“Wait… Dover?” I squeaked, straightening.
“Oh MY GOD! I can see the cliffs that inspired that song!”
“Cliffs of Dover.”
“From Guitar Hero.”
“Really? You’ve never heard of it? It was my favourite song to play!”
Youtube and a few seconds later I was ‘casually’ mock playing the ‘guitar’ to the song (there may have been some head backing and flailing arms involved).
And just like that the plan was set. I was going on a song pilgrimage, my sister on a health pilgrimage and my partner on a history pilgrimage—fun for the whole family.
Since I wanted to show my sister how the English travel we took a train from Cambridge to Folkestone. There was not much to see, because our view of the beautiful countryside was marred by the previously mentioned fog, so we were left to our thoughts.
We arrived with little fanfare under the light spitting rain England is famous for, donned our rain hoods and walked through the town without seeing much.
Our destination was the seaside path called the SWC Walk 13. True to its description the hike managed to inspire and intimidate at various points.
Dropping Into A Warren
When we left Folkestone behind the first section of the walk featured a tramp though a growth of wild forest. I’m sure this tour of the woods would have been much nicer under the sunshine—as most things are—but I have to say, dodging the mud was quite entertaining too.
You had to calculate the best path forward. Completely immerse yourself in the task. Heck, some of the path had been enveloped by a mudslide so it was truly virgin terrain in some spots. We were blazing a trail.
The second stretch of the walk faded into an easy stroll by the seaside along the bottom of the cliffs.
Everything changed as we went from a dirt path, well mud slip-and-slide, to a paved road. Suddenly our biggest concern wasn’t avoiding a mud bath—it was diving away from an ocean shower!
The water smacked at the path with a feisty zest, causing us to shriek and giggle as we dodged the onslaught.
“What’s the white line for?” I asked my partner, J, as I caught up to the two speed demons.
“It’s probably to warn people that beyond that point waves can pull you out to sea if you’re not careful,” was J’s response.
I warily eyed the water and edged closer to the cliff wall. As an in-lander for most of my life I’m a bit suspicious of the ocean. J couldn’t help but chuckle a bit at my cat-like edginess as we sprinted past the ocean’s spitting.
It was a beautiful walk. Sometimes the path would unexpectedly widen into a massive platform of cement. Our guess was that those spots used to be zones for ship repair.
Wild kale grew in abundance and we saw more than one person out taking advantage of its widespread presence. Massive blue Ikea bags bursting with leaves swung from the wiry arms of at least six passing strangers.
When we didn’t see other people we were constantly kept amused by the signs stationed next to the path.
A running joke was soon born from these signs because there was a new one every few metres… I mean how many times do they have to tell people not to be stupid?
The Cliff Of Death
That title might look dramatic, but seriously, this was a steep cliff.
I have this odd relationship with heights. There is an awesome thrill that comes from being way up high and silently freaking out about it, but I also hate it. I’m thrilled to hate heights.
I was the stupid person who pointed out the tiny path on the hill when we were considering walking onward along the pleasant sea walkway.
Some spots were nice. There was shrubbery on both sides and we were walled in by a wild tunnel. Some spots though blew open and the path once narrowed to a tiny bridge of sketchy looking dirt.
Every time I stopped to take a picture—and slow my fluttering heart—the protocol was as follows: stop, gulp air, adjust footing into sure position, lean into the cliff, send off a quick prayer, bring my camera to bear, snap, gulp, wobble and stare at cliff wall to erase what I’d just witnessed.
Behold. The view I risked my life to capture from the tiny dirt bridge.
Those little rocks down there? They were past my hip on the path.
Images of slipping and sliding down the hill, clutching at grass and shrieking as I tumbled into the rocks below flashed…
What can I say. I come from the prairies. Our biggest vertical threat is gopher hills. They can roll your ankle.
Still, I bravely forged onward and after a harrowing length of open, grassy space I finally crawled onto the top. Huffing with joy and immediately walking a safe distance away from the decline I tried to drop the images my active imagination had been gleefully sending me. J and my sister shook their heads and lifted themselves from their seats.
Annnnddd as a general rule I make myself stop nattering at about 1000 words, but to entice you back here’s one last image of what I found next in the mists of Dover.