Monthly Archives: September 2020

Victorinox Jetsetter@work Alox and Midnite Manager@work- two fantastic tools but of limited use when backpacking

Knife chat: A ‘memorable’ Victorinox- but what’s the point?

In 2005 a range of little multi-tools was introduced by Victorinox that included a removable memory stick, or flash drive, between the scales. Made to the usual high Swiss quality, they are not a cheap option, but are they of any use on trail?

Common to all of the Victorinox knives that incorporated a thumb drive is the ability to remove it, as here with the first generation Swiss Memory

Common to all of the Victorinox knives that incorporate a thumb drive is the ability to remove it, as here with the first generation Swiss Memory

The Victorinox Swiss Memory was one of the first generation range that featured a removable USB thumb drive, manufactured by Swissbit. The first models released had what would now be regarded as quite modest memory- 64MB, 128MB, 256MB, 512MB, 1GB, 2GB with the first generation, 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB second generation, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32GB third generation. With the latest generation, in 2020 this increased to 32GB. Some reports mention a 64GB version but that is not listed by Victorinox. In 2012 Victorinox announced the release of a 1TB SSD version but Three Points of the Compass has yet to see this and is doubtful that it came to market. Particularly as estimated unit price was $3000! No doubt memory capacity will continue to increase until Victorinox halt production of these models. Over the intervening years the configurations of these knives has mostly been based around the choice of tools in the scales, between the scales, and the memory stick capacity.

Victorinox Swiss Memory, introduced 2005. This 58mm 33.9g tool includes 512MB first generation USB memory stick, RED led, nailfile with flat Screwdriver tip, smal blade, scissors and retractable pen

Victorinox Swiss Memory, introduced 2005. This 60mm 33.9g tool includes 512MB first generation USB memory stick, red LED, nailfile with flat screwdriver tip, small blade, scissors and retractable pen

The Swiss Memory model expanded on the existing Signature Lite. That knife is one of the most useful small tools that can be carried on trail. It combines a standard Victorinox Classic SD with a retractable pen, as found on the Signature range, with an LED light, as found on the Victorinox ‘SwissLite’ models. Pressing and holding the Victorinox shield on the scale activates the LED light. A replacement CR1025 3V battery weighing 0.6g is held in the scale. Battery type changed on later models. Following the increase in memory size to 1GB and above, the colour of fitted LED was changed to white. Battery life is also reduced with a change in LED colour from red to white. However, by adding a memory drive, the tool now becomes quite a bulky affair despite retaining its short 60mm length. Note that while this knife is part of Victorinox’s 58mm range, there is an extra two millimetres length due to the protruding key ring atached to the plastic rotating housing that ejects the USB thumb drive from the scales.

Swiss Memory features:

  • Dimensions: Length 60mm, Width 17.85mm, thickness 19.40mm
  • 40mm drop point pen blade with 34mm cutting edge
  • Nailfile with 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip
  • Scissors
  • USB thumb drive
  • Red LED (CR1025 3V battery)
  • Retractable blue ink pen
  • Keyring
  • Weight: 33.9g
The 58mm 21.3g Victorinox Jetsetter (model- 0.6263) is an 'airline friendly' tool that excludes a knife blade- the only tools found are scissors, combi-tool, toothpick, tweezers and keyring. An expanded version of this tool can include a thumb drive, then becoming the Jetsetter@work tool

The 58mm 21.3g Victorinox Jetsetter (model- 0.6263) is an ‘airline friendly’ tool that excludes a knife blade- the only tools found are scissors, combi-tool, toothpick, tweezers and keyring. An expanded version of this tool with alox scales can include a thumb drive, this multi-tool then becomes the Jetsetter@work Alox

Victorinox have also released ‘airline friendly’ variants of their ‘knives’ aimed at those flying who have to contend with zealous airport security. The Jetsetter range introduced in 2012 eschewed most bladed tools and concentrated instead on including a small range of other tools, such as screwdrivers, thumb drives, nailfiles, even cuticle pushers! Unfortunately even the scissors included on some Jetsetter models will not pass some security checks. Presumably sales of this range have not been fantastic and some Jetsetter models have been discontinued.

The Victorinox Jetsetter shown here has no flash drive included. It is simply an airline friendly model that shouldn’t be confiscated by security. I see little reason why any backpacker would include such a model amongst backpacking gear on trail. The combination tool is not much use in isolation. The scissors are good and are safely stored, however the flimsy tweezers are barely adequate for most tasks and there are more useful replacements for these. They have too wide tips for small tick removal and flex too easily to grasp obdurate thorns and splinters. Three Points of the Compass holds a persistent dislike of the tweezers found in many Victorinox knives feeling that just about any alternative installed in the scale rather than tweezers is an improvement.

Jetsetter features:

  • Dimensions: Length 58mm, Width 18.58mm, thickness 9.25mm
  • 40mm drop point pen blade with 34mm cutting edge
  • Scissors
  • Combination tool with bottle opener, magnetic Phillips screwdriver and wire stripper
  • Keyring
  • Tweezers
  • Toothpick
  • Weight: 21.3g

After the 2005 introduction of the Swiss Memory, the following year saw the airline friendly ‘Flight‘ range introduced. Again, these included a removable flash drive. These were in turn succeeded by the ‘Victorinox Flash‘ range, since renamed as the ‘...@Work‘ series. The now reduced Jetsetter range of tools (we can’t really call them knives, as no blade is included) also has a variant with a USB drive, called the Victorinox Jetsetter@work Alox. The ‘flight’ models may be of interest to some travellers but few backpackers will be looking at these as a serious gear option unless a separate blade is also being packed along.

Combination tool provides bottle opener, wire stripper and magnetic Phillips screwdriver

Combination tool provides bottle opener, wire stripper and magnetic Phillips screwdriver

Jetsetter@work Alox features:

  • Dimensions: Length 60mm, Width 18.55mm, thickness 11.20mm
  • Scissors
  • Combination tool with bottle opener, magnetic Phillips screwdriver and wire stripper
  • Removable USB stick 3.0 / 3.1 type-C
  • Keyring
  • Alox scales with no integrated tools
  • Weight: 27.1g

So, again, no blade is included on this small and attractive tool making it far less useful for use on trail but it does provide a handy little combination of tools for the air traveller. The combination tool included on this little knife is well thought out but Three Points of the Compass does wonder why a two dimensional Phillips tip isn’t incorporated which would then open this tool up to using with smaller flat slot screws as well. A flat tip variant was originally incorporated but quickly discontinued.

The Jetsetter@work Alox shown here has a 32GB memory and purchase price increased around 10% over the 16GB model as a result of the expansion in memory. Despite being a removable drive, anyone that wanted to take advantage of the increase in memory is forced to buy an entire new tool.

Victorinox Jetsetter@work Alox (model- 4.6261.26G16B1) is a modestly dimensioned 58mm tool that incorporates scissors, combination tool with USB 3.0 / 3.1 type C connectors

Victorinox Jetsetter@work Alox (model- 4.6261.26G16B1) is a modestly dimensioned 60mm tool that incorporates scissors, a combination tool, and a removable USB 3.0 / 3.1 type C memory stick

So why carry a thumb stick or data carrier on trail? It would be possible to transfer photos or film from a phone or camera to these, however there are far smaller options than utilising a USB stick in a Victorinox knife that has had its weight and bulk substantially increased as a result. It can also be useful to carry digital copies of your passport, letters of permission, email threads, addresses and phone numbers, prescriptions, family photos and so on in a format separate from a phone that could be stolen, lost, damaged or drained of power. But again, all of these digital records and documents could just as easily live on a smaller data carrier or memory card.

The Victorinox tools that have included a data stick have had a range of scales over the years. At their simplest has been the slim and attractive Aluminum Oxide, or Alox, scales that have no scale tools. A range of scale colours was available- silver, red, blue, orange, pink and green. Besides a red or white LED, if scale tools were included, these could be retractable and replaceable blue ink pen, a red laser pointer (introduced 2007) and even a bluetooth presentation remote control button. Possibly useful in the office but not a lot of use while backpacking…

Comparison between red and white LEDs in SwissBit and Midnite Manager@work, the red is noticably dim. Also apparant is how development in technology has resulted in a much thinner memory stick in later models permitting the inclusion of an extra layer of tools

Comparison between red and white LEDs in Swiss Memory and Midnite Manager@work, the red LED is noticably dim. Also apparant is how development in technology has resulted in a much thinner memory stick in later models permitting the inclusion of an extra layer of tools

Battery for LED included with Midnite Manager@work can be changed by using a paperclip to push the battery out of the scale. This a 389-SR1130W Silver 1.55v 0%Hg battery

Battery for LED included with Midnite Manager@work can be changed by using a paperclip to push the battery out of the scale. Most recently, this is a 389-SR1130W Silver 1.55v 0%Hg battery

Having replaced the earlier Swiss Memory family in 2008, the Victorinox Flash range was again revamped, relaunched and replaced by improved models. In 2011 Victorinox announced additional models within its electronic 58mm range (though note these actually measure 60mm due to the plastic keyring attachment). These squeezed noticeably slimmer dimensioned USB flash drives between alox scales. The three models- Victorinox Slim, Victorinox Slim Duo (featuring two removable drives) and Victorinox Secure SSD, were all flight friendly versions, again with no knife blade included. The Victorinox Slim was just 6.7mm thick and the Secure SSD was advertised as the world’s smallest 256GB solid-state drive, with three times faster read speed and more than double write speed when compared with ‘standard’ high speed USB Flash devices. Needless to say, those products were overtaken within just a few years, months even, by competitors. At their very simplest, the Victorinox tools were nothing more than a removable memory stick rotating out from metal scales with no other tools.

Removable thumb drive on '....@work' knife. Latest variants have had a dual connector that pivots in the centre to allow either the USB 3.0 or 3.1 type C connector to be inserted

Removable thumb drive on ‘….@work’ knife. Latest variants have a dual connector that pivots in the centre with USB 3.0 / 3.1 type C connectors

Victorinox originally offered propriatory software on their USB sticks. There were at least four generations of this. A short lasting product was the 256-bit AES encryption and fingerprint recognition found on the Victorinox Secure tool released in November 2010. Two years later, and only lasting some five years, Victorinox produced three Jetsetter models with USB drives (8GB, 16GB, 32GB options) that included Apple Mac specific software alongside a small range of accompanying tools. However there were problems with many of the variants and associated software and Victorinox withdrew from the bespoke software market and also stopped providing software updates. They even offered refunds to customers who had purchased these products and were henceforth denied support. Victorinox continued to release USB storage devices but these offer little more than any other thumb drive, other than a unique portability and convenience.

Connectors on the removable data sticks have changed over the years. The first were simply single USB connector, then USB 2.0 in the second generation. As well as the aforementioned Apple compatability, in 2012 high speed USB 3.0 data transfer speeds were supported. The current high-end models have a double-ended centrally pivoting drive with two different connectors- 3.0 Type-A / 3.1 Type-C. Read speed is 90 MB/s, write speed: 50 MB/s.

Victorinox USB stick connected to Samsung S20+

Samsung S20+ with 32GB Victorinox 3.1 Type-C connected for transferring data

Many electronic devices have already made the change to the more secure and faster type C connector. My Samsung phone is type-C connector and the recent Victorinox thumb drives connect simply into this and I can easily transfer images etc. However I cannot see that I would ever want to do this on trail. My phone has a removable SIM card tray in the top in which a Micro SD card can simply be swapped. This is a far easier way of doing this and as at present I have a 64GB SD card inserted, I gain little by additionally carting along an @work Victorinox memory stick. I could, if I wished, carry dozens of replacement Micro SD cards for little bulk or weight penalty. Even if it wasn’t possible to easily swap out a memory card there are many small memory card readers with type C connectors available today at a fraction of the cost of a Victorinox @work.

