A few weeks ago my ears perked up to the dreamy “We’ll Meet Again” tune, a number one hit in 1940, and Dame Vera Lynn appeared on the TV, recounting what life was like as the “The Forces Sweetheart” during WWII. The television program went on to mention her other famous song, “The White Cliffs of Dover,” and cemented the National Trust landmark on my British travel list.
Fueled by a delicious rendition of classic fish & chips from Torbay of Hythe, we parked (for free) in the Dover Castle lot and carefully followed the trail markers alongside the road for 20 minutes to the entrance area. We walked past the toll booth without paying a fee, since they only took payment from vehicles.
On the other side of the wooden gates pairs and trios of wild horses fed on the long grass only a few meters away from the tourists. We trudged down a small worn path and peered down at the Port of Dover, “one of the busiest cruise ports in Britain and Northern Europe… [that] is known as England’s ‘Gateway to Europe'” (Port of Dover). We tread carefully, aware that the chalky white cliffs are soft, which leads to erosion and the occasional collapse; the major collapse of 2012 sent tons of the cliffside tumbled into the water (Daily Mail).
Some idiot had no caution as she strutted right to the cliffs’ edge to have photograph her, but two middle aged German women crept to the edge of the cliff on their stomachs to lean over the edge to take interesting photos of the landscape. Their husbands held their feet for a bit, and one pretended to push his wife over as she squealed in fright and protested. My mom and I also adopted that technique, and as far as I know, there were no casualties that day.
I admired the magnanimous cliffs above and below, partially striated with vegetation, and the small purple and yellow wildflowers scattered on the plateau. I imagined the view from the water. As a soldier. And the sweeping sense of nostalgia that they must have left with as they departed for the battlefield and the immense welling of joy that must have arose as they spotted the cliffs on their return journey. It is little wonder that the cliffs serve as an “official Icon of Britain and have been a sign of hope and freedom for centuries” (Visit Kent).
We ambled around for a bit and drove to view of the cliffs from Samphire Hoe, where the material dug out from the Channel Tunnel (to France) was deposited at the base of Shakespeare Cliff (Samphire Hoe). I would like to spend more time in both places, and on our next visit to the National Trust site, I would like to walk to the South Foreland Lighthouse.