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HYTHE  WALKS

Points of Historical Interest

Each of the walks on our website has a number of points of interest, which are detailed below and contain links to further information. If you would like to include one or more of these locations in your preferred walk, select the link to the appropriate walk. All our walks contain one or more of these points of interest.

Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway

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Typically known as the RHDR, this 15 inch gauge light railway opened in 1927 between Hythe and New Romney, a distance of 8 miles (12.8 kms). It was the fulfilment of two millionaire racing drivers dreams (Captain Jack Howey and Count Zborowski – he of Chitty Bang fame). The following year (1928) an eight-mile (...km) stretch from New Romney to Dungeness was completed. Then, the RHDR was marketed as ‘The Smallest Public Railway in the World’ – possibly a dubious claim.

During WW2 the line was requisitioned for military use. It was regularly deployed for transporting equipment, ammunition, construction materials and troops. After the war the line was re-opened by the famous comedians, Laurel and Hardy.

Ever since, the RHDR has remained a hugely popular tourist attraction that has relied on large numbers of enthusiastic volunteers and a complement of permanent staff.

https://www.rhdr.org.uk/

WWII Sound Mirrors

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Also known as Acoustic Mirrors, Concrete Dishes, or Listening Ears, Sound Mirrors are large concrete structures designed as an early warning system for Britain to detect incoming enemy aircraft before the invention of Radar.

They worked by using their curved surface to concentrate sound waves from the noise of enemy aircraft approaching across the Channel and focus it onto a microphone or an operator using a stethoscope. Results from mirrors at different locations were then compared to calculate the height, speed and flight path of the aircraft.

 

Radar quickly superseded the mirrors by the start of WWII.

 

Visit www.romneymarshhistory.co.uk for more information on locations and how to visit.

Stutfall Castle

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Stutfall Castle was a Roman fort on the Saxon Shore built at the end of the 3rd century.

 

It was formerly known as Lemanis Fort, a naval base on a hill overlooking the sea but, over the centuries, the sea has receded and the remains now stand part way down the hill below Lympne Castle, more than a mile from the coast.

 

Visit www.ecastles.co.uk for more information.

Royal Military Canal

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This is a unique military defence, built 1804-1809 as the third line of protection against an anticipated invasion by Napoleon’s forces.

Now a Scheduled Monument, the canal runs for 28 miles (45kms) between Seabrook and Cliff End (near Hastings). It was constructed by ‘Navvies’ under the direction of military officers. Artillery batteries were located at every 500 yards, where the canal ‘kinked’ affording straight lines of fire. After the threat was over, the ensuing years saw it used for barge transport; a public service also operated between Hythe and Rye.

Now managed by the Environment Agency, the canal has long since been a haven for wildlife and a much enjoyed public amenity. A footpath, and cycle way in parts, runs the entire length.

http://www.rmcp.co.uk/the-royal-military-canal/

Ladies Walk

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Not named Ladies Walk until later in the 19th Century, this tranquil thoroughfare was part of a cart-track and footpath (Marine Walk) that connected the town to the beach. At that time, the beachfront was populated by fishing huts, military coastal defences, coastguard lookouts and the odd cottage.

 

Once the military expanded its presence in Hythe after the Napoleonic wars, the cart-track was laid out as a fashionable tree-lined walk. It was then given its current name and became a popular location for, among others, military officers and their partners to stroll. It still remains a popular and tranquil connection to and from the beachfront. Recreation plays an important role in this relaxed part of the town, where it is home to bowling, cricket, tennis, football and sailing clubs.

Marine Walk Street, albeit much shortened from its original length, has long since connected the High Street to the canal.

https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5266234

Tin Tabanacle

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This ‘temporary’ timber framed corrugated iron clad church was ordered ‘off-the-shelf’ as a flat-pack from a company in Croydon. It was assembled quickly in 1893 to serve Hythe’s rapidly expanding population. Made possible by generous local donations, after four months the ‘Tin Tab’ (as it is known today) was ready and was dedicated to St. Michael and All Angels in September 1893.