Interestingly, there is another potential use for the double ended and removable USB stick. It is possible to plug one end into a USB port, the other into a phone, and use it as the smallest of charging cables.

Three Points of the Compass has previously looked at a top five knives from Victorinox’s 58mm stable. The fantastic Midnite Manager emerged as the number one choice for taking backpacking. Around 2015 Victorinox expanded on that model by adding a memory stick between the scales. This created the Midnite Manager@work model. Already a bulky offering, the addition of a 5mm thick thumb drive, has obviously made this knife an even thicker offering. This tool originally had red cellidor scales but translucent ruby red, sapphire blue and emerald green scale options are also available.

Midnite Manager@work features:

  • Dimensions: Length 60mm, Width 19.90mm, thickness 19.10mm
  • Scissors
  • 40mm drop point pen blade with 34mm cutting edge
  • Combination tool with bottle opener, magnetic Phillips screwdriver and wire stripper
  • Nail file, with 2.5mm flat ‘SD’ screwdriver tip
  • Removable USB stick 3.0 / 3.1 type-C
  • Keyring
  • Translucent red scales with white LED and blue ink retractable ballpoint pen
  • Weight: 43.2g
19mm thick Midnite Manager@work compared with 13.60mm blue Midnite Manager

19mm thick Midnite Manager@work compared with 13.60mm thick translucent blue Midnite Manager

That said, away from the trail, the Midnite Manager@work could be a fantastic keychain option for the urban commuter but Three Points of the Compass is not convinced that the addition of a memory stick to this tool is a bonus for the backpacker. If anything it detracts from the usefulness of the simpler Midnite Manager, making the tool more awkward to hold and use and exposing possibly sensitive or necessary data, saved images or music to damage or possible loss. It can be a hard life on trail for certain pieces of gear and a knife combining pen, blade and scissors is called into use many times in extreme weather and poor light conditions.

Midnite Manager@work USB 3.0 / 3.1 Type-C from Victorinox

Midnite Manager@work (model- 4.6336.TG16) USB 3.0 / 3.1 Type-C from Victorinox

As mentioned earlier, some of the models released by Victorinox over the years included propriatory software that is no longer supported or updated. Thankfully this is no longer the case and any Victorinox ‘knife’ that includes a data stick shouldn’t become obsolete or contents inaccessible for some years. However time marches on and we are all becoming ever more memory hungry. Early Victorinox data sticks now have too little memory capacity to be really useful and anything on the market today will likewise likely quickly become insufficient.

0.3g 128GB Micro SD card with 2.1g protective case with 5.5g 32GB Victorinox thumb drive from Jetsetter@work Alox

0.3g 128GB Micro SD card with 2.1g protective case with 5.5g 32GB Victorinox thumb drive from Jetsetter@work Alox

For an expensive product, this is a problem. Three Points of the Compass feels that Victorinox very quickly needs to start producing simple thumb drives, with ever expanding memory capacity, that can be purchased as a stand alone item and then swapped out by a customer with their existing drive. This keeps a customer base on board and a tool that is consistently relevant and useful. Or instead, simply buy a 1TB type C connector memory stick. As it is, I shall continue to just pack along extra small Micro SD cards and swap these out as necessary on trail.

The 2020 range of tools offered by Victorinox which include memory stick ‘thumb drives’ is small. There are the two shown here- the Jetsetter@work Alox that has no blade or scale tools, and the most useful, which is the Midnite Manager@work. There is also the Victorinox@work, which includes blade, screwdriver tipped nailfile, LED light and retractable pen. While these premium tools are made to the usual high Victorinox standard, the problem is mostly obsolescence. Three Points of the Compass believes these tools from Victorinox are interesting and may suit some travellers, but are of little interest to backpackers where more viable, lighter and probably cheaper alternatives abound.

Three Points of the Compass has looked at quite a few knives and multi-tools that may, or may not, be suitable for backpacking, day treks or Every Day Carry. Links to these can be found here.

Gerber Paraframe- comfortable in a three finger grip

Knife chat: A ‘best-seller’ from Gerber- the Paraframe Mini

Gerber Paraframe Mini single blade knife

Gerber Paraframe Mini SS FE- a single blade knife with pocket clip

Gerber have released a number of different Paraframe models over the years and it has consistently been a best seller for them. Some models have been bundled in with multi-tools so customers may have received one that way. At just 40g the Gerber Paraframe Mini SS FE is the smallest and lightest of the Paraframe models and could be considered for lightweight backpacking.

Gerber Legendary Blades, established in 1939, are based in Portland, Oregon, USA. They were acquired by the Finnish Fiskars Corporation in 1986. While some Gerber products continue to be manufactured in the U.S. much has transferred overseas. This has enabled prices to remain competitive but has also resulted in varying degrees of quality.

Pocket clip on Gerber Paraframe Mini is the only true feature other than the blade

Removable pocket clip on Gerber Paraframe Mini is the only true feature other than the blade

The primary option with the Paraframe Mini is the choice of blade- clip or tanto point and either fine edge or semi-serrated. Three Points of the Compass feels that having only a serrated blade while backpacking is not a practical option. A serrated blade, or even semi-serrated, is less suited for most tasks when backpacking, be it first aid, gear repair or food preparation. Fine if it is a secondary blade, but not if the only blade carried. For this reason I am only looking at the fine edge blade option here. The SS and FE in the model’s name stand for Stainless Steel and Fine Edge.

Gerber Paraframe Mini- Number 1 best sellerThe Paraframe Mini is a ‘naked’ knife with cut-outs in the stainless steel frame to slightly reduce weight and improve asthetics. It is an attractive knife with well finished and rounded edges. It is contemporary, modern looking, but looks should be considered secondary to usefulness and practicality. There is no roughness or burred edges in its manufacturing finish and the knife is comfortable in the hand even though only a partial grip can be achieved due to its small dimensions. The Chinese manufacturing has done a good job with this little knife compared to the roughly finished and more industrial appearing Gerber Vice and Splice mini multi-tools. No scales are fitted to the open frame though the pocket clip does increase the tools bulk in the hand while making it slightly more comfortable to hold and use. As well as the bead-blasted finish to the handle shown here there are black, red and camo versions, plus a few other after-sale and uncommon colour options.

Gerber Paraframe

Open frame of the ‘naked’ Gerber Paraframe Mini

There is a pocket clip on this knife however that is not much use while hiking. It is so light that it could be lost from a pocket without noticing and there is no provision to attach a lanyard or carabiner. Not that this is necessary while on trail as the blade would normally live in a ditty bag or food bag. So you could consider removing the pocket clip which knocks off a handful of grams. Note that this is a right-handed knife, the clip cannot be moved to the other side for left-handed opening.

The larger brothers to the Mini, the Paraframe I and Paraframe II, are easy to manipulate one-handed and the Paraframe Mini can, in theory, also be opened one-handed. However Three Points of the Compass has quite large hands and absolutely fails to achieve this easily, though closing one-handed can be done with care.  It is safer to regard the Paraframe Mini as requiring two hands to both open and close. There is a good size nail nick on the blade however a good pinch of the back of the blade enables it to be opened easily.

Gerber Paraframe

Folding Paraframe Mini is small in the hand

A tanto point option is also available for the Paraframe Mini however that is more suited to piercing duty and reduces the amount of cutting edge when chopping. A tanto point would be useful for opening packages but it will be food preparation and slicing tops off Mountain House type meals that a blade on trail is mostly employed for. The clip point blade is held open by an efficient frame lock, which does mean that in the UK you will have to prove good reason for carrying this as it does not comply with UK knife law. The blade is quite thick, measuring 2.60mm across the spine. There is very little sideways flex on basic food chopping duty. The blade pivot is based around a teflon washer and is fairly stiff when purchased but loosens up with use, this pivot obviously wears with time with resultant increased ‘floppiness’. There is no sideways play in the blade from new.

Gerber Paraframe, side view

Gerber Paraframe Mini, side view. A thick spine to the blade tapers in the final third toward the point

Specifications:

  • Dimensions:
    • Length- closed 79mm, open 134mm.
    • Width- closed 23mm, open 20mm.
    • Thickness- 11.75mm (including depth of integrated pocket clip)
  • Blade Length: 60 mm with a cutting edge of 54mm
  • Fine edge ‘high carbon’ stainless steel, clip point blade. 23º sharpening angle
  • Frame- stainless steel, frame lock
  • Weight- 40g

Gerber advertise this knife as weighing 40g, on my scales it comes in at 39.8g so just about bang on. This knife is no heavyweight but for a tool offering little more than a single blade, it is possibly too heavy an option for a truly lightweight set-up while backpacking. Other users might feel that the moderate weight is reassuring.

And now we come to the quality of steel used for the blade. Gerber have been annoyingly reticent over the years to divulge exactly what is used in their knives. They simply advertise this blade as ‘high carbon stainless steel’. It is unlikely, particularly for the moderate price, that a particularly high quality steel is used on this knife. It has been suggested that it is 7cr17mov, hardened to 55-57 HRC, which is a ‘middle of the road’ steel used on many cheaper knives. This steel is almost certainly of the 400 range (resistant to corrosion and easy to sharpen), either 420 or 440 series. If the latter, probably 440A, which is a fairly low cost, highly corrosion resistant stainless steel. However Gerber do specify that it is ‘High Carbon’ (HC) steel, pointing toward 420HC, another cheaper steel, that can be brought to a higher hardness than regular 420. This is not a great steel but adequate for such an unassuming knife. If you want a better steel in your knife, be prepared to spend more money.

It has also been suggested that the actual hardening of the steel has varied over the years. If so, such inconsistency may explain the wide range of opinion that this little knife excites. Suffice to say that the blade comes reasonably sharp when purchased, requires touching up, but will hold an edge for some time if used for light work. Which is all that a knife on trail would normally be subjected to.

Gerber Paraframe Mini, in the hand

The French made smaller Opinel knives will provide just as functional a blade as that provided on the Paraframe Mini for backpacking purposes, actually sharper, and are equally as competitively priced. The blades found on smaller Opinels are considerably thinner and flex considerably more. The blade on the Opinel No. 5 is just 1.34mm across the spine of the blade. While the Paraframe Mini has a locking blade, this feature is only found on Opinel models larger than the No. 5. The locking No. 6 only weighs 28g but has a much longer blade at 72mm. Three Points of the Compass will look at the Opinel folders in a separate blog.

40g locking Gerber Paraframe Mini with non-locking 15g Opinel No.5 and 28g locking Opinel No.6

40g locking Gerber Paraframe Mini with non-locking 15g Opinel No. 5 and 28g locking Opinel No. 6

Conclusion:

The Gerber Paraframe Mini SS FE is a cheap and perfectly functional option for those wanting to take a fairly lightweight and reasonably robust knife, with a single blade, out on trail. It is attractive and as well made as many knives being churned out in China today. The steel used is nothing to shout about but is up to the basic tasks required on trail- which will mostly be cutting food and opening packages. The pocket clip does add a little comfort when holding the knife however few hikers would risk clipping this into their pocket while hiking for fear of losing it. There are many better knife options available but most will cost a lot more than this reasonably priced folder.

