CHALKUP21 Poets and writers walk from The Wing at Capel – le – Ferne to the North Downs Way START/FINSH line on Dover’s seafront


The CHALKUP21 poets and writers walk was led by poet and writer Chris Poundwhite assisted by artist Louise Webb. It took in 5 of the 9 structures forming the CHALKUP21 art and architecture trail starting at The Wing at the Battle of Britain Memorial in Capel-le-Ferne and ending at the North Downs Way Start/Finish line on Dover’s Esplanade. The walk was a collaboration between the Kent Downs AONB Unit and Dover Arts Development to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Kent Downs AONB and the 40th anniversary of the North Downs Way. Some of the works will be performed at a poetry event at Samphire Hoe on  23rd September.

Alice Bryant, our the marketing officer for CHALKUP21, attended the walk:

Our group of walkers began at Capel-le-Ferne, on a scorching August morning. Stood outside The Wing building, we gathered our materials and set off on foot in complete silence, absorbing the sounds and sights around us for the next twenty minutes: the eternal chatter of the crickets in the long grass, the wind rushing over the cliffs, and the plod and tread of our feet along the path. 

Perhaps it might appear strange to walk in silence in the company of strangers, but there is something about it that is also quite gentle, and quite comforting. With silence, an easy sense of company emerged and any pressure evaporated; suddenly we were all moving together-but-not-together like a V of birds, there to collect, to reflect, to re-engage with the landscape. 

Chris produced a table of different categories, separating them into three columns of words that fit within a certain theme e.g. landscape, structure and emotion. In order to centre and direct our attention, Chris asked us to pick two words at random from each column and hone our attention on those themes. I chose ‘habitat’ and ‘imagination’, conscious of the static of the crickets in the long grass, imperceptible but never ceasing. 

In Louisa’s part of the exercise, we drew how the sounds in the distance might feel to us – what could we hear? Could we draw the sound of a helicopter whirring far, far away?

Afterwards, we broke into conversation again, and followed the path along the cliffs to Samphire Hoe Education Shelter. We spent the day splitting up the walk into segments – twenty minutes silence, then twenty minutes of writing and drawing and then twenty minutes of talking. 

After the surge of colour along the cliffs (the blues of the sea, the whites of the cliffs, the yellows of the dry grass) the descent back into the industry felt so sudden, beginning with the whirr of the fans at Samphire Hoe, and then the rush of the motorway. Cars seemed to drop down through the tunnel to Samphire Hoe like pebbles being thrown down a well. 

Along the route, we decided to take the route from Samphire Hoe along Shakespeare Beach, meandering and crunching past the sunbathers and couples out with their barbecues and families playing on the pebbles. There were hunks and clumps of concrete sat next to the beach, and lorries lined up along the fence line, and the train tracks and the port – suddenly we were in the city again, surrounded by industry and movement. Boats and boats and yet more boats sat in the harbour, and everything looked so busy and set in motion until you turned your eyes towards the quiet in the distance – the castle against the skyline and the Banksy mural below. As the day went by, the group walked around the Dover Sea Sports Centre, along the path of the Three Waves, and stepped over the Start/Finish Line, where we aptly ended our day of writing and wandering.

Here is some feedback we received from participants:

– Just a quick mail to say a huge “thanks” from Nienke, Minty and I for a really super day yesterday! The walk was lovely, and the workshops just right in my opinion; a thoroughly rewarding experience in all ways.

-The writers walk was a delight. Very well led and guided by Chris and Louise and just wonderful to walk in silence  for much of the time. It is an extraordinarily diverse walk of history, ecology and modern life challenges, which provoked lots of imagination and connection.

-Thanks for organising and curating a really enjoyable, interesting and stimulating day (and please pass on thanks to Louise).  I learned so much during the day and it’s made me think in such a different way. I think an event or situation which can make someone look at the world in a different way, through other people’s eyes and perspectives has a rare value indeed. The chat at the end in the urban room added yet another fascinating and illuminating dimension.

-Thank you for organising the walk yesterday, it was thoroughly enjoyable and very inspirational.

-Thank you very much for tea, chilled water and biscuits – they were so appreciated after the walk! But most of all for the use of the Urban Room. I was not expecting that and I found the conversation and ambiance extremely stimulating, thought provoking – and enjoyable!