 

Capable of accommodating a congregation of about 280, it had a homely feel, being entirely clad with wood. St. Michael’s continued as an active place of worship until 2011. After closure, it was sold to a private owner. Its altar and organ were transferred to other churches. It is a listed building and serves as popular local venue for hire to clubs and so on, and is also available for hire as a wedding venue. 

https://tintabernacle.co.uk/

Hythe Triangle

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This triangular piece of land bordered with Kentish ragstone walls is an old animal pound. Animal pounds were common features in towns and villages, being used to impound stray animals. A release fee was payable by owners, typically to a local corporation (as in this case) or a lord of the manor. Hythe’s pound is very rare as triangular pounds were unusual, and more so as it has survived intact. The three original cart-tracks (now residential streets) that surrounded the land defined its shape. 

 

As an animal pound it was in use at least until the late 1870s. By the late 1890s it had become a watering station for horses, probably by the military at that point. It has survived attempts to have the land developed and following the most recent attempt, the pound was Listed in 2012 and is now owned by a charitable trust.  

https://hythetriangle.uk/

Coastguard Cottages

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Hythe’s coast guard house and cottages were built in the mid 1860s and housed a number of coast guards and their families.  Although smuggling was by then on the wane, duties to prevent smuggling remained an important coast guard role. For this reason, coast guards were encouraged not to become too familiar with the local population, hence being stationed and housed separately from the town.

 

Before Hythe’s first lifeboat station (at Fisherman’s Beach) was built, coast guards were responsible for sea rescues, and securing vessels and wrecks.  After closure of the Hythe coast guard service, the houses were sold as private residences, but remain a fine reminder of the town’s maritime heritage.

Lympne Castle

Described as a fortified house in the Register of Listed buildings, Lympne Castle is believed to date back to the 13th century with mid-14th and 15th century additions.

 

A Saxon abbey once stood on the site, converted in the 11th century by Lanfranc, the first Norman Archbishop of Canterbury into accommodation for the Archdeacons of Canterbury. Later additions transformed the building into a house and it remained in the hands of the church until 1860. It was then used as a farmhouse until significant restoration and extension took place in the early 20th century under the Scottish architect Sir Robert Lorimer.

 

During WWI the castle provided accommodation for forces based in Lympne and later acted as a convalescent home for Canadian troops.

 

Lympne Castle is now a venue for weddings with its own Medieval-themed pub/restaurant and magnificent views over Romney Marsh.

 

Visit www.lympnecastle.com for more information and details of events.

Romney Marsh

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Covering an area of around 100 square miles, Romney Marsh is the largest coastal wetland on the south coast. Originally made up of many small islands, the great storm of 1287 changed the entire coastline and landlocked the main town of New Romney which now lies more than a mile from the sea.

 

The Marsh has a rich history and over the years life has centred on sheep-farming, smuggling and, owing to its proximity to the French coast, the defence of the realm.

 

The Marsh is also home to a number of lovely medieval churches.

 

Visit www.romneymarshhistory.co.uk  for more information.

Lympne Church

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© Copyright Chris Whippet and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The oldest part of the church is the tower, built around 1100 and Norman arches are in evidence.

 

Having suffered bomb damage during WWII, the stained-glass windows were replaced after the war by the War Commission.

 

Other items of interest include crosses carved by Crusader Knights, hangings from the Coronation of George VI in 1937 and the grave of Margaret Damer Dawson OBE (1873-1920), founder of the first British Women’s Police Service.

 

Visit www.lympneandsaltwoodchurches.org.uk for more information.  

Port Lympne Reserve

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Set in 600 acres and home to 900 animals across 75 species, the reserve is dedicated to conservation and as such provides a safe haven for many rare and endangered animals.

 

Owned since 1984 by the Aspinall Foundation, the site incorporates the Edwardian Port Lympne Mansion and landscaped gardens designed for Sir Philip Sassoon by the architect Sir Herbert Baker.

 

Visit www.aspinallfoundation.org for more information.

Shepway Cross

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Constructed of Portland limestone, the foundation stone of the memorial was laid in 1923 by William, 7th Earl of Beauchamp, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Admiral.

 

The cross was a gift from him and the land on which it stands was donated by the owner of Lympne Castle.

 

Visit www.warmemorials.org for more information.

Pedlinge Church

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The church, which is officially classified as a Chapel-of-Ease, was rebuilt in 1903 by Laurence Hardy of nearby Sandling Park as a ‘Thank you’ following the birth of his two sons and a daughter. A service of dedication was held by the Bishop of Oxford in the same year.

