At Dover Cliffs
Scarce hear the surge that has for ages beat,
Sure many a lonely wanderer has stood;
And whilst the lifted murmur met his ear,
And o’er the distant billows the still eve
Sailed slow, has thought of all his heart must leave
― William Lisle Bowles¹
Take a walk at the White Cliffs of Dover (Map from the National Trust)
Note: My Flickr album is organized sequentially.
Dover as a tourist destination is a little like the Poconos circa 1980 something. It’s heyday has long past and there are placards everywhere promising redevelopment. It doesn’t have the shopping of Brighton or the history and dining of Bristol. It’s a port city you pass through. Who knows though what places like Dover (and the Poconos) will like be post-pandemic as the cost/inconvenience of international travel changes domestic tourism.
As a gateway to the Cliffs of Dover the city is fine (even IF the relationship seemed badly neglected). My first afternoon was spent ambling around the town centre (getting my bearings) and probing the approach to the infamous cliffs. I’m not a typical traveler and don’t depend on guide books or countless hours of research on the internet. My trips are usually centered around an event (e.g. football match) or a place and the rest is just freeform exploration and discovery. The absence of an agenda makes it very easy to whittle the hours away at a coffee shop.
The eastern approach to the cliffs via the Athol Terrace/Coast Path was kind-of-maybe-sort-of-closed because of falling rocks (chalk in this case) so I found an alternative route via Castle Hill Road. The site of Dover Castle from any vista is impressive but dominates the horizon as you make the climb up Castle Hill Road. My adventure for the day unfortunately ended at Upper Road due to overambition². On my way back to the hotel I took a picture of St. Martin’s Guesthouse because of its promise of ‘tea and coffee making facilities’ (plus it’s the surname of the pastor at my church).
Miracle of the Feet
It was a fast start on Sunday morning after my feet (and legs) had a couple of hours to rest. My approach to the park (national trust) was via Upper Road. There’s a church on the route that was damaged in WWII and is now preserved as a Grade II listed building. I stopped for a photograph on the top of Connaught Road and a sign post for Burgoyne Fort (for Bear). There was NO sidewalk/trail/path on Upper Road but it was SO early that cars only passed sporadically.
I finally made it to the visitor centre and my first vista of the White Cliffs of Dover! I had NO idea HOW big the park was so my decision to “call it quits” the day before was just lucky. On Saturday night, whilst subjecting my feet to a recovery regimen that was some Mr. Miyagi style stuff, studied a map of the park. The walk to the lighthouse is about 50 minutes, BUT I stopped to explore every nook and cranny SO it was well north of that number. My return trip included a descent into Fan Bay (feets of strength™) before climbing down to sea level to explore the ribs of a wreck on Langdon Beach.
I left the park via the aforementioned eastern approach (the one with the signs about falling chalk). This route gives you a nice birds eye view of the port and takes you under the A2. I’m not a very good writer because this post omits the absolute majesty of this amazing space but if you’ve ever wanted to live in a Turner painting visit the White Cliffs of Dover. I think English skies are so beautiful because all that chalk acts like a filter when it’s picked up by the breeze.
IMPORTANT: There are few times when my feet and legs have been so tired/sore so IF you plan on traversing from sea level to lighthouse to bays and holes (the latter is inappropriate) wear something more durable than Vans (and bring sunscreen).
¹Sonnet: At Dover Cliffs, July 20th 1787 by William Lisle Bowles (poetry.com)
²Overamition in my case is a combination of NO food, a very early start, and poor footwear
(1) A quote from Brick: A Social History by Carolyne Haynes:
“Bricks do not stand alone, they work best with a sticky material to bind them together. So, wound into this story of bricks is an exploration of the use of lime. If bricks are mostly ignored, lime is rarely mentioned at all. Even the literature about it is thin on the ground, and yet arguably it is right up there as one of the most important chemicals in our history. Still widely used today, lime was the material that allowed us to build our houses, fortifications, churches and other structures for hundreds of years. Without lime it would have been very much harder to make brick walls strong. There are alternatives. We could have stuck them together using clay, but lime is long lasting, versatile, relatively easy to use and surprisingly strong. It’s an unsung hero that played a huge part in our history and I think it is time that we took a bit more notice of it.”
“The stones for these early churches were rarely freshly quarried out. With Roman ruins near to many monastic settlements there was generally a rich source of materials to plunder. Scavenging building materials from these ruined settlements was easy. The builders were able to bring in dressed stone, window and door surrounds that were already carved and ready to be fitted into the new buildings.”
“The first monastic settlement there had been built using timber, but as the abbey grew in importance so did the buildings. In the tenth century, the church [St Albans Abbey] was reconstructed using stone and bricks. With a dearth of available new stone in the area, the Roman ruins of Verulamium became the adopted ‘quarry’. Probably in part because of the lack of stone, the Romans here had used bricks extensively and as these were still in good condition they were used alongside the stone.”
