I’ve heard a lot about Samphire Hoe and how it was made and wanted to go and see it for myself, so on a sunny, but cold winters day, we ventured out to explore Kent’s reclaimed piece of land.
Samphire Hoe is located two miles west of Dover in Kent at the bottom of a section of The White Cliffs of Dover. It is surrounded by the magnificent white cliffs which dominate the skyline of the area. The entrance to Samphire Hoe is through a tunnel in the cliff. There’s only room for one car at a time so you will need to wait at the traffic lights for your turn to drive through. There is no cost to enter Samphire Hoe but there is a small charge for the car park.
So what is Samphire Hoe?
It is a unique piece of land created out of the 4.9 million cubic metres of chalk marl that was excavated while they were digging the Channel Tunnel. This was used to make the 30 hectare site that is now a wildlife haven and a great place to explore. It has a tea kiosk, toilets and a visitors centre. The visitors centre is “eco- constructed” which incorporates a class room and exhibition area perfect for children and adults to learn about how the area was created and the wildlife that now thrives there. It is managed by the White Cliffs Countryside Project and the land is owned by Eurotunnel.
The chalk marl was moved to the surface from the tunnel by conveyer belt and then landscaped to create Samphire Hoe and this included hills and low lying wetlands. They really have created a fantastic area for the wildlife and there is plenty of that to see as you walk around.
It was named ” Samphire Hoe” by Mrs Gillian Janaway who won a competition to think of a name for this newly created piece of land.
Mrs Janaway is a retired school teacher and she thought of a passage from Shakespeare’s King Lear “There is a cliff whose high and bending head looks fearfully in the confined deep… The crows and choughs that wing the midway air scarce so gross as beetles; halfway down hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!”.
It is said that at the time of writing King Lear, Shakespere travelled through Dover on a regular basis and this may have inspired him to write about Samphire. Rock Samphire is a wild rock plant which was once collected from the Dover cliffs and this was apparently pickled in barrels to be sent to London where it was then used as a side to meat dishes. The first cliff in Dover on the west side is now known as Shakespere’s Cliff.
The “Hoe” part of the name is the name of a piece of land sticking out into the sea.
Samphire Hoe has around 100,000 visitors during the year and is an ideal place to cycle as it’s very flat ( It is also an accessible place for wheelchairs and pushchairs because of this ). It’s a great for walking, bird watching and sea angling. It’s such a peaceful, atmospheric, quiet space and a perfect place for keen photographers as the scenery is stunning.
There is a new addition to the park , The Samphire Tower. It’s 33ft High and is made of larch cladding painted blue. The tower was designed by Jony Easterby and Pippa Taylor and stands proudly looking out to sea.
Samphire Hoe is home to over 200 species of plants ( including around 5,000 rare early spider orchids) , 120 species of birds, 30 species of butterflies, 170 species of moths, 13 species of dragonflies and damselflies, 80 sheep and 10 cows. The sheep and the cows have freedom to roam around parts of the area and they are very friendly.
Apparently Samphire Hoe is an excellent place to fish too for sea anglers. Large amounts of fish are to be found in the area including Wrasse, Pouting, Pollack, Red codling, Bass, Dogfish, Mullet, lumpsucker, Bream, Scad, Garfish and Conger to name a few.
(N.b There is a small charge for fishing payable at the tea kiosk )
The beach at the end of Samphire Hoe is absolutely fantastic- so picturesque. Lots of rock pools and a stony beach covered in huge pebbles. It’s a bit of a clamber down to the sea over the pebbled waves on the beach, but it is defiantly worth it and what an amazing sound the waves make rolling over the pebbles.
We stopped for a while on the beach just to watch the waves rolling in and crashing against the rocks before we walked back through the grassy part of the park back towards the kiosk. The Kiosk is a very welcome addition to the park as it can be very bracing down by the sea and they do a fabulous hot chocolate which was very gratefully received.
Samphire Hoe is just stunning and it’s a great walk and has really has something for everyone. It’s so peaceful, picturesque and quiet. If going in the winter months do wrap up warm, as it can be very bracing being such an exposed area. You will need to take some change for the car park and wise to bring some money for the tea kiosk, as a hot drink is most welcome after a long walk along the front.