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The Grand Shaft (and more) at Dover

The Grand Shaft (and more) at Dover

Postby Dave » 23 Sep 2017 17:17

Dover can be a port of call as well as an embarkation port, so I think that highlighting places to visit within a very short distance from the cruise terminal might be of interest.

I posted a description of my solo walk around Dover's Western Heights and other places of interest some time ago - Samphire Hoe and Dover's Western Heights (or... One Way to do Dover!) - but on today's walk with my wife we saw some parts I'd missed previously. Hence this update. :D

We parked at Samphire Hoe and followed the North Downs Way over Shakespeare Cliff into Dover. Almost directly opposite the marina is The Grand Shaft, and we were looking at the information board outside...

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...when a delightful lady who happened to be working there today invited us to go in and explore. This might not sound particularly special, but The Grand Shaft is only rarely open to visitors and we jumped at the chance!

The shaft in question is a triple spiral staircase that goes from sea level to the top of the cliff and it was built in the early 1800s. The reason for its construction was that soldiers stationed at the barracks above needed to be deployed to beach level 300 feet below quickly but the distance by road was a mile and a half. This incredible construction deep inside the cliff allowed soldiers to descend in minutes.

Here's the view from the bottom:

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There are a lot of stairs! :D

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This is the view looking down from the hole at the top:

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In Victorian times the three separate stairways apparently suited the extreme class distinction of the age. One stairway was for Officers and their Ladies, a second was for Sergeants and their Wives, and the third was for Soldiers and their Women!

As we continued into town we came across a wonderful Banksy piece that I'd not seen before...

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As I might possibly have mentioned before ( ;) ) we do quite a lot of walking on the North Downs Way. My wife hadn't seen the Start / Finish Line before, so we paid it a visit. It's suitably impressive. :D

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After a coffee stop in town we headed up to the Western Heights where the views (as I hope I showed in the earlier topic) are truly spectacular. The route we took was slightly different this time and we came across the foundations of Knights Templar Church:

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The fortifications at the top of the Heights are vast in scale and I couldn't resist just one more photo...

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While it's possible to explore the part of the fort shown above, the bit shown below is very much 'out of bounds'. If you look carefully, the walls are lined with razor wire and there's a security camera at the far end. This area is marked on my map as 'Immigration Removal Centre'. However, although we could also see buildings with barred windows, there wasn't a single person in sight.

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If you don't mind a bit of a climb, Dover's Western Heights provide numerous places of interest, fantastic views of Dover and the castle on one side and the harbour and France (on a clear day) on the other, and there are very few people about too!
Dave

Booked cruise 2019: December - Caribbean on Marella Explorer 2
Remaining land-based holidays 2019: July - Peak District, August - Harris and Highlands, October - Brecon Beacons
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Re: The Grand Shaft (and more) at Dover

Postby rdw123 » 24 Sep 2017 08:39

Great photos Dave. Didn't even know that that stairwell existed. Guess that was probably the idea. Thanks for posting them, very interesting.
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Re: The Grand Shaft (and more) at Dover

Postby Dave » 25 Sep 2017 18:16

rdw123 wrote:Great photos Dave. Didn't even know that that stairwell existed. Guess that was probably the idea. Thanks for posting them, very interesting.

It's very easily missed. The entrance is below the cliff and that side of the busy dual-carriageway road is quite grotty - pedestrians generally walk on the other side by the marina. I came across the entrance to the Grand Shaft by chance some weeks ago when I walked on that side of the road for no other reason than I'd always walked on the other side!
Dave

Booked cruise 2019: December - Caribbean on Marella Explorer 2
Remaining land-based holidays 2019: July - Peak District, August - Harris and Highlands, October - Brecon Beacons
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