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Independent shipping news, photography and more from in and around the port of Dover.
Independent shipping news, photography and more from in and around the port of Dover.

Samphire Hoe

Welcome to a page all about what is arguably the UK's most recent piece of land!

The Hoe looking back along the coast towards Dover and the famous White Cliffs.

Samphire Hoe is a unique site. It was formed in the late eighties and early nineties using nearly five million cubic metres of spoil resulting from the construction of the Channel Tunnel. Extending to some 30 hectares it was opened in 1994 by Her Majesty the Queen and  President Francois Mitterrand after  the area was landscaped. Visitors can enjoy rambling, cycling, birdwatching, angling and a host of other outdoor pursuits. With stunning views of the chalk cliffs and across the channel to France together with an abundance of wild flowers, birds and animals, there is something for everyone.

Make sure you visit soon.

Back in the day! Samphire Hoe during the construction of the Channel Tunnel. The sections used to line the three cross channel tunnels were unloaded here and the chalk marl spoil that was excavated from the tunnels was landed here too.

A bit more detail.....

Earlier attempts to cross the channel using a tunnel under the seabed had never been successful. Some would say that plans for a fixed link with our French neighbours was never completed because of the financial considerations. Others would no doubt point out the fact that we were suspicious of an invasion by Napoleonic forces! However, on the 1st December 1990 the two countries were united physically. Not since the last ice age had this been so and that was over 450,000 years ago!

 

Once the excavation stage was finished and the tunnel lining sections were in place the site was extensively landscaped. The process included laying geo-textile to consolidate the newly formed land which was then hydro seeded with a mixture of grasses and wild flower seed. Five different seed mixtures were used on different areas to suit the conditions. On the remaining areas, Rye Grass was sown and this has gradually died out to allow plants that grow locally to colonise naturally. Your web editor worked here at the time, in what was a fascinating project completed by the tunnel builders TML for operators Eurotunnel. Eurotunnel then allowed the land to be used by the local community and visitors for enjoyment by all. The results have been very successful, the attraction now complimenting surrounding areas of outstanding natural beauty.

The site in the 1950s. Coal was mined here briefly but unfortunately it was never a particularly successful venture.

Why Samphire Hoe?

In 1994 a competition was organised by Eurotunnel and local newspaper the Dover Express to establish an appropiate name for the site. The competition proved extremely popular and was eventually won by local resident Mrs Gillian Janaway who name it Samphire Hoe. Her idea came from the fact that the plant Rock Samphire grows in the area. Hoe being a piece of land which extends out into the sea. So, together the site was christened Samphire Hoe.  

A stroll around the Hoe affords some striking views of the chalk cliffs, seen here in the early evening sunshine.
A Red Kite rides the thermals above the Hoe.

There are many bird species here. Some are resident and are joined by many more  seasonal migrants and unusual visitors passing through. Ravens now nest locally and share rocking clefts and ledges with seabirds and birds of prey. Visiting waders and waterfowl can often be seen along with warblers and even the occasional Osprey. Finches, Linnets and many more can be seen if you are a little patient and possess a pair of binoculars. If you are very lucky you may even catch a glimpse of a resident pair of Peregrine Falcon that have settled here. There are so many species using the Hoe it is impossible to list them all here. Sightings are recorded and are displayed on information boards near the visitor centre to give you an idea of what is about. Volunteer Rangers are always on hand to offer advice on what has been seen.

It's not all about the birds however. There are many species of Moth and Butterfly as well as Dragonflies and Damselflies darting here and there around the lagoons. Other wildlife to watch out for includes Fox, Adder and of course Rabbit. 

Orchids are just one of the many plants to be found on the Hoe.
Cattle and sheep graze on the Hoe to keep unwanted species under control.
One of the easy walking routes on the Hoe.
A stylised image of the Samphire Tower, an interesting oak-framed building clad in blue painted larch boards. It was designed by Jony Easterby and Pippa Taylor.
There is good angling to be had from the sea wall. Care must be taken during windy weather and if conditions are exceptionally poor, it is closed for safety reasons.

How to find Samphire Hoe.

Access to Samphire Hoe is via a tunnel through the chalk cliffs. This tunnel was constructed in 1974 in preparation for the aborted attempt of an earlier fixed link with France. It is sign posted off the A20 just outside Dover on the London bound carriageway. There is ample parking around the information and refreshment kiosk. Remember to buy your parking ticket as this helps to maintain the site for everyone's enjoyment. The Hoe is open every day from 0700 until dusk. The refreshment kiosk is open Saturday and Sundays and every day from Easter to September. 

 

For more detailed information visit www.samphirehoe.co.uk

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