The major entries in the Paraframe series:

Model number Blade length * Blade type Weight*
Paraframe Mini  SS FE GE-1013954 60mm / 2.3″ Fine edge 40g
Paraframe Mini  SS SE GE-1013953 60mm / 2.3″ Semi-serrated 40g
Paraframe I SS FE GE- 1013969 79mm / 3.1″ Fine edge 73g
Paraframe I SS SE GE- 1013968 79mm / 3.1″ Semi-serrated 73g
Paraframe II SS FE GE- 1013972 90mm / 3.5″ Fine edge 119g
Paraframe II SS SE GE- 1013971 90mm / 3.5″ Semi-serrated 119g
* as specified by Gerber
Packaging for Gerber Paraframe Mini details the minimal functions found on the tool

Packaging for Gerber Paraframe Mini details the minimal functions found on the tool

Three Points of the Compass has looked at quite a few knives and multi-tools that may, or may not, be suitable for backpacking, day treks or Every Day Carry. Links to these can be found here.

Deejo 15g

Knife Chat: is this the most practical minimalist knife on trail? The Deejo 15g

Deejo 15g

Deejo 15g in the hand- immaculately designed

Not a lot is required of a knife for 99.9% of backpacking. And it isn’t worth carrying anything to handle the 0.1% of tasks that would benefit from the sort of knife that a bushcrafter would be proud to show off.

The features of the Deejo 15g. 1. Blade, 2. knife handle, 3. pocket clip (only on 27g and 37g), 4. liner lock, 5. blade stopper, 6. screw stop

The features of the Deejo 15g. 1. Blade, 2. knife handle, 3. pocket clip (only on 27g and 37g), 4. liner lock, 5. blade stopper, 6. screw stop

“designed in Paris- made in China”

In 2010 Stéphane Lebeau designed and invented an ultralight pocket knife. Today the range of Deejo knives is small- just three sizes. In more recent years Deejo have begun to offer a wide range of customisation to the two larger sizes of these three knives so with choice of scale material and blade ‘tattoos’ a lot of personalisation is possible. The basic range is named by their weight, these are 15g, 27g and 37g. The smallest of these, the Deejo 15g, makes a very useful, minimalist, single blade, folding knife for backpacking purposes. A pocket, or belt clip, is fitted to the two larger sizes of knife, no clip is attached to the 15g.

Deejo 15g

The Deejo 15g is a very thin knife when closed

The Deejo 15g is a ‘naked’ knife. There are no scales or other accoutrements. The brushed steel finish frame, such that it is, is minimal, with a central cutout and a hole in the end through which a lanyard, carabiner or split ring can be passed. There is no nail nick and the blade has to be pinched to open it, which isn’t difficult. It cannot, and should not, be opened one-handed. With such a minimally guarded blade it requires two hands to open and close safely. There is a very slight curve to the handle that means the point is under pressure and flush when closed so the blade point cannot catch on clothing or skin when closed. There is almost a snap on the final point of closing. The short handle length means that only part of the hand is grasping it in use, with my large hands, some two and half finger close around it.

Deejo 15g

Short handle length means that only three fingers close around it when in use

Leaflet that accompanies the knife details the complete 'naked' range from Deejo

Leaflet that accompanies the knife details the complete ‘naked’ range from Deejo

The spearpoint blade is made from 2CR13 stainless steel with a hardness rating of 52-54 on the Rockwell hardness scale (HRC), knife handle and pocket clip are 2CR13 stainless steel with a hardness rating of 45-48 HRC. 2CR23 is a commonly used steel found on many knives and is popular with knife manufacturers. Part of the 420 series, this steel is resistant to corrosion (rust) and can be easily sharpened. The blade on the Deejo 15g is chisel grind, i.e.- on one side only, which makes it a little safer when folded. It is very thin when closed and when open in the hand. One feature, or rather lack of feature, that Three Points of the Compass particularly appreciates, is the lack of cut-outs or holes in the blade. Food can accumulate in these holes and with less opportunity to clean a knife properly on trail it is easy for bacteria to build here. The Deejo 15g does not suffer from this fanciful design aspect.

The whole knife is extremely minimalistic. There is little, if anything, that is included on this that isn’t required. A handle- that also operates as liner-lock, a blade, a pivot, and two ‘nubs’- one to act as a stop when opened, the other to indent into the closed blade and prevent it opening under its own volition. Finally- two engraved words, Deejo and PRESS on the liner lock.

Dimensions:

  • Closed- length: 70mm, width: 16.80mm, thickness: 8.45mm (maximum, across pivot)
  • Open- length: 125mm, width:14.20mm, thickness: 8.45mm (maximum, across pivot)
  • Handle length: 66mm ( from pivot centre to end)
  • Blade cutting edge: 64mm
  • Blade thickness across spine: 2.27mm
  • Weight: 14.4g, so actually less than 15g!
Deejo 15g

To close- Press marking ‘PRESS’ downward

Deejo 15g

Swivel blade past liner lock

Deejo 15g

Close blade into handle with two hands

When purchased the Deejo 15g comes over packaged (as do almost all knives) in a plastic box, along with the usual paperwork, a couple of stickers, a blade tip protector and, most useful, a 28cm length of black cordage which can be passed through the hole in the knife handle to make a small loop. Or a small carabiner could be used instead.

Deejo 15g alongside non-locking 10g Opinel No. 4 and the popular 40g frame lock Gerber Paraframe

Deejo 15g alongside non-locking 10g Opinel No. 4 and the popular 40g frame lock Gerber Paraframe Mini

One obvious problem with this knife in the UK is that it fails to meet our stringent knife laws. The basic type of knife is fine, it isn’t a ‘zombie’ or throwing blade and blade length is OK, it is the fact that it locks open that is the issue. This is illegal in the UK without provable good reason for carrying. It is for the individual to decide if they wish to explain away a small 15g knife, packed away in a food bag, that forms part of a very obvious and harmless backpacking set-up. If you can prove good reason to be carrying this then, in theory, any sensible copper won’t give it a glance.

The Deejo 15g is amongst the best of well constructed, lightweight, locking, single blade folders available that is particularly suited for backpacking purposes. A more legally acceptable alternative to this little blade would be one of the smaller Opinel folders. The smallest Opinels are not fitted with a locking ring so comply with UK law. Those knifes also have the option of high carbon steel blades, which rust more easily but hold an edge better. Or choose stainless steel which is more suited to life on trail.

Deejo 15g

Pivot and liner lock on Deejo 15g

The Deejo 15g is a terrific little knife though it has to be used with care, particularly when folding. It requires just a little practice and continued care to ensure that the blade doesn’t nip the skin. But it will easily tackle just about any lightweight task that a backpacker requires of a blade. It will peel an apple, cut sausage and cheese, cut cordage. However you aren’t going to be able to whittle, baton, cut down tree limbs, that isn’t what this minimalist knife is intended for.

Three Points of the Compass may yet give this little folder some extended time in my pack on longer backpacking excursions. Will it push out my preferred Leatherman Squirt S4? Time will tell.

Deejo 15g with cherry tomatos and a decent cheddar

Cutting cherry tomatos and a decent cheddar with the Deejo 15g

Three Points of the Compass has looked at quite a few knives and multi-tools that may, or may not, be suitable for backpacking, day treks or Every Day Carry. Links to these can be found here.

Deejo 15g

The Deejo 15g- a good choice of minimal knife for backpacking

Three Points of the Compass at the 'Three Brethren' cairns, Minch Moor. What is required during the days hike is all immediately to hand in my chest pouch

Gear talk: the ‘day bag’

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes. My day bag from a recent hike is shown top right

This is a final glance at the various small bags and pouches that Three Points of the Compass uses to keep gear organised while on trail. I prefer to compartmentalise my gear to keep it both easy to find and to hand, waterproofed and protected and enable a ‘role call’ when packing prior to setting out. This ensures nothing is left behind or mislaid within the pack. My various pouches and bags may be an excess on what many feel necessary but it works for me. Previously we have looked at my hydration, ditty bag, hygiene, first aid kit and electronics carried. There is one more to look at, this is my ‘day bag’.

The usual 'pack explosion' at the end of a days hiking. Keeping gear comparmentalised ensures items can be found when reuqired and nothing gets lost

The usual ‘pack explosion’ at the end of a days hiking. Keeping gear compartmentalised ensures items can be found when required and nothing gets lost

I find it a bit of a faff to keep taking a pack off during a hike to access things that are required from within its depths. Prior to setting off, I ensure anything I am likely to require is outside of the main pack. This will vary from hike to hike and day to day but may include items such as map, camera, phone, trail-mix and snacks, lunch, notebook and pen, sunglasses, monocular, headnet, gloves, buff, hat, waterproofs etc.

Chest pouch being used to carry items required to hand on the South West Coast Path. Hat and waterproofs are stuffed into the packs stretchy rear pocket

Chest pouch being used to carry items required to hand on a murky day on the South West Coast Path. Hat and waterproofs are loosely stuffed into the packs stretchy rear pocket

Trail mix- keep it to hand, not packed away

Trail mix- keep it to hand, not packed away

Hats, gloves and waterproofs will usually be in an outer pack pocket or rear expandable pocket on my larger, multi-day, Mariposa pack.

Other items will be more to hand and can usually be accessed without halting. A midday meal or afternoon snacks will usually be in a dedicated day bag in a side pocket. So a ‘day bag’ could very well be ‘two day bags’.

Zipped Z Packs chest pouch in use on a wet day on the 630 mile South West Coast Path

Zipped Z Packs chest pouch in use on a wet day on the 630 mile South West Coast Path

In the images above, hanging from my packs shoulders straps in front of me is a chest pouch from Z Packs. It is also shown being worn on the Pennine Way on the main header image above. Their ‘multi pack‘ can be worn or carried in a number of configurations but I like to wear it lower, more or less in front of my stomach. The one shown is constructed from Dyneema® Composite Fabric, or DCF.

Cuben chest pouch is strong and lightweight but will eventually leak following prolonged use

Cuben chest pouch is strong and lightweight but will eventually leak following prolonged use. The one in the image had seen almost three thousand trail miles and was nigh on wore out. The green padded mini pouch inside was for the camera to slide into

Though immensely strong and very light, this material doesn’t handle abrasion particularly well and after 2500 miles was leaking badly when it rained so after another 500 miles, and keeping fragile items doubly protected within, I replaced it with an identical multi pack, now made of Gridstop Fabric, this has HDPE threads with diagonal woven ripstop. It has a waterproof urethane coating on the inside but any maps or guide book being used during the day are also double protected in a ziplock. If it is likely to be wet any camera or phone being carried is likewise double protected.

Gridstop chest pouch in use on the Cleveland Way

Gridstop chest pouch in use on the Cleveland Way

My set up for day hikes is frequently different as I seldom carry a chest pouch on these. Instead my day bag comprises a lightweight roll top bag carried in my day pack’s side pocket. Some typical contents are shown below on a recent mid-morning halt on the Saxon Shore Way.

Contents of Day Bag- Saxon Shore Way, 2020

Day Bag on the Saxon Shore Way, summer 2020- roll top DCF bag from Wild Sky Gear holds a ziplock rubbish bag, Outdoor Research sunsleeves, a couple of protein bars, peanuts and a monopod for the camera being held

At other times of the year or in different locations the contents may vary considerably and the roll top day bag may be larger. From May onwards in the north of England and Scotland I include a headnet, in shoulder months I would likely have hat and gloves in here. If I expect to pass a shop or cafe where I hope to buy a snack or mug of tea, I’ll transfer my small zipper wallet from my ditty bag to my day bag. Some other items are carried elsewhere. My compass is usually in a hip belt pocket, as are chapstick, sunscreen, possibly Smidge, and in this Covid-19 year, a face mask. A headtorch may also reside in my hip belt pocket but is more likely packed away in my electronics bag and I then rely on a small ‘thumb’ torch clipped to my shoulder strap or chest pouch.

