Deal is much nicer than either of us remembered it. It is well kept, clean and tidy, with a lot of tiny back streets and alleyways. The King's Head does very reasonable lunches, but better still, we found a German run pub/restaurant with superb food and wines. It's called the "Three Compasses and run by licencees Friedl and Klaus Mayr.
In the afternoon, groups of morris dancers, mummers and musicians entertained outdoors in unbelieveable weather. Being sailors songs, they were quite bawdy, and some really bawdy, but I don't think most children would have understood the old-fashioned language or innuendo.
The Sea-Shanty festival with musicians and Morris dancers
After the meal, we met again in the "Star and Garter" for the more adult session. An ancient bed-warming pan was handed round to everyone in the room in turn. If you accepted, you had to sing, play an instrument or tell a salty story.
At first I passed it on, but after two pints of export lager, half a bottle of wine and a vodka and tonic, I thought I should treat them to some shanties on the guitar. I aught to have known better, after all, I haven't played for a year. It was as awful as you could imagine. They were very polite and clapped the first time. By the second round, they were getting restless and there were as many titters of laughter as applause. Before the third round, I felt a sudden attack of decency and left for the B&B.
Deal, from the pier head.
Sunshine cottage is in the village of Shepherdswell, also known as Sibertswold. Very peaceful until 8am. The one church bell then tolls continuously for over a minute, with the same effect as the brain-fever bird. Not surprising the pub is called "The Bell."
Apart from that, it was a comfortable place and the breakfast was unbelieveable. To start you help yourself to a variety of breakfast cereals, cooked apple, with or without blackberries, cooked plums,prunes, dried fig, fresh figs and fresh blackberries; I forget what else. After that lot, you can choose between continental breakfast, full English or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Toast and coffee are a natural part of the meal. Served in an attractive room in a very old house, the atmosphere is both relaxed and luxurious. It is actually cheaper than in North Kent.
The walk was quite picturesque and varied. We drove to St.Margarets at Cliffe and parked on the sea-front. The route took us onto the white cliffs of Dover towards Deal. We met a large number of twitchers (bird-watchers) on the top with telescopes. It seems a Tawny Pipit, (anthus ?) was spotted the day before. It is scarce in Britain. Rather facetiously, I asked someone in one group if it was one of those "small brown jobs." He looked at me for a second, smiled and replied "Yes, about the same colour as your tan." Now all I get from Louise is "little tawny Pipit." I should have kept my gob shut.
Above St.Margaret's Bay, near Dover.
A few hovering kestrels kept any small birds hidden.
Looking back from the cliff-top, you can see the busy traffic going from Dover to Calais and back, with four ferries, a hovercraft and the Sea-Cat all in view at one time.
The most noticeable flowers were harebells (campanula rotundifolia) and a few scabious (scabiosa columbaria).
Near Walmer, we turned inland and found quiet woods and pasture land. The blackberries were plentiful, but not as tasty as others we have tried. We found some massive earthworks built by generations of badgers in a couple of locations. One group had built setts continuously for over a hundred metres.
The return over fields is to the Bluebird tea rooms by the cliffs. With good reason it has views over the sea. It used to be the old coastguard station and stands by a huge obelisk which is the war memorial to the Dover Patrol.
The teas are very good. Fresh crab sandwiches are available with home-made cakes too. The scones are a good size and tasty, but our batch had been over-cooked and were a bit dry.
We wandered down to the beach and walked along the strand looking at the seaweed and shells deposited by the surf. It was nice to unwind before the drive home.
Map: OS Explorer 138. Distance 8.85km (5.5 miles)
From the sea-front car-park in St Margaret's Bay, pass the toilet block to head north-east. About 15 metres on, the Saxon Shore Way leads away from the beach up concrete steps. At the top of the steps, turn right. Keep ahead until you reach a wooden gate. Go through that and continue on the Saxon Shore Way.
Keep to the coastline passing the war memorial and Bluebird Café to your left. As the cliff inclines downhill, you can see Deal pier in the distance.
After some time, the path passes a car-park on the left, enters an enclosed section and descends via stone steps. Turn left along a tarmac road.
After approx 70 metres, take a footpath on the left which ascends via stone steps. This path curves right, then sharply left into a straight section enclosed between wire fences.
When the silver wire fencing on the left runs out and a rusty wire fence begins, take a footpath on the right. You can see chalets on your right. After a few paces, take another path on your left.
Turn right at a junction of paths and when you reach a road, turn left.
At the top of the hill, turn left into a road called the Avenue. Within a few paces, cross the road and turn right into a public bridle-way marked with blue arrows.
When the bridle-way forks, take the right path. Another 20 metres on, take a footpath on the right, marked with a stone and double wooden hurdles. This leads you across the right-hand hedge of a field.
This soon enters Kingsdown Wood. Soon after entering, turn left on an obvious path. When you meet another bear left, and left again when it forks.
Passing to the right of a small depression, follow the path round to the left. The path soon bends right to keep within the boundary of the wood. Keep on this path until you meet a triangle bordered by paths.
Take the left-hand path out of the wood.
Immediately out of the wood, turn right and wander downhill with the fence on your right. Go through a gate and enter a lane. Cross over the lane into an enclosed path within a woodland shaw going downhill.
Keep ahead when the Deal walk joins this path obliquely from the right. After 20 metres, a pole with blue arrows marks two paths. Take the left-hand option.
When the path emerges from the wood, turn left along a field, but within the woodland boundary.
At another junction a public bridle-way turns right. Ignore that and continue ahead on a footpath.
This is a long path which ends just beyond a couple of angle-iron posts. Bear left along a field-edge.
You soon enter the wood again, but remain close to the field edge. At another junction, turn left.
Continue ahead when another path joins from the left. At the next junction, take the very broad path off to the left. At yet another multi-junction of paths, keep ahead. You should soon be able to see the war-memorial and tea room ahead.
Continue going ahead in a southerly direction. When you walk uphill past East Valley Farm, the track bends right. A right of way does exist directly ahead, but is barred by electric fencing.
Follow the track to the right past East Valley Farm, then left after 20 metres, away from the farm.
This track decends and then rises to a junction of tracks at Ridgeview.
Turn left along a track with dense scrub on it's left. As the scrub ends and the field starts, you can see the sea in the distance ahead of you. Look for a footpath on your right, marked by a post with a yellow arrow on a green background. This path takes you into Bockhill Farm Nature Reserve, which is owned by the National Trust.
As you top the ridge, you feel on top of the world with the sea in front of you.
When the track eventually swings round to enter Bockhill Farm, take a path on your left, which follows a hedge. Keep the hedge to your right.
The Bluebird café appears ahead. Continue ahead until you reach a post to the left of the café.
Turn right and treat yourself to a crab sandwich or cream tea in the café.
After tea, return to the post and turn right towards the sea. Take a path to the right and retrace your steps back to St Margaret's Bay.