As Saturday was not a very bright day we took the opportunity to get the shopping and laundry done so as to leave Sunday free in the hope that the weather would be better. In the event it is cloudy with sunny intervals which we think is good enough so… Off we go!
Half-way to the bus stop, Tigger reminded me that I had wanted to add my pair of pocket binoculars to the collection of stuff in my bag and suggested I go back for it. As I left home for the second time, the 214 swept past. I took to my heels and Tigger, seeing me in the distance, asked the driver if he would wait for me. He did. As I have said before, London bus drivers are often kinder and more helpful than they are often given credit for.
The bus took us to St Pancras station where we bought train tickets and found we had 15 minutes to buy breakfast to take with us. Then we went up the escalator to the Southeastern Rail services. Railway buffs will spot that this means we are taking our second ride on the justly famed HS1, the High Speed train serving the southeast.
Our plan is to go to Dover and we bought tickets for that destination. It is disappointing, then, to learn that we can go only as far as Folkestone in the train and have to change there to a rail replacement bus for the last leg of the journey.
As we head south, the sky becomes overcast, leaving no hint of sunshine. However, as the weather in this strange little country can change almost by the mile, perhaps conditions will be better beside the sea.
We reached Folkestone in about one hour (the scheduled journey time to Dover is 1 hour 11 minutes) and then had to leave the station to wait for the coach that would ferry us to Dover. Some of the passengers had luggage with them, to the apparent annoyance of our driver.
"Luggage on a Sunday?" I heard him mutter, and later, "Bleeding luggage" when a last-minute passenger arrived.
The coach journey lasted about 20 minutes but took us only as far as Dover Priory station, being a rail replacement coach. As we pull into the town, Dover Castle appears looking down from its hill.
From there we set out on foot for the centre. By the time we arrived, we were looking forward to lunch but every eatery seemed to be closed except for a few unattractive cafes. We eventually found an Italian restaurant and had a reasonable though not brilliant meal.
These days, Dover seems to be a dying town, decaying from the centre outwards. The number of boarded up premises adds to this impression. For many tourists and foreign visitors, this is their gateway to Britain. What a poor impression of our country it must give.
We paid a visit to the Museum. It’s quite a good little museum whose main theme is the history of Dover. They have managed to gather an interesting collection of objects, enhanced by models and tableaux, and I appreciated the fact that photography is allowed.
I am going through something of a Victorian phase at the moment and was pleased to see that the Museum owns a lot of Victorian objects, including this paddle wheel clock, which may appear a little misty as I had to photograph it through glass.
After this we explored the town in our usual way. Wherever you go in Dover, the Castle tends to remain a brooding presence. We did not visit it this time but hope to do so on another occasion.
The weather had been variable all day, alternating occasional sunny intervals with overcast skies and threats of rain but now the sun began to shine. We decided to go to the seafront.
Despite the town’s dilapidated aspect, there are interesting things to see if you are lucky or know where to find them. Compare the present church of St Mary, above, with the ancient and ruined Old Church of St James.
Dover is mainly a sea port, as soon becomes obvious from the lines of heavy lorries thundering past. It is not a seaside town in the conventional sense and its beach, made of shingle, is relatively small.
In a seafront shelter, someone had – curiously – left a mirror propped against a partition. Never one to miss a photographic opportunity, I used it to make a serendipitous self-portrait.
More interestingly, perhaps, I managed to catch this gull as it flew over. If you look carefully, you will see that his legs are invisible. This is because they tuck their legs under their feathers when they go on longer flights.
Creatures of the air were plentiful but there was also the occasional sea creature to be observed. Well, just the one, to be exact. He was not waving, nor drowning, just swimming. Rather him than me.
As evening came on, the sun disappeared. It became cooler and there was a threat of rain. We returned to Dover Priory station and took the coach back to Folkestone.
We caught the High Speed train back to St Pancras. Despite the temperature now being cooler, the train’s air conditioning was still blowing away at full pelt and I began to feel cold.
For your amusement, Tigger took this photo of me wearing “mandarin gloves” – that’s where you push your hands into the opposite sleeves to keep them warm. Hm, my hat looks a bit dusty.
Despite its decaying look and atmosphere, Dover still manages to muster some sights and objects of interest. There were others that I couldn’t cram in here. So, at some point we will return and I can only hope that Dover’s fortunes will change and that it can again become an attractive as well as useful town. Surely, the port must be generating enough money for some of it to be spent on counteracting the neglect.