Saxon Shore Way
153-mile (246 km) Saxon Shore Way from Gravesend to
Hastings offers the walker an unrivalled diversity of
scenery from the wide expanses of marshland of the
Thames and Medway estuaries to the majestic White Cliffs
of Dover. Spectacular panoramic views follow the route
along the escarpment of the old sea cliffs from
Folkestone to Rye and from the sandstone cliffs of the
High Weald at Hastings.
The historian is treated to
the "Saxon Shore" forts built by the Romans at Reculver,
Richborough, Dover and Lympne, to the landing place of
St. Augustine and of Caesar and to defences of more
modem times against Napoleon and Hitler.
The shoreline provides a treat for the naturalist and
is a delight for birdwatchers. Sections of the route
pass through internationally recognised areas of
importance for birds – look out for divers and
grebes, peregrines at Dover Castle and Bewick Swans
wintering on Romney Marsh.
The Saxon Shore Way is a great walk for all interests
and all abilities, from family groups to the seasoned
A History of the Walk
Back in the 1970s there was much talk in footpath
circles about the concept of a footpath circling the
coast of Great Britain. It didn't then come to
pass, but it spurred a group of enthusiastic volunteers
to see what they could do to create a route around the
coast of Kent. It quickly became apparent that the
modern coastal route would not provide an ideal or
varied walk. So they cast back some 1500 years and
decided upon a route that would follow the Roman
shoreline in the third century AD. The Romans were
plagued by Saxon pirates and fortified the shoreline
against them. From that the walk took its name.
Initial work was done by Andrew Gray assisted by
Sheila Cameron, working under the auspices of the Kent
Rights of Way Council, an organisation which represented
many Walking and Rights of Way groups in the County.
When she left, the main coordinators became Andrew Gray
and Elsie Straight, who, with the assistance of many
volunteers and the limited resources of Kent County
a 140 mile path around the coast.
On 22 June 1980, His Grace, the Lord Archbishop of
Canterbury unveiled a sign stone at the Grove Ferry
Picnic Site near Sandwich and then led a fine body of
walkers along a stretch of the route, to formally open
Guides to the Walk
The first guide was a set of cards published in 1980
by the Kent Rights of Way Council (no longer in
the help of the KCC and the Countryside Commission. These were
lovingly prepared by Andrew Gray who wrote the text and
drew the fine linear maps which ran from the top to
bottom of each page. These sold very well
and within three years there was talk of the need for a
Mick Whittingham stepped into the breach and agreed
to rewrite the guide, so that it formed a series of
short circular walks. The first sections, along
Kent's north coast, were published in 1986, but
development on Kent's south coast held up work on the
By 1989 Kent Ramblers had assumed responsibility for
the guide and Peter Miller oversaw the production and
final distribution of the last sections as far as Ham
Street (the walk then finished at Rye). That guide
also sold very well. We are in the process of
updating these as the basis for new guide and can supply
copies of the work in progress (see left hand column) to
anyone interested and willing to accept its limitations.
Next, in 1993, came a book by playwright Alan
Sillitoe with photographs by Fay Godwin. This
entertaining commentary on the many points of interest
on or near the Saxon Shore Way made no attempt to offer
directions to the walker and there are suggestions that
the author did not always follow the correct route.
The book did contain as an appendix the linear maps from
the first guide mentioned above. The black and
white photographs were largely disappointing.
In 1996 came a splendid Recreational Path Guide produced
jointly by the Aurum Press and the Ordnance Survey in
association with the Kent County Council and covering a
route extended to Hastings. Written by Bea Cowan,
author of many fine guides to long distance walks in
Kent, that guide too is no
longer available except at extortionate prices from
on-line second-hand booksellers.
Finally in 2006 Kent County Council produced a book
of eight circular walks, each incorporating part of the
Saxon Shore Way. Although a very fine book in its
way, it covered only a small fraction of the route and
did not include route directions.
At the present time there is no guide to the Saxon
Shore Way in print. As mentioned earlier, we in
Kent Ramblers are working on a new guide but it is a
long way from completion. Meanwhile, the section
from Sandwich to Capel-le-Ferne follows almost the same
route as the England Coast Path which is described (but
in the opposite direction) in our
Guide to the Kent
Coast Path: Part 1.