Hiking in Scotland- keep a head net to hand. Mine is kept in my Day Bag

Hiking in Scotland- keep a head net to hand. Mine is kept in my Day Bag

None of this is rocket science. It is just the way I keep things to hand, meaning I don’t have to open my pack up when it is raining, that I have given a little thought to what I might encounter during the day- sun, bugs, cold, something to buy… and have prepared appropriately. I faff less, have to stop less, and cover miles quicker with less need to halt. Works for me.

Approaching Tyndrum on the West Highland Way- Z Packs Multi Pack in use

Approaching Tyndrum on the West Highland Way- Z Packs Multi Pack in use, worn low. A map pokes from the top

Cnoc poles

Gear talk: a new arrival in the post- Cnoc carbon poles

A new purchase- a pair of Cnoc telescopic trekking poles and Cnoc telescopic ultralight staff

A new purchase- a pair of Cnoc telescopic trekking poles and Cnoc telescopic ultralight staff

This is not a review, simply first impressions of my latest gear purchase. Carbon fibre trekking poles and a lightweight staff from Cnoc. I say latest, I backed this Kickstarter project almost eleven months ago. The project was to bring a new design of ‘poles for life’ to market. I pledged and ordered a pair of trekking poles and an ultralight staff. With supply problems and Covid-19 associated issues, manufacture and final delivery took longer than first suggested. That is the nature of Kickstarter projects which always seem overly ambitious, at least that is my experience. But I was in no rush and felt no need to be impatient. I tracked their delivery from the U.S. last week and picked them up from the parcel depot yesterday, more on that later.

Three Points of the Compass with Pacer Poles, Hadrian's Wall, 2014

Three Points of the Compass with Pacer Poles, Hadrian’s Wall, 2014

Leki Sierra Photo trekking pole used as a monopod mount for camera

Leki Sierra Photo trekking pole used as a monopod mount for camera

Three Points of the Compass has used trekking poles for many years. I soon settled on Leki poles and an old favourite, a single Leki Sierra Photo pole with removable cap exposing a camera mount beneath has continued to be my favoured ‘go to’ pole for most day hikes.

Two Pacer Poles joined together to make a tall tent support

Two Pacer Poles joined together to make a tall tent support

For multi-day hikes I prefer a pair of UK manufactured Pacer Poles, with their unique moulded raked hand grips. It is this feature that I like most. I find them ergonomic, more natural and comfortable to hold and use, if a bit sweaty and slippery in hotter weather, or just slippery in rain. The customer service from this company is superb. Having expressed an issue via email on one occasion I was instantly sent replacement sections. When I later wore a pair out, I immediately purchased another pair. I am not a fan, however, of twist locks which I have had both jam up, and be reluctant to tighten at times. Another thing to note is that I use these as my poles for my Duplex tent, and have never experienced any issue with the large moulded grips when doing so. With an extender, I have also joined two together to make a single long pole for my Wiki-up teepee tent.

To return to the two Cnoc poles. I purchased a pair of three-section carbon fibre shaft poles, with friction flick locks and chose Cork grips.

Cnoc trekking poles

Cnoc trekking poles

Specifications:

  • Weight: 266g, this is for a single pole, with no basket, with strap fitted (26g heavier than the advertised 240g)

  • Collapsed length: 680mm (shorter than the advertised 710mm)

  • Maximum safe length: 1550mm (this is with pole extended to the ‘stop here’ markings on the shaft. Shorter than the advertised 1580mm)

  • Shaft diameters: 18mm, 15.5mm, 13mm (different to the advertised 18mm, 16mm, 14mm)

  • Each pole has 100% carbon fibre shaft, compressed Cork grips, polyester and microfibre wrist strap and screwed on carbide tip.

  • Poles are supplied with a mud basket (each 9g) a large snow basket (each 23g) and rubber road tip (each 9g). I prefer the smaller mud baskets that Pacer employ so screwed them on instead (each 5g)

Cnoc ultralight staff

Cnoc ultralight staff

I also backed production of a single two-section carbon fibre ‘Ultralight Staff’, choosing a short EVA grip with this.

Specifications:

  • Weight: 176g, this is with no basket fitted and no wrist strap. Staffs are not supplied with a wrist strap but there is a cut-out for one to be fitted retrospectively. (Staff weight is heavier than the advertised 155g)

  • Collapsed length: 945mm (longer than the advertised 930mm)

  • Maximum safe length: 1655mm (this is to the ‘stop here’ marking on the shaft. Longer than the advertised 1650mm)

  • Shaft diameters are: 15.5mm, 13mm (different to the advertised 16mm, 14mm)

  • Staff is supplied with the same mud basket (9g) and snow basket (23g) as comes with the pair of poles. Shafts are again 100% carbon fibre, short EVA handle and screwed on carbide tip.
Snow and mud baskets, and rubber road tips supplied with Cnoc poles and staff

Snow and mud baskets, and rubber road tips supplied with Cnoc poles and staff

Friction locks on telescoping trekking poles

Friction locks on telescoping trekking poles. I have changed both supplied Cnoc mud baskets (on left) to slightly smaller Pacer Pole baskets (on right)

Poles and staff have metal and plastic friction quick locks which are easily adjusted and simple to use. It is possible that the heavier than quoted/advertised pole weight is down to the strap weight, however the staff, which has no wrist strap fitted, is also 21g heavier than advertised. That said, both poles, and particularly the staff, are still extremely lightweight.

'Handed' straps

‘Handed’ straps

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a couple of other rather nice features- each pole is ‘handed’ via different coloured branding on straps and shaft. Construction looks good though I expect the printing on the shafts to wear off pretty quickly, in common with other brands of pole.

Two brands of pole, all at  maximum safe extension. From left to right: three piece alloy shaft Pacer Pole, two piece Pacer Pole with top alloy shaft and carbon fibre bottom shaft, two-piece Cnoc telescopic carbon fibre staff, three-piece Cnoc carbon fibre trekking poles

Two brands of pole, all at maximum safe extension. From left to right: two-piece Pacer Pole with top alloy shaft and carbon fibre bottom shaft, three-piece alloy Pacer Pole, two-piece Cnoc telescopic carbon fibre staff, three-piece Cnoc carbon fibre trekking poles

I note that the shorter lower section (580mm) from a pole can be exchanged with the longer bottom section (878mm) in the staff. This gives a maximum extended length of the staff of 1395mm and reduces the weight of the entire staff to just 159g.

Cnoc offer a choice of handle material for poles and staff- either compressed cork or short Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA)

Cnoc offer a choice of handle material for poles and staff- either compressed cork or short Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA)

For further reference:

Collapsed Cnoc trekking pole and Pacer Pole

Collapsed Cnoc trekking pole and Pacer Pole

  • (Single) three-section Pacer Pole: max length 1410mm, weight 351g (no basket).

  • (Single) two-section Pacer Pole (metal top shaft, single carbon lower shaft): max length 1285mm, weight 314g (no basket).

I remain concerned over using carbon poles for multi-day hikes, particularly if relying on them to erect a shelter. Freezing conditions can affect them, and we have all caught the tip or shaft of a pole when crossing rocky ground etc. A metal pole will flex or bend, and can be bent back, a carbon shaft may shatter.

I currently use two poles to erect my superb Z Packs Duplex, I cannot put that up with a single pole if one of my pair were damaged. As an aside I have also recently been looking at purchasing an Altaplex (now no longer available in my preferred colour/DCF weight), which utilises a single pole so if I do eventually purchase and use an Altaplex it would potentially permit one of my carbon trekking poles to be damaged catastrophically and I would still be able to erect my shelter.

Another thing to be aware of is the stowed length of the Cnoc staff, here seen in the side pocket of my Osprey Day Pack alongside my Euroshirm umbrella and a Leki Sierra pole

Another thing to be aware of is the stowed length of the collapsed Cnoc staff, seen here in the side pocket of my Osprey day pack alongside my Euroshirm umbrella and a Cnoc trekking pole

As I mentioned above, these poles are still a new purchase and I have yet to put a single mile on them. But I do appreciate Cnoc’s ethos behind these. Every single part on pole or staff can be replaced so potentially a pole for life, like Trigger’s broom. Though no spares are available through their website yet. I do wonder if the cost of purchasing any replacement parts from the U.S. will ultimately prove unfeasible.

My new poles and staff were posted to me via the USPS who informed me that they were en route. I followed their passage into the UK where they halted. I then tried to track them down, were they with Hermes, DPD, TNT, DHL, Royal Mail? Who knows as I received no delivery, advice of attempted delivery, no notification via text, phone or mail. I eventually established that the package had been transferred to Royal Mail, who then transferred it to Parcelforce, where it then went to Customs, who released it back to Parcelforce. Who took it to an unspecified depot. I managed to identify the depot and rang them up to be told that there was a customs fee to pay and that I could visit the depot to do so and then receive my parcel. I drove to the depot and hurrah, they found my parcel. I thought the £5.55 Import Duty acceptable, but another £42.22 VAT!, then a further £12.00 Parcelforce Handling Fee- total £59.77. And this is on top of my $161 Kickstarter payment in 2019 which comprised of a $145 Kickstarter pledge plus a further $16 for international shipping. A couple of hours after I got back home Parcelforce sent me a text telling me they had successfully delivered my parcel.

I got stung…

But still, they look excellent products and Three Points of the Compass is very much looking forward to trying these on trail. I have high expectations.

Saxon Shore Way- Camber Castle

Trail talk: The Saxon Shore Way- Dover to Hastings

This blessed plot

A lunch time halt on the hills above Folkestone- ‘This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England’

This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-paradise,

This fortress built by Nature for herself

Against infection and the hand of war,

This happy breed of men, this little world,

This precious stone set in the silver sea,

Which serves it in the office of a wall,

Or as a moat defensive to a house,

Against the envy of less happier lands,

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England

Shakespeare, Richard II Act 2 Scene 1

My final four days on the Saxon Shore Way beckoned. These offered possibly the most enjoyable walking of the whole trail. For my section from Dover to Sandling, I arrived at Dover Priory station early and despite the heavy rain and slippery grass on the slopes, I was up on the Western Heights, overlooking Dover, before seven. The rain clouds cleared and I looked forward to a walk along the chalk meadows above the cliffs. Before that I had to wend my way through various paths and peculiar routings, the route went up, down and most definitely around.

Looking down toward Dover Priory railway station from the Western Heights. The rain clouds are clearing and I only have sodden grass and muddy paths to content with

Looking down toward Dover Priory railway station from the Western Heights. The rain clouds are clearing and I only have sodden grass and muddy paths to content with

The 18th century Western Heights deserve a day to explore. Access to these will improve over the years to come and a lot of money will need to be spent to do this. The Western Heights Preservation Society is doing impressive work to the site though no public access to the Drop Redoubt at all is being permitted in this coronavirus year but a wander round the exterior is fascinating. The fort certainly warrants attention as these extensive defenses are impressive. Building work began prior to the Napoleonic Wars and occupancy by the military continued right through to 1961. Much is very well preserved.

The impressive Drop Redoubt of the napoleonic Western Heights. Photographed by Three Points of the Compass when completing the North Downs Way in July 2015

Part of the impressive Drop Redoubt of the Napoleonic Western Heights is passed by the Saxon Shore Way on the cliffs above Dover. Photographed by Three Points of the Compass when completing the North Downs Way in July 2015

Pre-dating this fort by far, the Saxon Shore Way also passes the clear remains of a 12th century Knights Templar church with its curious circular nave, the shape being an imitation of the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The remains were only found when military engineers were strengthening the Western Heights in the early 19th century. The Knights Templar were formed in Jerusalem in 1118 to protect pilgrims visiting the Holy Land after the First Crusade.