(2) Poems on the Underground: Note by Leanne O’Sullivan
“It is a difficult and rare virtue to mean what we say, to love without dissimulation, to think no evil, to bear no grudge, to be free from selfishness, to be innocent and straight-forward.” — Lead, Kindly, Light
(1) The art of imitation – 19th century Islamic revivalism (The British Museum)
(2) A poem by Robert Frost:
TO THE THAWING WIND
“Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
Make the settled snowbank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;
But whate’er you do tonight,
Bathe my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ice will go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit’s crucifix;
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o’er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out of door.”
(1) A quote from Absolutely On Music by Haruki Murakami:
“In that sense, Seiji Ozawa is simultaneously an unschooled ‘child of nature’ and a fountain of deep, practical wisdom; a man who must have what he wants immediately and who can be infinitely patient; a man with bright confidence in the people around him who lives in a deep fog of solitude.”
(1a) A quote from Score: A Film Music Documentary:
“One of the responsibilities we have as film composers, is we’re the last people on earth who on a daily basis commission orchestral music. Without us, the orchestras might just disappear, and I think that will create a rift in, you know, human culture. I think it will be such a loss to humanity.” —Hans Zimmer
(2) I was in Southampton last weekend (for Saints versus Wolves) and need to keep plussing my original post on The Gateway to the World.
(2a) Crossing the Bar by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
(3) A quote from Remembering Walt:
“On the Park’s opening day, I was walking down Main Street with a cup of coffee in each hand, when I ran into Walt Disney. He stopped me and I thought I was going to be fired, but he just wanted to know where he could get a cup of coffee.” —Scotty Cribbes
(3a) A quote from Designing Disney:
“When we design any area of a Disney park, we transform a space into a story place. Every element must work together to create an identity that supports the story of the place—structures, entrances and exits, walkways, landscaping, water elements, and modes of transportation. Every element must in its form and color engage the guests’ imagination and appeal to their imagination.”
(4) “Like church, the organ will invite the tears…”
(5) Another quote from Designing Disney:
“Like music, color is one of the great joys of life, mysterious and wonderful.
(6) A quote from the Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton:
“To immerse ourselves in Japanese aesthetics and to nurture a sympathy for its atmosphere may help to prepare us for the day when, in a museum of ceramics, we encounter traditional tea bowls, for example, by the artist Hon’ami Koetsu. We won’t believe, as we might have done without the legacy of 600 years of reflection on the appeals of wabi, that such pieces are puzzling blobs of unformed matter. We will have learnt to appreciate a beauty that we were not born seeing. And, in the process, we will puncture the simplistic notion, heavily promoted by purveyors of plastic mansions, that what a person currently finds beautiful should be taken as the limit of all that he or she can ever love.”
(1) A cool link between Nolan Bushnell and Retta Scott. The quote is from They Drew As They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years (The 1940s – Part One) by Didier Ghez:
“From early 1983 to February 1984, Retta got to animate, develop character designs, and paint backgrounds (along with Mary Blair’s husband Lee) for a project that excited her more than working on commercials. The project was a half-hour animated Christmas special called The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t. Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, who at the time owned Pizza Time Theater, had decided to use his company to produce the special.
(2) Watch The Real Mary Poppins (2014) on Hulu. I had NO idea one of her (P. L. Travers) early mentors was George William Russell (Æ). I have an original copy of The Interpreters (1922) on my bookshelf. It was acquired during my dystopian binge-reading and probably first made known to me in The Future As Nightmare by Mark R. Hillegas (also on my bookshelf). Here’s Hillegas on The Interpreters:
“While the anti-utopian tradition was establishing itself during the early decades of this century, other works than those we have so far discussed were being written with a more or less strong infusion of anti-utopian values…The excellent but little-known The Interpreters, for example, tells of a night of revolt against a Wellsian scientific state, during which five imprisoned intellectuals discuss the philosophical and ethical justification for the rebellion.”
(3) A quote from the Art of Atari® by Tim Lapetino:
“Design was at the root of Atari’s success, even from its earliest days. What began as a scrappy Silicon Valley startup with Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney at the helm grew to pioneer the new industry of video games…This ethos came through from the earliest days of Atari, and Bushnell explained that their approach was necessarily [emphasis mine] rooted in creative thinking and design as a competitive advantage.”
(4) Except from the Promise by Æ:
Those delicate children,
Thy dreams, still endure:
All pure and lovely things
Wend to the Pure.
Sigh not: unto the fold
Their way was sure.
