Monday, 20 October 2014

Cote d' Opal - Walk

Having decided to take a wander over to the other side of the coast from the White Cliffs of Dover. I started to plan my little trip, initially I had some doubts over safety, particularly as images of immigrants clambering over Calais Port security fences had been broadcast on the news. Initially I sent away for some mapping of the coast, which duly arrived, in the interim I went on Google earth and carried out some plotting for the trip.

The plan was to do two and half days trip, travel from Dover Port to Calais by ferry foot passenger continue on foot to hopefully Cap Griz Naz calling at Cap Blanc Naz and as many interesting coastal spots as possible. One of the many reasons to go was to have a look at the German WW2 gun fortifications, or what remained.

Dover Harbour
I departed Dover in on the Friday Morning arriving in Calais Port at around midday. Having been on ferries many times this time I was a foot passenger a completely different experience.

Calais Port
The first thing to do was get my bearings and ensure I headed in the right direction, actually I lot simpler than the mapping suggested. A short  walk into Calais town and followed the coastal road all well sign posted.


Fort Risban

Fort Risban
La Plage
On my walk to the Coastal road and beach I passed Fort Risban, clearly the English having a lot of involvement with Calais over the many centuries.

The beaches are golden sand all along the coast line, unlike the  pebbles we are blessed with on the other side of the channel!!

Calais Plage
Beach huts every where
Although I hadn't planned to stop and pay my respects at a military cemetery, my route although I didn't know it took my by Les Baraques Military Cemetery. I stopped and spent some time with my fallen brothers, an emotional visit.

Les Baraques Military Cemetery
Time to move on towards Cap Blanc Nez which I hoped to make before last light. I was carrying my Lightwave rucksack loaded to about 15kgs I set a good pace but eventually stopped again to photograph and inspect the size and construction of some of the German WW2 bunkers, pill boxes.

I wandered down the beach looking for a way to move to the coastal road track eventually finding the correct trail.

Another Fort complex and nature reserve. At this point I thought I had no chance of getting to my night camp location, so much to see, I should have allocated more time, a thought for the future. After a while I began walking along a nature path that was type one gravel, I thought great I can make some time up here, that thought didn't remain with me for long............

The paths turned into sandy footpaths which slowed me down. It had been a scorching day so far and this continued into the mid afternoon unusually hot for this time of year. I was carrying a 3 litre bladder of water which I was going through quickly.

Sea Buckthorn
The sides of the trail were heavy with fruit laden Sea Buckthorn it looked very nice. Onwards on upwards towards Sangatte.

Eventually I passed through Sangatte and found my way on to the cliffs, you can just see the obelisk of Cap Blanc Nez in the distance.  On my arrival at the summit of Cap Blanc Nez a quick look at the views get my breath, and try and find somewhere to set up for the night.

On looking around getting my bearings the land was pocked mark with holes, I knew what this was allied artillery or naval shelling onto the area. I later found out that the Lindemann Artillery gun had been located very close by, this gun used to shell Folkestone, Dover and surrounding areas.

View from Cap Blanc Nez

Escalles in the distance
Having spotted the village of Escalles in the valley below. I could make out what looked like a campsite, so I made my way there hoping that they allowed small tents. Unfortunately I did not visit the obelisk on the way back would be the time.

Campsite Du Cap Blanc Nez
Nice small campsite, good pitch and view. I set about getting sorted out and getting tea on.

I decided that next day I would book another night at the campsite and walk with a lighter load to Cap Griz Nez. In hindsight I should have packed up and carried all my gear and stopped at Cap Griz Nez. Saturday was sunny but with a chill the remainder turned out to be windy but very warm.

More military fortifications on the cliffs facing the UK

Wissant in the distance
Eventually, I found myself in the Village of Wissant after a walk along some main roads. A nice seaside village close to the beach with a few good places to stay and eat. I stopped briefly to have a break and enjoy a coffee and use the facilities.

A German fortification on the edge of the beach and outskirts of Wissant
At this point I had worked out that to reach Cap Gris Nez was possible but would be a hell of a trip back, however I continued and gave myself a cut off time, if I did not reach my destination I would turn around.

I continued to walk until the allotted time was reached I found myself about 2 miles short of my destination. Duly turning around and heading back. It was a Saturday and the beaches were very busy with local people pursuing there chosen recreational activity's ranging from kite surfing, boarding, sailing and walking the beach. I decided that I would use the beach on the way back as the tide was well and truly out. I managed to walk the whole leg back to camp on the beach, had I known this I would have chosen this on the way out and I'm sure I would have reached my destination. I consoled myself with the fact that I had enjoyed the cliff tops on the way out and had seen two different sides of the walk. The walk along the beach highlighted to me again why this part of France had been called a fortress.

Finally, returning to Cap Blanc Nez very tired. I rested up for the rest of the day and on Sunday would head of for Calais and the ferry.

The final day started early. There are two Obelisks one in St Margret's bay and the other Cap Blanc Nez both commemorating the Dover patrol as I mentioned in a previous post Saxon Shore walk out

Part of the information posters at the summit of Cap Blanc Nez

Finally reaching Calais around 1330, I grabbed the ferry, having traveled approximately 29 miles in two days. A thoroughly enjoyable trip but really only scratching the surface of many things to see on the Opal Coast, most people transit through this region to the rest of Europe, I for one will be stopping or making an effort to have a look around at the fascinating history of this coastal  region. One to do again, potentially over a longer period.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Great post Paul. This was one of those walks I always wanted to do. It was a case of "maybe next year" syndrone then one day their is no more next year. case in point I moved to the states. Again great picks thanks for posting.

  2. Clive, thanks for the kind comment. It really brings home the bravery of the boys beach landing at Normandy as the beaches are very similiar.

    I nearly did not make this trip as it was put off and then turned on again. so glad I went.

    Stay lucky mate.