Church of the Knights Templar, Dover

Knights Templar church, Dover, dating from soon after 1128 when the order reached England

World War II lok outs are dotted all the way along the cliffs south west of Dover, though m ost are now overlooking the far newer Samphire Hoe Country Park, built from spoil dug from the Channel Tunnel

Military look-outs from World War II are dotted all the way along the cliffs south west of Dover, though most are now overlooking the far newer Samphire Hoe Country Park, constructed from spoil dug from the Channel Tunnel

Orchid

Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis

The grasslands along this stretch are rich in chalkland specialist plants and invertebrates, though few insects were around I was battling my way through countless raindrop sprinkled cobwebs. Bees that had got caught out in the rain were buzzing in small pools in the grass, battling to shake off the rain before crashing off through a forest of grass stalks.

Concrete look-out posts left over from the last great world conflict abound along here. Some have toppled over the cliff edge or hang on precariously, others are barred with no access, some are very obvious favourite halts for those wanting to drink cans of cheap lager or have a crap. Two I wandered into were being used to store feed for the many horses grazing the landward slopes.

Walking the cliffs out of Dover and heading toward Folkestone

Walking the cliffs out of Dover and heading toward Folkestone

Concrete parabolic sound mirror

Concrete parabolic sound mirror

Beside one of the national cycle network ‘mileposts’ there is a rare survivor pointing out to sea- one of the ‘listening ears’, a large concrete dish, or mirror, that was used to focus and concentrate the sound waves from approaching enemy aircraft minutes before the sharpest of hearing could do so. More experimental than crucial, the building of post-WWI sound mirrors was cancelled due to the developing radar system.

National Cycle Netwrok milepost

National Cycle Network 2 milepost

I saw four of the iron millennium cycle network mileposts on this section out of Dover, all were of the ‘fossil’ design and each had its special code disc, not that I am collecting these.

Sponsored by The Royal Bank of Scotland (now NatWest Group), there were originally around 1000 of these mileposts when first erected twenty years ago but few, if anyone, seem to know how many have survived today and what condition they are in. Even the list kept by Sustrans appears to be incomplete.

Statue of seated RAF pilot at Battle of Britian Memorial

Statue of RAF pilot at Battle of Britain Memorial

From there it is enjoyable walking all the way along Abbots Cliff to The Warren, a country park at Capel-le-Ferne. Here I took a little time out at the Battle of Britain Memorial with its memorial wall listing almost 3,000 fighter aircrew who flew in the Battle. I get the fullsize replica Supermarine Spitfire MkI and Hawker Hurricane sited to one side, but I thought the large stainless steel sculpture of a Junkers JU87B Stuka crashing into the ground behind them of somewhat dubious taste. No-one else appeared to be around and the doors of the visitor centre were locked, so that meant the upstairs cafe overlooking the outside memorial was also not going to profer the hoped for mug of tea. A shame as I have been here a number of times and it is an interesting place. On my last visit I sat in swirling mist on the veranda and couldn’t see more than fifty feet, other times you can easily see France, just as one of ‘the few’ might have gazed over the water. Fittingly, there is an evocative statue of a seated RAF pilot looking out to sea.

Resting Dragonfly

Resting female Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator), aggressive, and the largest of the hawker dragonflies

Resting Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io). A commonly seen insect on the wing, but with wings closed, these can mimic a dried and withered leaf while hibernating

Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io). A commonly seen and brightly coloured insect on the wing, with wings closed, these can mimic a dried and withered leaf while hibernating

The trail then diverts a little inland to skirt coastal Folkestone. It is a cleverly laid route that keeps mostly to the best on offer, frequently with good views. And if not good, then interesting- the rattling huge trains with their artics and containers loaded in skeletonised carriages frequently passing below prior to disappearing beneath the Channel. Both railway and the noisy A20 tunnel deep beneath Round Hill and the remains of the ring and bailey castle atop Caesar’s Camp. I wandered the earth ramparts at the top, enjoying this stretch of the walk immensly. Later, a well placed bench with engraved Shakespearean quote provided a more than adequate lunch halt. The distinctive transmission mast on Tolsford Hill near Etchinghill is then the skyline target for much of the short remainder of the day. The last time I passed this mast was seven years ago, then with my teenage daughter when the two of us walked the 22 mile Elham Valley Way over two days as part of her ‘training’ for her Duke of Edinburgh expedition. We did it as a winter walk, camped in a pub garden overnight, it snowed and was bitterly cold. The two of us had a great and memorable time. This time I was walking in the opposite direction and the Saxon Shore Way loses the modest height it has gained as it drops down off Tolsford Hill.

Annoyingly, there was yet another of those pathside residences us hikers occasionally have to contend with- two snarling dogs came to the open gate, making short, threatening bluff charges until I was past, then venturing out to follow on my heels, snapping at me when I looked away. No-one around and I wasn’t going to try and find an owner. Instead I showed a fine turn of pace to get away from them, keeping my Leki pole ready. After crossing the M20 it is a sharp right turn off the route and a short walk to Sandling station, arriving mid-afternoon after a walk of slightly less than fifteen miles.

Miss Three Points of the Way climbing Tolsford Hill when completing the Elham Valley Way in 2013. The Saxon Shore Way decends this hill toward Sandling

Miss Three Points of the Compass climbing Tolsford Hill when backpacking the Elham Valley Way in the winter of 2012/3. The Saxon Shore Way decends this hill toward Sandling

A return to the trail the following day sees good weather forecast, perfect for a walk through the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. To begin with there are attractive and cool, if brief, stretches of mostly deciduous woodland, interspersed with cereal crops. These little woods with their birdsong would have been a lovely place to halt for my brief and meagre breakfast however I was intent on a ‘halt with a view’ at the Shepway Cross, or more accurately, the Cinque Ports War Memorial.

Woodlands approaching Pedlinge

Woodlands approaching Pedlinge

Crossing a field of barley and I was alerted to a low head peeking above the crop to my left. A small and rebellious group of sheep had escaped from their field a mile up the road, wandered down the lane and then broken through the hedge and were happily munching down on fresh greens in the neighbouring farmers field, I left them to it.

Embarrased looking sheep pretend they are not playing truant

Embarrassed looking sheep pretend they are not playing truant

The Shepway Cross

The Shepway Cross

The Shepway Cross makes for a lovely halt. It is now a listed monument and walking round to the back of the low wall encircling it gives opportunity to view all sides and provides a more than adequate rest point at which to consume a breakfast bar and rehydrate, the temperature was beginning to build and I was already sweating.

“where Grisnez winks at Dungeness

Across the ruffled strip of salt”

George Meredith

From my halt I could see across the flattened Romney Marsh to the distant lighthouse at Dungeness standing on its prehistoric strips of shingle. That stands only some twenty miles from its cousin on Cape Grisnez in France. The marsh was originally mostly under water and much of my remaining walk today would follow the old coastline (hence ‘Saxon Shore Way’). A glance at the map reveals the contour lines stretching south west along the marsh periphery. My route would hug the hills before dropping down the slopes to the Rother Levels, where the River Rother and Royal Military Canal cut across it. Two days of walking would take me to the inland port of Rye at the far side of this strange little reclaimed island.

The view from my breakfast halt revealed much of the days walk before me. Additionally, beyond Romney Marsh and the sea, can be seen the squat blocks of the nuclear power stations on the Dungeness headland

The view from my breakfast halt revealed much of the days walk before me. Additionally, beyond Romney Marsh and the sea, can be seen the lighthouse and squat blocks of the nuclear power stations on the Dungeness headland

The paths are old rights of way around here and no doubt they have proved meddlesome to recent land owners who have had to contend with people, quite rightly, snaking their way past their properties and businesses. Lympne now boasts a nondescript industrial park built on top of what used to one of the most important airfields in the country. In 1919 it was one of the first four customs appointed aerodromes in the country, In the thirties it was the starting point for numerous long distance record flights by the likes of Amy Johnson, her husband (to be) Jim Mollison, and Jean Batten. The World’s first air car ferry briefly operated from here to Le Touquet. Years later, during the Second World War, there was a plot to kidnap Adolf Hitler, once captured he was to be bought to Lympne. The list goes on, and on, but the airport stopped operating in 1984 and nothing remains today.

12th century St Stephens Church, Lympne

12th century St Stephens Church, Lympne

“keep along the bank, then turn down the hill, go past the giraffes, keep on to the canal, then turn right by the camels”

A little past Lympne is Lympne Castle, this is privately owned and used for weddings and such like so no general access. I was more interested in seeing the lovely 11th to 14th century St Stephens church adjacent. With its well situated bench overlooking Romney Marsh it would have made a far better halt than my previous one. It was here that one of the older residents pottered round with his dog and amiably spent a few minutes (socially distanced) chatting to me. Proud of ‘his’ church and ‘his’ view I remain a little unsure if he was just parochial or actually a local dignitary. It was Jim who delivered what must be my oddest set of directions.

View over Romney Marsh from behind St. Stephens Church, Lympne

View over Romney Marsh from behind St. Stephens Church, Lympne

For a while the Way hugs the edge of the high ground but having reached the first of the fenced enclosures of Port Lympne Wildlife Park (a zoo to anyone else) you pass the zebras and then drop down left, down muddy, slippery paths, snaking between enclosures holding bison (or is it buffalo) and impressive looking big-antlered gazelles of some type. Giraffes I can identify, so it was past them to the banks of the Royal Military Canal. Masticating camels peered at me from the fields on my right as I began the easy low level walking along the canal. This is a popular route for cyclists so to avoid them I moved up on to the adjacent snaking thin little track beside the canal, tripping over tree roots and catching my furled umbrella on overhanging trees, but I was away from dinging, splashing, bloody annoying, cycles being ridden with little thought of pedestrians.

How many UK walks offer views of giraffes striding the hillsides?

How many UK walks offer views of giraffes striding the hillsides?

Easy walking beside the Royal Military Canal

Easy walking beside the Royal Military Canal

Eventually the Saxon Shore Way emerged from the trees and it became a hot and sweaty walk. I left cycles behind me and had the trail to myself, no-one was around. I paused for a good while trying to get a photograph of Turtle Doves above. I haven’t seen one for a decade or so, but failed miserably to catch an image as they kept flying as I got near enough.

There were a lot of cows around and one some five hundred metres away decided I was of great interest and started, literally, to gallop toward me. I have never seen a cow move at that speed. Nervously I hopped over a fence and it slowed to a simple trot as it neared. It lost interest, I hopped back over the wire, carried on, and immediately attracted the attention of a large bull that decided to take a closer look. I am not normally bothered by bovine presence but these looked to be too inquisitive.

Curious bull- probably, possibly, nothing to be concerned about

Curious bull- probably, possibly, maybe, nothing to be concerned about

Studying the map, I climbed a fence and escaped the herd by taking an early path back up the contours to soon join the awkward constantly changing route inland that eventually emerges at Hamstreet. If there is one fault with the Saxon Shore Way it is this part. The trail here is a right mixed bag and it requires constant attention to remain on the right path. I think it would be better staying with the Royal Military Canal as I am not even convinced it is following any historic route by striking inland. As it was, the trail passes close to the railway station, a mile north of the canal and that was the end of another day with a further thirteen miles completed.

