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I am proposing to run twice, possibly thrice, weekly walking tours of Folkestone next summer (May to September 2017).

There are many practical considerations, including health and safety, marketing and potential licensing, that need to be addressed in the opening weeks of the New Year, but the crucial issue is the integrity of the tour itinerary itself.

Below are my initial thoughts on what route to take, and the issues to highlight at each stop and during the walk itself.

Currently, I envisage the tour lasting no longer than two hours.

These are still early thoughts and are subject to change. Being still a relative newbie, there is a distinct possibility that I may have missed something. This is where long term residents of Folkestone and others who have, like myself, come to love the town, can help me in fine tuning the details. I would be extremely grateful for their input and support.

I intend to finalise this by the end of February, allowing two months to work up the detailed commentary and supporting material.

I am extremely grateful for your assistance in this. Don’t feel you need to be gentle with me!

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Start: By the Earth Peace sign in front of The Grand Hotel on The Leas

Stop 1: The Grand Hotel
a. outline of tour – duration – route – stops – toilets – refreshments – approach to questions
b. history of The Leas and Folkestone as a holiday destination – English & French coast highlights
c. history of The Grand, including rivalry with The Metropole & links to royalty

d. introduction to Folkestone Triennial & Folkestone Artworks, specifically Earth Peace (Yoko Ono)

Walk 1: Along The Leas, passing the View Hotel, Ruth Ewan (clock) and Mark Ballinger’s (Folk Stones) artworks & talking benches

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Stop 2: Leas Cliff Hall 
a. history – construction – programme
b. William Harvey statue

Walk 2: Along The Leas passing the Leas Pavilion Theatre and the Leas Lift

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Stop 3: Step Short Arch
a. Folkestone’s role in war
b. construction
c. War Memorial
d. poppies

Walk 3: Down the Road of Remembrance

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Stop 4: Harbour Station / Harbour Arm entrance
a. role of trains bringing soldiers/holidaymakers
b. history of ferry / hovercraft services
c. Hamish Fulton’s metal sign
d. Grand Burstin Hotel
e. regeneration plans

Walk 4: Along the Harbour Arm, taking in views of the Harbour 

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Stop 5: Lighthouse on Harbour Arm

a. history
b. Weather is a Third to Place and Time artwork
c. Champagne Bar

Walk 5: Back along Harbour Arm and towards Harbour

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Stop 6: Harbour
a. fish market
b. history of fishing c/f activity today
c. seafood stalls
d. Rocksalt

Walk 6: Along The Stade to Sunny Sands

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Stop 7: Sunny Sands
a. beach & Coronation Parade
b. views to France, Harbour Arm, East Cliff, Dover Strait, the Warren & Samphire Hoe
c. Folkestone Mermaid (Cornelia Parker)

Walk 7: Back along The Stade and across to Creative Quarter entrance


Stop 8: The Old High Street
a. history
b. role of Creative Quarter
c. Quarterhouse

Walk 8: Up the Old High Street and onto The Bayle, highlighting galleries, restaurants and coffee shops

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Stop 9: The Bayle
a. history
b. Parade Steps
c. Shangri-La
d. British Lion
e. pond – child’s mitten (Tracey Emin)

Walk 9: Around The Bayle into Church Street

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Stop 10: Church of St Mary and St Eanswythe
a. history of christianity in Folkestone
b. life & sainthood of St Eanswythe

Walk 10: Through churchyard and along The Leas towards the Leas Lift

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Stop 11: Leas Lift
a. history – construction – importance
b. take lift down to Marine Parade

Walk 11: Along Marine Parade to entrance of Lower Leas Coastal Park


Stop 12: Lower Leas Coastal Park
a. background, construction & awards
b. Fun Zone
c. Amphitheatre
d. Adam Chodzko’s Pyramid

Walk 12: Through Lower Leas Coastal Park to beginning of Zigzag Path

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Stop 13: Zigzag Path
a. history

Walk 13: Up the Zigzag Path and along The Leas to The Grand Hotel

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Stop 14: The Grand Hotel
Finish by the Earth Peace sign in front of The Grand Hotel on The Leas

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If ever I need a respite from the hubbub of Folkestone town centre, there is no better area to take cover in than The Bayle. Bordering the Harbour via the Parade Steps, the Creative Quarter by Bayle Street and Sandgate Road at the end of pretty Church Street, it provides a welcome haven of peace and quiet.

