Living The Dream – the Beachcomber and Split Shifts

Day 23 –St Mary’s Bay to North Foreland -12th June – 33.2 nm

07:10 on the water, heading out under leaden skies and through a slight chop, towards Folkestone. The early start meant I could sneak through the edge of the Hythe Range while the gunslingers were still cuddled up in beddy-boes.

By Folkestone the sun was out, the breeze had dropped, it was warm and things were positively enjoyable. Unfortunately my digestive system wanted to join the party and I had to scramble up the shingle in search of toilet facilities. On the beach I met a gentleman whose job was to clean the beach here. He did a good job it seemed to me. We got chatting and I learnt of the history of Folkestone, the beach and the landmarks.

I also learnt that, as part of a rejuvenation programme, the beach had been replenished with a good deal of material, going from a scruffy 6ft foreshore to a wide, sculpted oasis of smooth shingle. He also wistfully pointed out, that he now got the same number of hours (and wages) to clean the ‘new’ 100 yard wide beach as he did for the previous narrow strip – life’s a beach I suppose...

On the first UK trip I met and spoke with people daily. It was obvious you were doing something unusual when you hauled your little boat soggily up the beach. People were inquisitive, they wanted to know what was going on. It was always nice to chat, to have a little company and to hear local tales and stories. 

But in 2015 things were different, I was not alone this time, and we were staying in a van. I had gone from being an adventurer to a tourist. At times it seemed people only wanted to talk if they thought they could make money from us. This made my Folkestone chat all the more enjoyable; it’s the little things in life...

But miles had to be made, the sun was still out as I got back on, to head towards my second corner, this time at Dover. Here I played by the rules again, but this time the people were helpful. I called Dover Port Control on Ch 74 and they patiently guided me across the harbour entrances, to the slight consternation of one of the ferries, as he approached the easternmost entrance.

Running out of tide, I landed at St Margaret’s at Cliffe, only for another chat, this time with a fisherman who was hauling his boat up the shingle.
Team Manager arrived and we ate bacon and egg butties from the beach-side cafe, while we waited for the tide. Today was going to be our first split-shift of the trip.

A newly retired ex-Police Officer came to chat, he was initially interested in the van but grew increasingly interested in the trip - he had just started paddling. “Living the dream” he commented; I must admit that wasn't the first thought that wearily came to mind.

So much talk in one day! I couldn't remember being so popular, I must have forgotten to put on my well-polished, grumpy-old-git aura this morning.

It clouded over and as the beach emptied, I dodged a French thunderstorm to get back on.
It was dark and grey but oily smooth, as I happily headed north for the first time.

The tide was feeling sorry for me and I glided swiftly towards North Foreland, to finally call it a day at Joss Bay. Here we encountered the seemingly most dangerous part of the day, dodging the local ‘youf’ and a rocket-powered transit van. We ate the world’s worst (so far) fish and chips in Broadstairs,  before heading off to find a campsite, preferably one with razor wire.

Later we fell asleep to the sound of Ramsgate’s boy racers, who were obviously in serious all night training for the upcoming Big Engine-Little Willy Championships of Kent.

Good miles today - poor forecast tomorrow.