Scan is from Art of Atari® by Tim Lapetino
After a proper English breakfast in the clubhouse we departed for the Crystal Caves in Hamilton Parish. The caves were discovered in 1908 by two boys in search of a lost cricket ball. The guided tour is expensive, but the walk across Cahow Lake (at a depth of about ninety feet below the surface of the earth) is pretty memorable.
In searching for a description of the cave, this one from Beautiful Bermuda was particularly colorful:
“As we walk at ease upon a sturdy pontoon bridge, we behold the varied forms of nature’s tracery and marvel at the gleaming peninsula of purest crystal. Flashing, scintillating stalactite formations crowd together like vain beauty for a peep at their own charms in its smiling mirror. Stalactites and stalagmites, often suggesting the droll shapes of animals and plants, heighten the fantastic effect. Here and there, after centuries of toil, they have at last met and the columns so formed seem to support the natural roof. One stalagmite in particular attracts our attention, presenting as it does a great bank of snow. Each step we take across the pontoon bridge reveals some fresh object of delight.”
After the tour, we once again crossed the causeway on our trusty scooters, and made our way to St. David’s Lighthouse. This is the second lighthouse on the island and offers a commanding view of L.F. Wade International Airport. The property isn’t as well maintained as Gibbs Hill (there’s no gift shop, restaurant, and well manicured approaches) but it’s ridiculously raw and accessible. We spent a couple of hours on St. David’s Island also visiting the Lost at Sea Memorial.
For centuries St. David’s Island occupied a unique position in this little Colony…Seafarers they were, born with the taste of salt sea spray in their mouths and a barometer in their brains. They were proud of their homes…built by their forefathers…Suspicious of anything new, they…clung stubbornly to a tiny island in a changing world.
The rest of the afternoon was spent lazily on the beach. I haven’t written much about the beach, but the entire trip was punctuated by half-days on it (or in the infinity pool).
We had dinner at The Dining Room at Gibbs Hill Lighthouse and this is not a kitschy -or- touristy restaurant. The menu is incredible and the views are spectacular. The dining room is very small SO make sure you make reservations in advance. I had the stir fried sriracha jumbo shrimp & scallops and it was my favorite meal of the trip.
Our last day. It was Sunday so we headed to Hamilton for mass at St. Theresa’s Cathedral. We arrived a couple of hours early to take some final photographs of Hamilton. We ambled along Front Street and snapped some shots of the Cabinet Building and Cenotaph.
St. Theresa’s opened in 1932 and is the Cathedral of the Diocese. Once again, the prose in Beautiful Bermuda is most illustrative:
“Gracing a promontory in the lower reached of Cedar Avenue, the chase loveliness of the church greets the eye with medieval splendor. Its Spanish architecture harmonizes gables, windows and doors, above which rises a newly constructed Tower carrying the inevitable cross so dear to the hearts of the Catholic people…A beautiful white marble altar, sentineled by the red lamp of the Eucharist, graces the tiled sanctuary and invites devotion.”
The Bishop said our mass and his energy/enthusiasm was a fitting exclamation to our week of restoration, recuperation, and renewal.
We returned the scooters after mass and spent our final afternoon on the beach. We had dinner at Coconuts Restaurant at The Reefs Resort and Club. Our flight was ridiculously early on Monday morning but we still managed to enjoy a couple of Dark N’ Stormy(s) as we packed furiously and watched the lamp of Gibbs Hill Lighthouse from our cliffside balcony partially light the dark horizon.
“This little life from here to there –
Who lives it safely anywhere?
Not you, my insulated friend:
What calm composure will defend
Your rock, when tides you’ve never seen
Assault the sands of What-has-been,
And from your island’s tallest tree,
You watch advance What-is-to-be?”
– Edna St Vincent Millay, There Are No More Islands, Any More
Notes & Sources
Beautiful Bermuda: The Standard Guide to Bermuda by Euphemia Bell
Your Bermuda by George Rushe
Bermuda Journey by William Zuill
“New occasions teach new duties;
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward,
Who would keep abreast of Truth.
Lo, before us, gleam her camp-fires!
We ourselves must Pilgrims be,
Launch our ‘Mayflower,’ and steer boldly
Through the desperate winter sea,
Nor attempt the Future’s portal
With the Past’s blood-rusted key.”
– J.R. Lowell
– Wallace Stevens
“Do you wish to be great? Then begin from what is slightest. Do you plan to construct a high and mighty building? Then think first about the foundation of humility. When people plan to erect a lofty and large building, they make the foundations all the deeper. But those who lay the foundation are forced to descend into the depths.” – Saint Augustine
Home-Thoughts, from Abroad
Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on orchard bough
In England – now!
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Bossoms and dewdrops – at the bent spray’s edge –
That’s the wise thrush; he signs each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
– Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
– Robert Browning