 

The Hardy family made many important gifts over the years including the oak reredos and altar table, and stained glass windows.

 

The chapel was passed from the Hardys to Saltwood PCC in 1967 with a small trust fund.

 

Visit www.lympneandsaltwoodchurches.org.uk  for more information.

Saltwood Castle

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Built in in 488 by Osric, the son of King Hengist of Kent, the first fortification here overlooked the sea which, during the centuries in between, has receded leaving the castle more than a mile from the coast.

After the Norman invasion it was designed for use as a residence for Archbishops. A defensive curtain, wall was added in the 12th century followed by interior buildings in the 12th and 13th centuries and the gatehouse in 1380.

Infamous for being the overnight stop for the knight’s plotting the assassination of Thomas Becket (1118-1170). In recent years it was the home of art historian Lord Clark of Saltwood (1903-1983), then his son Alan Clark (1928-1999), a minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government.

Not open to the public. Visit www.saltwoodcastle.com for more information and details of events.

Saltwood Church

With its origins in Norman times, the church has many interesting features including: a 13th century tower housing six bells – five dating from the 1720s, with the final bell added in 1912. 

 

A 16th century font with Victorian cover; two sculptures by Duncan Scott depicting St Peter and St Paul respectively and beautiful stained-glass windows.

 

Open every day. Visit www.lympneandsaltwoodchurches.org.uk for more information.

Hythe Water Mill

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Situated on Mill Lane, just east of the High Street, is Hythe’s former watermill, now a fine residence incorporating the restored mill. It has stood since at least 1793 when a major rebuilding took place.

From 1850 - 1932, the mill was owned by the Burch family, and became known as Burch’s Mill. Over the following years it fell into a state of disrepair, until purchased by the Marston family in 1962. The Marstons completed a full restoration of the four-storey mill, including all the machinery and the mill-pond. A public footpath runs to one side providing views of the mill-pond and its tranquil setting. 

Old Water Mill

Elham Valley Railway Museum

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Elham Valley Line Trust Countryside Centre and Railway Museum – Peene

 

Created in the 1980s, the Railway Museum illustrates the history of the Elham Valley Railway Line which ran along the beautiful Elham Valley between Canterbury and Folkestone from 1884 to 1947.

 

The site includes a reconstructed railway station, railway memorabilia, old locomotives, working models, children’s rides on a miniature railway, tearoom and lots more.

 

Visit www.elhamvalleylinetrust.org for special events and prices.

Summerhouse Hill

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Summerhouse Hill is a cone-shaped feature of the North Downs with a height of 485 feet.

 

Its name is reputedly derived from the summerhouse which was built there by the Drake-Brockman family who once owned the land. A family member suffered from Tuberculosis and the summerhouse provided a pleasant and airy place for him to rest.

 

Visit https://www.communityad.co.uk/exclusives/hawkinge-summerhouse-hill/ for more information.

Martello Towers

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These round coastal defences, built in the late 1790s to combat a potential invasion by Napoleon’s forces remain a familiar sight in these parts.

Originally, 74 towers were quickly built to protect vulnerable places along the Kent and East Sussex coastline. In charge of the defences work was Major General William Twiss.

These towers, based on a design used in Corsica, supplemented existing forts built from 1793 onwards (Hythe had three - Forts Twiss, Sutherland and Moncrieff).

Typically, towers were 30 foot high, had 13 foot thick walls and were equipped with a single cannon. 

Several towers remain in various states of repair. Some were converted to residences and one, at Dymchurch High Street, owned by English Heritage, is open to the public. Others were demolished or succumbed to the sea.

https://martellotowers.co.uk/kent

Shorncliffe Military Cemetery

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Shorncliffe Army Camp is a large military camp, established in 1794.

The Military Cemetery is thought to have been established in the early 1850s, with the first recorded burial in August 1856. MOD records suggest that the site was created solely for the interment of military casualties, and their families.

The Cemetery contains 471 WWI burials, more than 300 of which are Canadian, and 6 are Chinese Labour Corps. WWII burials number 81 – most of the casualties resulting from air raids on Shorncliffe.

Since WWII the MOD has continued to use the Cemetery for burials and cremations. There are around 350 non-wartime MOD graves present.

The cemetery is open to the public. Visit www.shorncliffe-trust.org.uk for more information and details of events.

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