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Friday 7th August 2009
A day out to visit the old hoverport and the Viking ship at Pegwell Bay

 Friday 7th August 2009 was not very friendly weatherwise. As Iain and I started our journey by train to Ramsgate station it was very gloomy in Catford. The train ride, via a couple of changes of train, took nearly two and a half hours. As we travelled through the Kent countryside there were hints that the weather was brightening up, and now and then the sun did manage to shine. However all the while we were in the Ramsgate area the weather never really did live up to Accuweather's forecast..........

The weather forecast for our day out in Ramsgate
.......or maybe it did. It depends on exactly what you think the symbols depict. To me they say the sun is peeping out from behind the clouds, but the actual weather did correspond to the descriptions. It was mostly cloudy, and many time it looked like we were in for a shower, but fortunately for me, travelling without a coat or any other rain protection, it did stay dry.

 Our objective for this day out was to visit the demolished hoverport at Pegwell Bay, and to have a look at the replica Viking ship that is nearby. There is a good write up about the hoverport to be found here. To get to the hoverport meant a walk of nearly 2.5 miles. All my recent days out, and the practice I have had with long walks, I found this walk to be really easy going. Although having Iain along for company helped a lot as well. The furthest we walked from Ramsgate station was actually a tad short of 2.5 miles. (bizarrely, the distance by car is shown as 2.5 miles, and the distance by foor as 2.4 miles. The only difference is that cars have to go round the roundabout outside Ramsgate station clockwise, and by foot we could walk anti-clockwise. )

View Larger Map
 On the map above (assuming you can see what I can see), "A" is ramsgate station, and "B" is The Sportsman Pub.  The hoverport, and it's access roads are just to the right of where it says "End", just above and to the right of  "B". If you switch to Satellite view, and zoom in, the outline of the old hoverport is clearly visible. As well as the direct route, along the blue line between "A" and "B" we also wandered around the hoverport, and explored a little bit of the coastline as far as the cliffs one end, and the marsh the other end would allow use. Add in walking out to the main road to see the Viking ship, and then back into the hoverport again, we estimate that we walked in excess of 6 miles just in the Ramsgate area. Apart from going up a steep hill on the approaches to Ramsgate station, on our way home, it all seemed remarkably easy.

 Our first view of the hoverport was from the cliffs that are just to the north east of the hoverport.
First view of the hoverport from the cliffs
With the (apparently) disused Pulborough power station in the background,
this was our first view of the hoverport.
 Before the hoverport was built, I presumed that Pegwell Bay was probably just a marshy area surrounded by cliffs. Maybe it was, but there is a picture of an old oil painting here that suggests slightly otherwise.

Hoverport markings
Although all the building have long since been demolished, the markings where the hovercraft were stationed has resisted the sea, and are still very much intact. This was also true for all the marking out for the car parking area which nature is doing her best to reclaim.

View north across the concrete apron
Above is the view taken along the concrete apron that the hovercraft "took off" from as they went out to sea.
I took two differnt cameras with me, and the view below was taken with the other camera.
North, across the concrete apron
In the very centre of this picture is a dark "blob". It is a shallow cave in the chalk cliff.

The chalk cave
This is a closer view of the cave. I wanted to try and see it close up, but we couldn't get to it for reasons that I will explain soon

sea grass
The view above is looking approximately south, or looking back from nearly as close as we could get to the cave entrance.
Stretching out into the sea is what I believe to be called sea grass. At low tide it would be visible as a green carpet covering nearly all of the northern end of the bay.
  That sea grass has one unfortunate effect, and one unfortunate attribute. It tends to trap a lot of detritus in the corner of the bay, and as it does it leaves behind a lot of decaying matter that is washed up onto the shore line. The end result is that corner of the bays stinks, and the water looks disgusting. The decaying vegetation, and the stink were the main reason I did not attempt to get to the cave mouth. It would have meant wading through water that was just YUCK, but probably not that deep to wade through. Later on, as the tide went down, and the waters retreated, it is probable that I still would not have wanted to make my way through the big stink.

Start of the Thanet chalk
About a third of the way up this picture is as far as we got towards the cave that is tantalisingly just a 100 - 150 ft further on.
The green scum at the water's edge is clearly visible, as is the beige coloured rotting vegetation, and other detritus in the foreground. This point also marks the start of the Thanet chalk beds as can be seen where the cliff turns from brown (to the left) to white (to the right). This change in geology would have been far easier to see if I could have photographed it head on from out to sea.

 After our first wander around the hoverport, and exploring up as far as the big stink, we headed out back to the main road to take a look at the Viking ship.  There is a bit more information about the Viking ship on the BBC's website.

Viking boat at Pegwell Bay
above, the view from the landward side, and below, the view from the seaward side
Viking boat at Pegwell Bay

close up of the serpents head at the front of the Viking ship
Close up of what is probably supposed to be a serpents head on the front of the Viking ship. To me it looks more Chinese in origin - a dragons head.

Commemorative stone for viking ship
Commemorative stone alongside the Viking ship
(note: I have "photoshopped" in the 49 of 1949 because it was too indistinct on the original photograph)

After looking at the Viking ship we went back down to the hoverport for one last look around. We had hoped that there was a path under the cliffs that would take us south to a pub we had spied some way down the main road. We found a large fence, probably put up as part of the hoverports outer perimeter, stopped us going that way. It was probably just as well because what we could see of our hoped for path from the road, was that it would have probably gone through more stinking marshland. So it was back up to the Viking ship, and then down the road to The Sportsman pub where we had one pint before making our way back to the station via two more pubs on the way. There was one other thing that had to be done before we left the hoverport and made our way to the frist pub, and that was to have a paddle. This time Iain was there, with his camera, to capture me almost getting my shorts soaking wet !
Paddling in the sea on the concrete apron of the old hoverport
Paddling in the sea on the concrete apron of the old hoverport
 It was quite possible that giving my feet in a good cooling off in the water was what made the walk back so easy to do. What is less well explained is how I survived the whole 2+ hours journey back by train without suffering extreme nicotine withdrawal symptoms !