The Folkestone Downs
Inspired by Camilla’s post, I thought I would mention another great place for a walk – The Folkestone Downs. Not the most tranquil of places being situated next to two major routes to the continent, but a challenging walk at a place full of interest and some great views if the weather is right. You may also meet the Highland Cattle who live here as part of the conservation management system.
Managed by White Cliffs Countryside Project, The Downs consist of several hills; the aptly named Sugar Loaf Hill, Round Hill, Holywell, Castle Hill, Cherry Garden Hill and Cheriton Down. If you have all day, you can take them all in. If you are more limited on time, then it is easy to cut short the walk accordingly.
Park along Crete Road West near to the junction with the A260. Make your way through the gate, and head left across Holywell towards Sugar Loaf Hill named after the shape of the traditional conical sugar loaves. From this side, it is a gentle climb up to the top, you can descend the same way, or take the steep route straight down. Walk across the meadow at the bottom, through the gate and towards the giant dual carriageway supports. You can look up and see the road enter the Round Hill Tunnels. Amazingly, at this point, you are also standing directly over the route of the Channel Tunnel.
Make your way through the gate to the left, and follow the path along the side of the A20. Follow the path until you meet a minor road called ‘Castle Hill’. No longer a through route for traffic, turn right up this lane. At the top, turn left along the small footpath that runs alongside the road, indicated by the ‘North Downs Way’ signpost with an acorn carved on the top. This takes you out onto Cherry Garden Hill.
With views towards the Channel Tunnel terminus, there are frequent sightings of buzzards floating overhead. Follow the footpath down to the left, past the remnants of an ancient hazel coppice, towards a gully where in the winter, water bubbles straight out of the chalk. Up to the right, there is the Folkestone White Horse. Cut out of the hillside in 2003 by a team including a large number of Ghurkha soldiers.
Follow the footpath signs across the field towards some woodland, and then turn right making your way up the very steep slope to the viewpoint at the top. This is the ideal place to spend some time observing the workings of the Channel Tunnel, watching the trains unload and reload before disappearing through the portals on their way to the continent.
From here follow the path alongside the road at the top of the downs, past a mass of yellow gorse bushes, back towards the top of Castle Hill Road where we were earlier. Take the path to Castle Hill with its earthworks left from the 12th Century. Choose whether to go round the side, or carry on upwards to the keep. There are great views from the top, and if you are lucky you get to see some incredible skies.
Cross the A20 again, but this time, over the carriageways and make your way back to where you started.