Just off the beaten track, it is largely undiscovered by all but locals.

Today, I am accessing it from the recently refurbished Parade Steps that run from Harbour Street, alongside Gillespies bar at the True Briton.

Folkestone has more than its share of crippling paths and stairways, not least the Metropole Steps and Zigzag Path that link the main beach from The Leas, but the hundred or more steps that need to be negotiated here match the most difficult. Their saving grace is that they do afford the intrepid climber fantastic views of the harbour and the Channel beyond when, as is essential, they pause for a breather at each level.

At the top you encounter not only Shangri-La, now discredited as a wartime German spy centre, but also fine multi-occupancy buildings like Blue Diamond House on Bayle Street.

Eschewing the Bail Steps, that lead back down to the Old High Street, I turn left at the friendly Guildhall pub onto The Bayle itself.  Within a hundred yards I come across the Bayle Pond Gardens, lovingly maintained by the residents’ association.

The pond is home to another of the Folkestone Artworks found scattered around the town. One of Tracey Emin’s collection of “baby things”, a bedraggled, brightly coloured mitten, is attached to the railings that encase the pond.

Properties, a mix of attractive brick and weatherboarded cottages and modern apartment blocks, are sought after and, as this recent house hunter can attest, relatively expensive.

Moreover, the significance of this part of town was recognised when number 5 Bayle Street was chosen to launch the fabulous Folkestone Living Advent Calendar programme on 1st December last and, fifteen days later, the Dance Easy / Folkestone Yoga studio at number 19 took its turn in the festivities.

In addition to the already mentioned Guildhall pub, this compact area also boasts Folkestone’s oldest watering hole, the British Lion, reputedly built no later than 1500, and Charles Dickens’s local when he stayed at nearby 3, Albion Villas.

Recovered remains from archaeological digs have revealed that the area was occupied in the late Iron Age and Roman periods, but it was not until the seventh century AD that Folkestone gained its most celebrated citizen.

The daughter of King Eadbald, St. Eanswythe, an intelligent, wilful and devout young woman, rejected numerous Anglo-Saxon suitors and opted for the religious life by establishing a small nunnery and dedicating herself and other women to prayer and service of the poor. On her death in 640, her tomb became the object of prayer and pilgrimage and her relics were sought after and venerated. She was made a saint almost immediately.

Standing between bare winter trees and amidst battered headstones, the current Church of St Mary and St Eanswythe, built upon a twelfth century original, is a lovely, tranquil space.

There are several routes in and out of the churchyard. My personal favourite is to walk through the internal gate, along the path (which starts on Priory Gardens) back to the War Memorial, taking in glorious views of the Channel above the rooftops of Marine Parade.

I’ll leave my favourite rock band (again) to encapsulate how I feel about The Bayle:

Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart

You just gotta poke around.

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With the cricket season finally over, perversely heralding the return of summer, my wife and I decided to resurrect our walking regime on Sunday.

Five miles west of Ashford, on the edge of the Greensand Ridge, lies the village of Pluckley which, despite a population of little more than a thousand, lays claim to two impressive titles – “the most haunted village in Britain”, home to between 12 and 14 ghosts, and the location for The Pop Larkin Chronicles written by H.E. Bates, who lived in a converted tithe barn in neighbouring Little Chart Forstal.  Set in the “never had it so good” nineteen fifties, the best known of those novels is The Darling Buds of May, which inspired a popular Sunday evening TV series in the nineties.  Pop Larkin’s sunny, optimistic disposition was never better characterised than in his catchword, “perfick”, a rural version of Del Boy’s “lovely jubbly” in Only Fools and Horses, fittingly both TV roles played memorably by David Jason.

