A walk from Sandwich to Richborough Roman Fort
- Click on the image above to view gallery
Heron seen on the walk
Today we did a walk we had intended on doing for a long time and that is to walk from our front door to the Roman Fort at Richborough. We have lived in Sandwich for 15 years and we couldn’t quite work out why we had never done it before now. Today was going to be a hot day and many people were out and about in Sandwich enjoying the weather.
As we walked along the footpath known as the Rope Walk where centuries ago ropes were made (it is a long straight section of the old town walls) we had good views of a young Green Woodpecker feeding on the grass. I can’t say we’d ever got that close to one before.
A Heron also allowed us to get very close so within a very short distance from home we had seen plenty of wildlife. For a short while the walk followed a road, which wasn’t the most exciting part of the walk, but we soon got back onto a footpath that followed the course of the River Stour for a while. Along this section of the path we saw lots of different butterflies. After two years of dreadful weather which have meant bad news for butterflies in general I think this year I’ve already seen more and in greater numbers, which is really good news. We saw huge numbers of Ringlets and Meadow Browns but these species hardly ever sit still for a second, so sadly no pictures this time.
The history of the Roman Fort at Richborough is very interesting. It is thought that the Romans arrived at this location for the first time in AD 43 when the sea would have been 2 miles further inland than it is today. Here, all but certainly, the invading Roman forces first landed and established a bridgehead, called Rutupiae. This event was later commemorated by a mighty triumphal arch, whose cross-shaped foundations still survive here. Proclaiming that the Roman conquest of Britain was complete, this also provided an impressive gateway for arrivals at what became the province’s main entry port.
Richborough Roman Fort 1
Richborough Roman Fort 2
By the middle of the 3rd century, however, Roman Britain was under attack by sea-borne Saxon and other raiders. The once-prosperous commercial port of Rutupiae was hastily fortified, first by the digging of the great triple ditches and ramparts still visible around the site of the arch. But within a decade or so the defences were completely revamped, and Richborough was provided with its circuit of towered stone walls and outer ditches, becoming one of the most important of the ‘Saxon Shore’ forts. It was also among the last to be regularly occupied: there is evidence of a large Roman population here in the early 5th century, some of them worshipping in the small early Christian church discovered in one corner of the fort.
We really enjoyed our look around the site, which we had been to on several occasions before even if we had never walked there before. We sat eating our lunch enjoying the view, which included watching a freight plane taking off from Kent International Airport (formerly RAF Manston). The view is dominated by the cooling towers of the decommissioned power station at Richborough. It has not operated as a power station since closing in the early 1990’s. In fact a raffle was run to win the chance to push the button for when the towers were to be demolished. A young lad won and I guess he must be grown up by now and the towers are still standing. They really are a prominent local landmark and light aircraft use them as a navigation aid and I believe there was a lot of opposition around the time they were going to be demolished. The site was also used a few years ago as the location for the television programme Full Metal Challenge.
Strand Street in Sandwich
After enjoying our lunch we walked back into Sandwich past the River Stour once more. The river is tidal and it was obviously nearing high tide: the current was very strong and the water very muddy. We popped into the Sandwich Nature Reserve and were greeted by the local ducks wanting some food. We paid our twenty pence for a bag of food and set off for the pond. It has to be said though we didn’t stay very long: the mosquitoes were all over us and as we’d no insect repellent we retreated rather quickly. It’s such a shame too: it’s a lovely place to have a leisurely wander but we were being eaten alive.
We carried on walking for a while and ended up having a very enjoyable cup of tea at the Salutation Gardens tea room: somewhere I’d promised myself I would visit for a while. The garden is a place I keep meaning to visit too so I’ve put it on my long list of things to do in the future. It had turned out to be a really interesting and enjoyable walk and proved to us that we really should spend more time in our immediate vicinity.