Leaving Warehorne the Saxon Shore Way follows ancient paths through the Low Weald

Leaving Warehorne the Saxon Shore Way follows ancient paths through the Low Weald

My next day on trail had me arriving at Hamstreet station with grey skies though I hoped these would clear later. It was comfortably cool walking and it is a treat to follow the very obviously old routes across the fields that join one isolated community with another, paths lead from church to church. The Woolpack Inn at Warehorne looked a treat, I vainly hoped for the usual mug of tea and a bacon buttie but nope. I shall return…

Church of St. Mary, Kenardington

Church of St. Mary, Kenardington

Window on south wall of St Marys reveals 'ghost tracery' of the original and much larger window

Window on south wall of St Marys reveals ‘ghost tracery’ of the original and much larger window

Leaving Warehorne I struck across fields, crossing the Horsemarsh sewer en route, sounds horrible, it is simply a ditch. The Grade II* listed parish church of St. Mary, Kenardington overlooks Romney Marsh and was, remarkably, open. I wandered in and explored the medieval church. This used to be a much larger church but has a chequered history. Built on the site of a Saxon fort, the church was severely damaged by a French raiding party in the 15th century and it was almost ruined after being struck by lightning in 1559. It was then rebuilt, greatly reduced in size and windows were partly or fully filled in.

In 2013, to open up its use to both the local community and those walking the Saxon Shore Way, a new-build ‘pentice’ was added that links with the previously isolated tower at the west end. The work is sympathetic and new glass has also been installed, marking the life of St Mary. I do hope that it occasionally fills with people as it all seemed very lonely and quiet when I visited.

Gusbourne vineyards

Gusbourne vineyards- established 2004. The Saxon Shore Way passes through the centre of these

The gently sloping south facing slopes in this part of the country have been farmed for a thousand years. I do wonder if the Romans had attemped a little grape growing when they were occupying the land here. Today, the Gusbourne estate extends over more than two hundred acres of vineyard and the Saxon Shore Way marches straight through the middle of them- Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes produce award winning wines. The estate is immaculate. Frosts can occur here though and frost fans are used in the lower fields to protect the buds in April.

Then it was back to crossing cereal crops. A rustle to my left and a familiar head showed above the grain, followed by another, and another. What is it with these renegade sheep? Another bunch that had decided that the grass was, indeed, greener in the next field and had formed an escape committee.

If anyone asks, you haven't seen us

If anyone asks, you haven’t seen us

One of the older square shaped oast houses, now converted to a residential dwelling. The corners of these oasts developed cold spots and circular oasts replaced them

Oast house at Stone in Oxney, now converted to a residential dwelling. The corners of these older square oasts developed cold spots and circular oasts proved more efficient

This is a Public Footpath, Right of Way and the Saxon Shore Way- deliberately (allegedly) obscured and unofficially re-routed to keep walkers off the fields edges and on a road instead

This is a Public Footpath, Right of Way and the Saxon Shore Way- deliberately (allegedly) obscured and unofficially re-routed to keep walkers off the field edges and on a road instead. No-one has walked this way in weeks, until me

The remainder of my walking today was mostly uneventful. At Appledore the path does a short loop round to Stone in Oxney before dropping, yet again, down to the lower levels- billiard table flat it appears. It was approaching the Military Canal here that I encountered the only piece of obvious trail route tampering. Way marker posts had been ripped up and slung into the nearby ditches. The absence of one very necessary sign led me the wrong way for a while, taking me along the farm road, the route the farmer obviously preferred, but then I backtracked and walked the correct public Right of Way at the field and ditch edge to rejoin the canal beside the accompanying ‘Military Road’. I did wonder if there had been a diversion of the official route but it was at the far end that I found signs pushed over and uprooted. Once off that particular farmer’s land and onto the Highways England maintained verge there was a good well appointed sign indicating the way I had just come- peeved. Who the hell will halt and instruct these damned people who decide that established routes no longer apply just because they don’t like it?

Dropping down from the higher ground, again, toward the lower marshes

Dropping down from the higher ground, again, toward the lower marshes

Signage beside the Royal Military Canal

The waterside path then leads the walker all the way to Rye where the Saxon Shore Way used to end before being extended to Hastings. The path itself is mostly unremarkable and follows scrappy field edges until branching through a small (seemingly) residential caravan and boat mooring, but the canal is pleasant. Most noticeable is the long line of low cliffs off the right shoulder. These very obviously mark where the original and ancient Saxon shoreline used to be.

More recently, disaster could still occur. On 18 November 1808 a terrific storm at sea was battering Hythe, further back up the coast toward Folkestone. The sea broke through the coastal defences and the sluice linking the canal with the sea at Seabrook was breached. A surge of water flooded much of the Romney and Walland Marshes. If the lock-keeper at Iden hadn’t opened the gates in time the flood would have broken the lock gates and extended much further, causing huge loss of life, as it was he diverted the surge into the River Rother and the unoccupied Rother Levels were flooded instead. The canal linking with the River Rother, with the sea to its other edge, means that the Romney Marshes are effectively a low lying island. Much of it was back under water following this flood.

Royal Military Canal at Boonshill. The low cliffs to the north west show the original land edge that butted up against the Rother Levels, once under water

Royal Military Canal near the Iden lock. The low cliffs to the north west show the original Saxon land edge that abuts the Rother Levels

The canal joins the River Rother and becomes tidal but the path at its edge is still easy going. I began to see the odd dogwalker, which felt a little strange as I had barely seen anyone on the actual trail for the last few days. With low water the muddy edges were exposed and sheep from the grazing marshes were wandering the tideline, picking off seaweed, spike grass and samphire. Their meat must taste fantastic. The saltmarsh found here is a rare habitat in Sussex. When I reached Rye the town was busy. Lots of traffic, lots of people. Yet again the chip shop was closed so I never hung around as I had a couple of changes to make on my rail journey home. I was now in East Sussex having left Kent. Another thirteen miles done and my final day on trail tomorrow.

Approaching Rye beside the tidal River Rother. The higher ground on the north side is still very obvious

Approaching Rye beside the tidal River Rother. The higher ground on the north side is still very obvious

Back in Rye the following day it was already hot and sunny. A cloudless sky and a very exposed first half-day followed by just a little shady shelter in the afternoon. Exiting the station it is only a few hundred metres and the trail is already back into the country. I took time out to try and find Martello Tower No. 30 that is shown on the map. It was built there to protect the sluices of nearby Brede and Tillingham rivers. The tower is hidden away on private properties and I had to dodge the traffic to stand on a scrappy verge trying to see it.

Martello Tower No. 30- hidden away in Rye

Martello Tower No. 30- hidden away behind private properties in Rye

There were 47 Martello Towers built along the East Sussex coast, 46 between Rye and Eastbourne and another at Seaford. These were a chain of gun towers built between 1805-1812 to defend the south eastern coast of England from invasion by Napoleonic forces, an invasion that never came. The British were so impressed by the resistance put up by the fortified tower at Mortella Point in Corsica in 1793 that its design was copied. Tower No. 30 was also one of only two that was built with a Cunette, a narrow moat in the middle of a dry ditch. I could see none of that from my precarious vantage point. Time to walk on to a much more accessible object of antiquity- Camber Castle.

Camber Castle

Camber Castle

Camber Castle. Image edited from that on Wikipedia

‘Tudor Rose’ Camber Castle. Image edited from that on Wikipedia

The low grazing marsh was all to myself this morning, no one else could be seen for miles and the squat Camber Castle, sitting on the slightest of rises, is a dramatic feature on the distant landscape. Enough so that Turner visited to sketch it between 1805 and 1807.

It is not really a castle, more a fort. The medieval forts signified the end of castle building for national defence and the move to defences that recognised the increased range and power of cannon. Henry VIII had twenty forts built to protect the south coast and construction was complete by 1540.

Exiting sewer and worn and weathered sandstone walls of exterior walls of Camber Castle

Exiting drainage channel through worn and weathered exterior sandstone walls of Camber Castle

Because of their shape they are known as ‘Tudor Rose’ forts. I had already passed others in this line of defence- Deal, Walmer and Sandown amongst them. By 1626 the sea had receded so far, today almost a mile away, that the harbour was out of range of its cannon and Charles I gave permission for the now useless castle to be demolished. For some reason it remained standing and eleven years later the military finally abandoned it. Today it is maintained by English Heritage and access to the interior is limited to only a few days a year. I peered through the locked wire gate before walking the exterior and returning to my path. It is then only a further mile and a half before rejoining the Royal Military Canal that had been my occasional companion over the past days. Exiting Winchelsea, this is an exquisite walk. First tree fringed, with reed and Greater Reedmace along the waters edge. Occasional gaps in the vegetation led to the water, each gap filled with a silent occupant surrounded by the paraphernalia of a modern day angler- green tent, chair, multiple rods with a miriad of tackle, and cooler bags filled with cans of lager. Before exiting the tree shaded section I paused to enjoy a melted Mint Chocolate and Nut Kind Bar (the very best of snack bars) and hydrate while watching a pair of buzzards with their noisy fledged youngsters quarter the far bank and the trees on the slopes beyond. Obviously good for raptors around here, a mile further on a Merlin flashed past me chasing a sandpiper.

Leaving Winchelsea behind, it is beautiful walking along the tranquil Royal Military Canal across the Pett Levels all the way to the coast at Cliff End

Leaving Winchelsea behind, it is beautiful walking along the tranquil Royal Military Canal across the Pett Levels all the way to the coast at Cliff End

Built as a defence against a possible invasion of England during the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Military Canal stretches 28 miles from Seabrook near Folkestone to where I was now headed- Cliff End, a little short of Hastings. Construction began 1804 and was completed 1809 having employed some 1500 navvies and troops. The canal is staggered, a kink being included every 500 yards (460 metres) to permit artillery fire along that length. A military road was built along much of the inland side and removable wooden bridges employed to cross the canal. Beside being a physical barrier to invading forces, the canal was also used for quickly transporting soldiers, stores and equipment across the levels. It is a lovely walk in its own right and there is a dedicated trail that does this. The canal may not have seen much in the way of military action but did later aid the authorities in attempting to control smuggling. It was more profitable to export untaxed wool from the heavily fleeced flocks grazing on Romney Marsh than to import contraband French lace or Flemish brandy.

Approaching Ecclesbourne Glen with Hastings beyond

Approaching Ecclesbourne Glen with Hastings beyond

Cliff End, where the canal ends, is well named, for this is where the only slight sting in the tail for the Saxon Shore Way begins. The end of the days walk involves some rollercoasting along the cliff paths to Hastings, taking in Hastings Country Park, Warren Glen, Fairlight Glen and Ecclesbourne Glen, some of the climbs and drops are steep, some paths diverted due to rock fall and I found one dip, having dropped all the way to the stream crossing at the bottom, entirely blocked to passage due to ‘deterioration in the path’, necessitating a climb back out and another route round. Some sections are thick with growth and impassable other than via the established paths but grazing Belted Galloways and Exmoor Ponies are slowly crashing through and opening the slopes up.

Reaching East Cliff it is a gentle walk down the slopes to the edge of Hastings Old Town. The East Cliff funicular railway isn’t working these days so it is a steep descent by steps down into the town, suddenly emerging to a throng of people out enjoying the lovely coastal town, ice creams and, wait for it… freshly fried chips from numerous open chippies.

Part reward for completing the Saxon Shore Way- socially distanced fish and chips at Hastings

Part reward for completing the Saxon Shore Way- socially distanced chips at Hastings

Descending on the West Cliff Funicular railway, the second carriage is ascending

Descending on the West Cliff Funicular railway, the second carriage is ascending

Entrance to the 1891 built West Cliff Railway, Hastings

Entrance to the lower station of the 1891 built West Cliff Railway, Hastings

I had one more treat before walking to the railway station and making my way home. The West Cliff funicular is tucked away off the main drag, but it was open. Despite the new railings installed to control visitor numbers, I was the only one travelling up and down the 19th century cliff railway. Building work began in 1889 and was completed 1891. It travels up through a brick lined tunnel rather than up the outer surface of the cliff. Originally powered by gas, it has been electric since 1971. A short and smooth ride up and down, I enjoyed it more than I perhaps should.