The majority of this particular walk winds through apple orchards with pleasant views across the Weald.  It has been a vintage year for Kentish apples, and this is evident in the bulging crop tugging at the upper branches of the trees, urging them to kiss the ground which is equally well populated with “drops” of different varieties.  Our taste test reveals that they range from succulent to woody.  The overriding impression, however, is of their immense size.  Stacked boxes and short step ladders signify the advent of harvest.

Setting off from the car park of the 540 year old Black Horse pub, where furniture is said to rearrange itself from time to time, we head towards the adjoining villages of Little Chart and Little Chart Forstal.  The latter boasts a lovely and surprisingly large village green, and is bordered intermittently by neat and handsome  houses.

Now “it is a truth universally acknowledged” that any good walk culminates in well deserved refreshment at a hostelry.  The true glory of this particular walk is not, as might be imagined, the abundance of apples, but the fact that not only does it end at one pub, but another is thrown in for good measure at the half way point too!

So, on a warm late September morning, we rest our legs with “a half” (appropriately) and a coffee respectively in the garden of the friendly Swan at Little Chart, accompanied only by birdsong and the rustling of trees.  The food menu is eye-catchingly unpretentious (sausage, egg and chips rather than Sunday roast – Pop Larkin would have loved it), but, having already stocked up with a large breakfast at home, it is too soon to eat (so I’m told).

The stated length of the walk is 4 miles, but as we are out of practice and get lost periodically (beautiful though they might be, apple orchards do all tend to look the same), our legs insist that we have covered more like 6 miles.

Two and a half hours after we set off, we return to the village as the groundsman tends lovingly to the now redundant cricket square.  Seeking sustenance at the Black Horse, my rustiness in walk management is exposed when we discover to our disappointment that, despite the mouth-watering array of meals displayed on the blackboards, the pub only serves roast dinners on a Sunday.  Whilst the gargantuan yorkshire puddings scream “eat me”, we are only looking for a snack (so I’m told).

However, taking the country rather than motorway route home, salvation awaits at the delightful Village Tea Rooms in Headcorn, which doubles up as an attractive gift shop.  Here I am able to indulge my weakness for smoked salmon, which arrives in a toasted baguette whilst Janet, having initially dismissed the idea, tucks into a large and, to her mind, uncharacteristically moist and delicious, carrot cupcake.

Nothing left to say but……….perfick!

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The great German philosopher Nietzsche said it induced all truly great thoughts, Dickens felt it was the only thing that prevented him from exploding and perishing, and Ellen DeGeneres said her grandmother had taken it up at the age of 60 and now, at 93, nobody “knew where the hell she was”!  Moreover, it can boast almost two and a half million “likes” on Facebook.

If you haven’t already guessed, it is walking – simple, old-fashioned, placing of one foot in front of the other, the “first thing an infant wants to do and the last thing an old person wants to give up”.  It is the  most perfect form of exercise – health giving, stress busting, sociable and sustainable.   It is no longer the sole preserve of gaggles of retired teachers and postmistresses hiking from pub to pub, though organised Ramblers trips remain popular, but it has increasingly become the focus for major fund-raising events (witness the many “walks for life” around the globe), and many couples and families view it as a key part of their social life.

It may surprise readers who cannot buy their daily paper from the corner shop without getting into the car that walking is by far the most popular outdoor recreation in the UK – the proliferation of guide books on the shelves of your local WH Smith store is striking evidence.  Even in the home of the enemy  – the internal combustion engine – the number of walking trips has more than doubled, from 18 billion to 42.5 billion, in the last 20 years.

