England’s prime gateway is at the far south-eastern corner of the country, at Dover in Kent.
England’s south-eastern corner is also the country’s closest point to France and the European mainland so, since before the Romans, it has been the main point of entry and exit. The white cliffs are great for guarding England, because they restrict where it is possible to land and, until the huge breakwaters of Dover Harbour were built, it could be very difficult to make a good landfall in bad weather on the few narrow beaches.
These cliffs are also the eastern end of the North Downs hills which we are going to explore here, and which are captured in the North Downs Landscapes photo-book. The Downs are a chalk ridge that runs from Dover in Kent, skirting the southern edge of London and on to Farnham in Surrey.
The image on the left shows the beach of St Margarets-At-Cliff, which is the starting point for cross-channel swimmers, on the right edge, with Dover Harbour in the background on the left of the picture. On the right we see the main road into Dover with its line of houses below the cliff, and Dover Castle on the downs above providing a lookout and protecting the harbour.
Dover Castle is looked after by English Heritage which offers a lot for visitors – the castle itself and the ancient church and lighthouse, and the tunnels which formed a deep shelter for troops and war planning.
The National Trust White Cliffs car park and visitor centre , just east of Dover, is a great place from which to walk on the clifftops and experience the lovely views in all directions. There is a free car park and you can enjoy a light meal with great views at the café.
There are great walks along bridleways and footpaths on the species-rich chalk grassland along the cliff top. You can go for miles along the coast on public rights of way towards Deal and Sandwich to the north-east or Dover, Folkestone and Rye to the west.
In the spring and summer, take time to enjoy the wildflowers, including many orchids, with butterflies flitting between the flowers.