Having placated my inner schoolboy, it was a short walk from there to the railway station after walking a little over 13 miles on the final section of the Saxon Shore Way. The trail is 163 miles long and with a little extra walking to and from railway stations I had covered 176 miles over 11 day sections.

Is the trail worth following? Absolutely. Some days are better than others, but that is the nature of any longer trail. Every day offers up something of historic interest, every day offers at least modest views, every day is different. For those in the South East corner of England who may wish to shy away from hills, or wish to indulge in what is mostly low level walking, or like Three Points of the Compass, have been struggling to regain a little trail fitness, it is ideal.

Saxon Shore Way

Saxon Shore Way

The Saxon Shore Way:

  • Section 1: Gravesend station to Strood station
    • 21.12 miles, 1304 feet ascent
  • Section 2: Strood station to Rainham station
    • 11.25 miles, 785 feet ascent
  • Section 3: Rainham station to Sittingbourne station
    • 17.2 miles, 764 feet ascent
  • Section 4: Sittingbourne station to Faversham station
    • 14.73 miles, 470 feet ascent
  • Section 5: Faversham station to Herne Bay station
    • 21.93 miles, 580 feet ascent
  • Section 6: Herne Bay station to Sandwich station
    • 19.26 miles, 733 feet ascent
  • Section 7: Sandwich station to Dover Priory station
    • 16.83 miles, 2686 feet ascent
  • Section 8: Dover Priory station to Sandling station
    • 14.77 miles, 2540 feet ascent
  • Section 9: Sandling station to Hamstreet station
    • 13.19 miles, 1310 feet ascent
  • Section 10: Hamstreet station to Rye station
    • 12.85 miles, 693 feet ascent
  • Section 11: Rye station to Hastings station
    • 13.15 miles, 2331 feet ascent
Reculver Towers

Trail talk: The Saxon Shore Way- Sittingbourne to Dover

Sandwich Rope Walk, 1915

Sandwich Rope Walk, 1915

Oyster Bay House, Faversham. A three-storey nineteenth century granry store built beside Faversham Creek. A contemporary 'spritsail' barge moored alongside

Oyster Bay House, Faversham. A three-storey nineteenth century granary store built beside Faversham Creek. A contemporary ‘sprit sail’ barge was moored alongside

A second week on the Saxon Shore Way comprised of four days of walking between Sittingbourne and Dover. The trail follows the north Kent shoreline before branching off inland along the old dividing line between mainland and what was once a separate island- the Isle of Thanet, then reaches the coast a little beyond Sandwich and its famous golfing links, finally following the coast round to Dover. These are four easy walking sections each with a very different character. Actually it was only three days of walking as I had already completed the Sittingbourne to Faversham part earlier in the year and that blog was published on the Cicerone website. I was looking forward to the three days that would take me to Dover.

Continuing from where I had finished the first three sections, the fourth section on the Saxon Shore Way reaches along the coast from Sittingbourne to Faversham. Earlier in the year, prior to lockdown really clamping down, we had been permitted one form of exercise a day and I took the opportunity to isolate myself from others on that lonely stretch of shoreline. I had been considering early retirement from work and this day walking alone provided an ideal opportunity for solitary thought and decision making.

Favourite is the last surviving oyster yawl in Whistable. Built in 1890, her working life ended when shot at by a German fighter in 1944. She now sits in a garden besdie the Saxon Shore Way

‘Favourite’ is the last surviving oyster yawl in Whistable. Built in 1890, her working life ended when shot at by a German fighter in 1944. She now sits in a garden beside the Saxon Shore Way

The Saxon Shore Way from Faversham starts with the pleasant and easy walk out and round Faversham Creek, past silent boatyards and out on to the sea wall on Nagden and Graveney Marshes. Harty, on the Isle of Sheppey is just a mile away, across the tidal Swale, that lonely and hard to reach place was the birthplace of British aviation. The water was low and a lot of mud was exposed. A couple of seals bobbed around out in the channel, no doubt looking for flat fish in the increasing current. Waders were in abundance but distant. Bright white Little Egrets paced the waters edge and I began to see, and hear, a handful of Little Terns as I approached Seasalter. In this Covid year the caravan park there was still closed when I walked past but the site owners were taking the opportunity of applying a lick of paint to spruce the place up. A brief wave, they went about their work and I went on with my walk. I was approaching Whitstable and I had hopes of fish and chips for lunch.

The town was heaving. The weather was fantastic and thousands of people, confined to quarters for too long and starved of stimuli, had descended on the place. Social distancing was an impossibility, the paths were full and I had to walk in the road, car mirrors brushing me as they threaded their way through rammed streets. I passed through the town, famous for oysters and other seafood, without halting. Looked like my simple cheese sarnie in my pack was going to suffice.

Approaching Herne Bay the Saxon Shore Way begins to pass brightly painted beach huts, now selling for tens of thousands of pounds each

Approaching Herne Bay the Saxon Shore Way begins to pass brightly painted beach huts, now selling for tens of thousands of pounds each

Yellow Horned Sea Poppy

Yellow Horned Sea Poppy (Glaucium flavum) abounds

From Whitstable it is a wide and flat esplanade wander all the way to the end of my day at Herne Bay. It is a long enough stretch of coast that the many hundreds out enjoying the summer sun were mostly spread thin and there was plenty of room to keep up a swift pace.

Beach huts and coastline properties sell for a lot of money along this sheltered stretch. New builds are squeezed in where they can. A couple of years ago a developer upset the locals when they discovered that the latest building project was called ‘Impressive Erections’.

Having reached the pier it was just a half mile walk uphill to Herne Bay station, arriving mid-afternoon having completed almost 22 miles on easy almost flat surfaces all day.

The Heron public house stands next door to Herne Bay railway station. Like all others, they were eagerlly anticpating being allowed to open in this coronvirus year. This was eventually permitted on 4th July

The Heron public house stands next door to Herne Bay railway station. Like all others in England, they were eagerly anticpating being allowed to reopen following coronvirus lockdown. This was eventually permitted on 4th July

Back the following morning to continue my walk, I found Herne Bay a charming and tidy place, lacking in much of the general tattiness and tackiness that afflicts so many English sea towns these days. An historic past and links with figures from history are evident, none more so than record-breaking Amy Johnson who disappeared offshore having crashed there during World War II. She was the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia and was an accomplished pilot, navigator and engineer. The cause of her death remains a mystery but rumours abound, one being that she perished under the propellors of the ship sent to rescue her.

Bronze statue of Amy Johnson gazes out to the estuary where she disappeared on 5th January 1941 when ferrying an aeroplane as part of the Air Transport Auxiliary

Bronze statue of Amy Johnson gazes out to the estuary where the pilot disappeared on 5th January 1941 while transporting an Airspeed Oxford as part of the Air Transport Auxiliary. She baled out after possibly running out of fuel. Another rumour suggests she was shot down by anti-aircraft crew after failing to give the corrent identification signal

Clock Tower in Herne Bay

Clock Tower in Herne Bay

I pottered around Herne Bay a little before properly striking off as not only was I in search of a cup of tea and a bacon sarnie (unlucky in both), but it is also a lovely espanade and the clock tower alone demands a little time to admire it. Built in 1837 it is the oldest purpose-built, free-standing clock tower in the UK. It stands 85 feet (26m) tall including the weather vane. The two canons standing at its base were dredged from the sea bed when the town pier was being completed in 1899. Possibly Dutch in origin, they used to fire blanks as a fog warning to shipping.

It was off the coast here that Barnes Wallis and his colleagues experimented with the Upkeep Bouncing Bomb in April and May 1943 and Highball prototype in April 1943. Today there was little to see at sea other than an array of wind turbines and the distant Maunsell Forts.

Leaving Herne Bay it was more easy walking along the coast until a gentle rise up to Reculver Country Park. Plenty of dog walkers around taking all the pavement width with leads stetched from one side to the other. Its OK mate, I’ll go round you then…

There is a plethora of benches well sited, all with good views out to sea and I made use of one for a mid morning halt to rehydrate and snack on an oat bar. The weather was again kind and I had again packed along three litres of water as there are few places to replenish on this route. Soon after, it was the long sweeping drop down to the dramatic Reculver Towers.

Plan of Reculver Fort. Courtesy of English Heritage

Plan of Reculver Fort. Image courtesy of English Heritage

The 12th century towers atop a monastic church can be seen for miles across the flat landscape. So noticeable are they that they were rebuilt as a navigational aid for shipping. However the site’s history is far older than that as it was formerly a Roman fort. The coastline is extensively eroded here and the fort and subsequent church used to stand far inland. The encroaching sea has taken half of the fort and now laps at the feet of the towers. Recent sea defences may yet prevent them toppling.

After a decent wander and explore of the site, I found a small cafe that had just opened the day before, following months of lock-down closure. A good bacon sarnie was accompanied by a mug of tea, the proprietor followed my demands for ‘strong’ tea to the letter- superb. Why-oh-why is making a decent cup of tea a dying art!

Exploring Reculver Towers

Exploring Reculver Towers

Crossing the Isle of Thanet takes in countless drainage ditches and streams. Frogs and voles abounded. Shrews and Mice crossed my path frequently, a lone Weasel chased on and Kestrels were also on the hunt

Crossing the Isle of Thanet takes in countless drainage ditches and streams. Dragonflies quartered their ‘patch’. Frogs and voles abounded. Shrews and mice crossed my path frequently, a lone weasel chased one and kestrels were also on the hunt

Leaving Reculver my path now headed inland. The Saxon Shore Way runs concurrent with the Wantsum Walk and Stour Valley Walk for much of its way as it crosses the Isle of Thanet, missing out the top north east corner. Thankfully as otherwise the route would wander needlessly through Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. That part of the coast now being almost completely built up.

Following on from a few days of mostly coastal walking, the Saxon Shore Way takes on a very different flavour on this inland section. My weather was superb- warm, sunny and dry. The air crackled with heat and bees and flies buzzed me companionably.

This part of the walk was so enjoyable that I might return one day to explore this area further. No-one was around and I had the paths to myself all the way to Grove Ferry. The large pub there was closed but an enterprising youngster had set up a caravan in the car park and was doing good trade with paddle boarders and anglers. I joined the two metre spacing queue and was soon enjoying yet another decent mug of tea and a quality burger. Lunch may have come early but sitting in the shade of a birch tree with a Flycatcher loudly snapping at flies on the wing infront of me, an hour sped by. Unusual for me who doesn’t normally halt for longer than is necessary.

Stour Valley Walk is a mixture of quite roads and paths, rough grazing and farm crops. Hamlets and villages are dotted around and all is quintessentially British

Stour Valley Walk is a mixture of quiet roads and paths, rough grazing and farm crops. Hamlets and villages are dotted around and all is quintessentially British

From there it was another couple of hours of pleasant quiet walking all the way to Richborough Power Station with no-one beside inquisitive (perhaps too inquisitive) cows and skitterish sheep as occasional company. We all find interest in different things and Three Points of the Compass paused at two large Bailey Bridges that had been built across the River Stour for the farmer to move his cows across. I cast a critical eye over these as I have built dozens of them in another life decades previous.