Over the past couple of years my wife and I have, armed with one of those guide books, increasingly devoted our Sundays to a countryside or coastal walk of between five and ten miles in Kent.  Lovely scenery – oast houses, meadow flowers, orchards and hedgerows –   accompanied by birdsong and captivating glimpses of wildlife, all richly compensate for the occasional hardships of mud, barbed wire fences and impossibly steep stiles. A visit to a local hostelry or tea rooms, either en route or at the end of the walk, completes the perfect afternoon. 

Yesterday was a case in point when, setting off from Frittenden church, we took a seven mile walk in the surrounding countryside, the mid point of which was the National Trust owned Sissinghurst Castle, the former home of writer Vita Sackville-West.  Here we sat outside the newly refurbished Granary restaurant with a coffee and a scone before taking a stroll around the acclaimed gardens, designed by Sackville-West herself, and then resuming our adventure. 

No walk would be complete without at least one unplanned detour, adding to the challenge and provoking a temporary raising of voices whilst the map is turned every which way and the book’s author is cursed for his imprecise use of the language.  But we haven’t got completely lost yet!

Walking in the countryside also provides the perfect environment in which, free from the noisy distractions of TV, neighbours and traffic, we can chat calmly and clearly about our plans –  the decisions to get married after 27 years and for me to take early retirement were both made on a cold February afternoon in a muddy field halfway between Shoreham and Otford!

Cynics will accuse me of over-romanticising the subject, of portraying a rural idyll that no longer exists (if it ever did), to which I plead not guilty.  Walking is the perfect antidote to today’s rushing, thoughtless world and an refuge, if only a temporary one, from its bombardment. 

On a more pragmatic level, it supplements the more frenetic gym regime and helps to prepare us both physically and mentally for the challenge of those lung bursting San Francisco hills and Lake Tahoe ski trails!

So, if you haven’t already, try it!  Approach it with an open mind and you might just find it’s the perfect workout and therapy.

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I have presumed that anyone visiting this blog might wish to know a bit about its author.  Although the following can also be found under”About” at the top of this page I thought I would post it here too as part of the initial scene setting.

I was born in October 1952 on the day tea rationing ended in Britain (good timing, that) and, as an only child,  enjoyed a happy childhood, revolving mainly around football and cricket.  I had the good fortune of growing up during the sixties, the music of which provided a thrilling soundtrack to my childhood.  I attained a BA (Honours) in English and European Literature at Essex University, writing my dissertation on the novel “At Swim-Two-Birds” by Irish novelist and journalist Flann O’Brien.  This was followed by studying towards an MA in Anglo-Irish Literature at Leeds, majoring on Joyce, Beckett and Yeats and producing a paper on the novels of Patrick Kavanagh (“The Green Fool” and “Tarry Flynn”).

Eventually, I exchanged academia for the last refuge of the modern scoundrel and joined the UK civil service in March 1980.  I subsequently spent 29 years in the Department for Work and Pensions and its many antecedents, latterly in human resources and diversity before securing early retirement in March 2009. 

My interest in travel led me to undertake a Level 3 BTEC Advanced Certificate in Travel and Tourism via home learning.  I completed the course in December 2010, achieving a Distinction in all three elements – understanding the travel and tourism industry, tourist destinations and tour operations).  My ambition now is to concentrate on writing, for which I believe I have some aptitude, and, of course, to publish on a regular basis.  I expect to focus on travel in particular, though I suppose it is the nature of the writing experience, especially for a novice such as I that I may be drawn into other directions. That is part of the excitement of this journey. 

Aside from reading and writing my passions are walking, skiing, cricket (as a member of Kent County Cricket Club), baseball (a fan from afar of the San Francisco Giants), association football (a life long fan of Gillingham), music (principally folk, blues, country and West Coast rock), theatre and eating out.

And, of course, my wonderful wife Janet whom I married in Vegas on Halloween 2009 after 27 years together.  I am grateful for her support and encouragement.

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