A grassy riverside trail follows the Stour all the way to the end of this days walk at Sandwich. This was aperfect day to be trying out a new piece of gear- Sun Gloves from Outdoor Research

A grassy riverside trail follows the Stour all the way to the end of this days walk at Sandwich. This was a perfect hot and sunny day to be trying out a new piece of gear- Sun Gloves from Outdoor Research

These flat lands have been inhabited for thousands of years and evidence of Roman occupation continues to be unearthed. One place that was preserved years ago and is well worth a diversion is the Roman fort that is just a little way off-trail at Richborough. Even during its Roman occupation, the ‘castle’ underwent massive change. From AD43 Richborough was the major British port and from here legions would spread out across Britain, starting off along Watling Street, which commences here. The route today indicated by a little inconsequential concrete farm track. A large triumphal arch, possibly 25m high, was built straddling the road and entry through the arch signified formal arrival into Britannia. The arch foundations remain however the rest was utilised as building material for a Saxon fort built across the site around 277.

The Romans occupied Richborough from AD43 and the extensive and fascinating remains of the Roman fort at Richborough are well worth exploring. The site was considerably altered over the centuries. Here, the mid-thirteenth century ditches cut right through the foundations of second century buildings

The Romans occupied Richborough from AD43 and the extensive and fascinating remains of the Roman fort are well worth exploring. The site was altered considerably over the centuries. Here, mid-thirteenth century ditches cut right through the foundations of second century buildings

From Richborough it is a short walk into Sandwich. This is possibly one of the most pleasant entries in to a town you could have, along the raised Rope Walk with shading trees and green spaces on both sides, looking down to some lovely period homes as you walk. A supermarket toward the end might just have been visited to pick up a bottle of Shiraz with which to celebrate another 19 miles completed.

Keep to the path while crossing the grounds of the Royal St. George's Golf Club. Host to the Open Championship on occasion

Thatched starters hut at the first hole on the Royal St. George’s Golf Club. Occasional host to the Open Championship

Deal Time Ball Tower

Deal Time Ball Tower. Built as a shutter telegraph in 1795-6, a message from here could reach the Admiralty in London in two minutes. Rebuilt as a semaphore tower in 1816, it was again rebuilt as a time-ball tower in 1833. At 12.55 a ball was raised half way up the mast and to the top at 12.58. At 13.00 an electrical current from Greenwich dropped the ball, enabling ships off shore to properly set their chronometers

The next day on the Saxon Shore Way sees an easy exit from town that heads toward the nearby coast, soon crossing the hallowed short turf of the Royal St. George’s Golf Club, founded in 1887, I wondered how the thousands of golfers over the decades have regarded hikers popping up and wandering across ‘their’ course. The trail dips and climbs over a few dunes as it crosses and there is little danger of being struck by an errant golfball. Lots of specialised mowers were going about their business taking another millimetre off the grass.

Saxon Shore Way marker- this trail is well sigposted for almost all its length

Combined Public Footpath and Saxon Shore Way marker- this trail is well sigposted for almost all its length

The England Coast Path was supposed to be completed in 2020 but is running severely late. This part of South East England was amongst the first to be completed and signage is already in place

The England Coast Path was supposed to be completed in 2020 but is running severely late. This part of South East England was amongst the first to be completed and signage is already in place

Having butted up against the shingle and sea it is a sharp right turn and follow the coast again. A lot of joggers, dog walkers and very polite and proper locals taking a stroll. The Royal Cinque Ports Golf Links is passed and the shoreline closely followed all the way to Deal. Immediately noticeable is Deal Time Ball Tower, in use until 1927 and now a museum. Typically, due to Covid, it was closed.

Fishing boats hauled up on to the shingle near Deal

Fishing boats hauled up on to the shingle near Deal

In 1539-40, Sandown, Walmer and Deal castles became part of Henry VIII’s ‘Castles in the Downs’. Colonel Hutchinson, signatory to Charles I’s death warrant, was imprisoned at Sandown by a peeved Charles II. Little remains to be seen of Sandown Castle as you pass its shoreline situation as the council encased it in concrete and made it part of the seawall, but squat Deal and Walmer Castles are largely extant. All three castles were captured by Royalist troops during the civil war and held for three months. The clover leaf bastions were designed to deflect cannon fire. All interesting enough but come on, you can even go inside Walmer Castle and see a pair of tall leather boots that Arthur Wellesley asked his shoemaker to make for him. Later, as Viscount Wellington, he defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Soon everyone wanted to be seen wearing a pair of ‘Wellingtons’. The castles can be visited with prior booking but I’ve seen the boots before and could live without such excitement, so I contented myself with a few photos of the castle exteriors and walked on. I found the towns busy with activity and braced against a stiffening wind. I wasn’t sure I could agree with William Cobbetts assessment in 1823- ‘a most villainous place. It is full of filthy-looking people’.

Walmer Castle is one of England's finest Tudor Castles, built under the instruction of Henry VIII

Walmer Castle is one of England’s finest Tudor Castles, built under the instruction of Henry VIII

Car sticker for the pirate Radio Caroline

Car sticker for the pirate Radio Caroline

This part of the British shoreline has been notorious for centuries. Off-shore are the ‘Downs’ a safe area of water for ships, just inside the treacherous Goodwin Sands, a sandbank some six miles offshore that has claimed thousands of boats. Even the South Goodwin Lightship was taken in 1954. Three Points of the Compass grew up listening to pirate radio. MV Ross Revenge, from which Radio Caroline was broadcast, went onto the sands in November 1991. That was the end of off-shore pirate radio in Britain.

Daniel Defoe wrote of Deal men setting out to sea when they saw a boat had foundered, looting the wrecks and ignoring any survivors on the sands, condemming them to death when the tide rose. The town accused him of libel.

My verse should blast that fatal town,
And drown’d sailors’ widows pull it down;
No footsteps of it should appear,
And ships no more cast anchor there.
The barbarous hated name of Deal shou’d die,
Or be a term of infamy;
And till that’s done, the town will stand
A just reproach to all the land

from- Daniel Defoe, The Great Storm of 1703

The occupants of this island have been relying on good land grazing and bounty from the sea for thousands of years. Over 4000 years ago the Beaker folk were burying their dead at Kingsdown on the coast. The tumuli survive to this day. Neolithic cattle compounds, or krall, have been found. Flints and limpet shells have been excavated, these date from the Middle Stone Age 1200 BC onward. In more recent times, smuggling of goods such as tea, brandy and cloth occurred. Today, it seems to be people smuggling that is in vogue. What I found at Kingsdown was an open cafe. Signs instructed me to wait until permitted to enter and I impatiently loitered outside until beckoned in. Before ordering I dropped my pack on to a chair and checked I had a wallet and, more importantly a card to pay by as cash was not being accepted. Having placed my order, I moved to one side should anyone else enter the shop, providing sufficient social distance. I browsed the menu and considered ordering something for later but decided against it. Take-away tea and bacon sandwich prepared, I was beckoned forward, I paid through the perspex screen and retreated to an out of the way table to pack my sarnie away before donning the pack. Just as I was leaving, the proprietor came out to thank me for my custom and inform me that because I had touched a chair, a table, the menu, the counter, another chair and another table, he was now going to have to clean and disinfect half the seating area. It is going to take some getting used to this ‘new normal’.

It was at Kingsdown that the first woman to swim the English Channel made landfall in 1926, taking 14 hours and 34 minutes, almost two hours faster than any of the five men who had managed the swim previously. France is just 21 miles away but 20 year old Gertrude Ederle had to battle severe currents and swim 35 miles The first person the American record breaker met was an immigration officer who demanded a passport from “the bleary-eyed, waterlogged teenager“. She wore motorcycle goggles, sealed against her skin with paraffin, to protect her eyes from the salt water. Rather her than me…

Sea front statue, presumably the sport of fish wrestling is a big thing round here

Sea front statue, presumably the sport of fish wrestling is a big thing round here

Onward, onward, keep following the shore toward the next change in the Saxon Shore Way. My walk had been mostly pretty flat to date but it now began a gradual climb and offered a little rollercoasting as it neared Dover

Gradual and undemanding climbing on to cliffs at St Margarets

Gradual and undemanding climbing on to cliffs at St Margaret’s at Cliffe

South Foreland Lighthouse. Built in 1843. Under Faraday's supervision, in 1858 it became the first lighthouse in the world to utilise an electric light. In 1898 it was chosen by Marconi for his experiments with wireless radio transmissions. The first ship to shore transmission was made that year followed by the first international message in 1899

South Foreland Lighthouse, built in 1843. Under Faraday’s supervision, in 1858 it became the first lighthouse in the world to utilise an electric light. In 1898 it was chosen by Marconi as the site for his experiments with wireless radio transmissions. The first ship to shore transmission was made that year followed by the first international message in 1899

My day on trail was drawing to a close. I have walked these cliffs many times. My own family wandered far and wide when Miss Three Points of the Compass was just a nipper and the cafe at the top made a great place to bring my mother for a ‘cup of tea with a view’ as she lost her ability to walk far.

I often practiced my useless flora identification skills on the wide range of flowers and grasses found here. Though usually I would simply give up and go and watch the peregrines terrorising the nesting fulmars and gulls. I was too late in the year for that so I contented myself with watching the ferries in the busy port below. At least I was looking around. The only other people on the cliffs were teens all seemingly engaged in getting the best Instagram picture.

It is a surprisingly long walk to the station even after you have dropped down from the cliffs. There are a lot of new roads and the route has been carefully routed through these and the depressingly forgotten and grimy back streets and is followed with ease.

The Saxon Shore Way drops down to Dover town. Sadly the medieval castle is not on route

The Saxon Shore Way drops down to Dover town. Sadly, medieval Dover castle is not on route

Charles Stewart Rolls, the first man to cross the channel and return in a single flight

Charles Stewart Rolls, the first man to cross the channel and return in a single flight

A number of statues and memorials are passed- those who fell in World War I, the Merchant Navy Seamen lost in World War II, Operation Fuller, even one for Charles Rolls who looked at what Louis Blériot had achieved and said ‘I can do better’. I wondered how long before some miserable woke individuals decided that these offended them and demanded their removal.

Having met the confluence of three paths- where the North Downs Way ends at the Dover shoreline, meeting both England Coast Path and the Saxon Shore Way, I soon branched off to the railway station at the end of an interesting and enjoyable section of almost 17 miles.

My next four days on trail would see me moving in to the neighbouring county of East Sussex. Still to come I had a military canal, a zoo, more ups and downs than you can shake a stick at, and I might finally get the fish and chips that has so far evaded me.

Dover- the confluence of three great trails

Dover- the confluence of three great trails

The Saxon Shore Way

  • Section 1: Gravesend station to Strood station
    • 21.12 miles, 1304 feet ascent
  • Section 2: Strood station to Rainham station
    • 11.25 miles, 785 feet ascent
  • Section 3: Rainham station to Sittingbourne station
    • 17.2 miles, 764 feet ascent
  • Section 4: Sittingbourne station to Faversham station
    • 14.73 miles, 470 feet ascent
  • Section 5: Faversham station to Herne Bay station
    • 21.93 miles, 580 feet ascent
  • Section 6: Herne Bay station to Sandwich station
    • 19.26 miles, 733 feet ascent
  • Section 7: Sandwich station to Dover Priory station
    • 16.83 miles, 2686 feet ascent
  • Section 8: Dover Priory station to Sandling station
    • 14.77 miles, 2540 feet ascent
  • Section 9: Sandling station to Hamstreet station
    • 13.19 miles, 1310 feet ascent
  • Section 10: Hamstreet station to Rye station
    • 12.85 miles, 693 feet ascent
  • Section 11: Rye station to Hastings station
    • 13.15 miles, 2331 feet ascent

Saxon Shore Way

Saxon Shore Way