Samphire Hoe Country Park
Samphire Hoe Country Park is a country park situated 3 km (2 miles) west of Dover in Kent in southeast England. The park was created by using 4.9 million cubic metres of chalk marl from the Channel Tunnel excavations and is found at the bottom of a section of the White Cliffs of Dover. The site is owned by Eurotunnel Ltd., and managed by the White Cliffs Countryside Project.
It is accessible by the public via a single-track tunnel controlled by traffic lights, which crosses over the Kent Coast railway line. Visitor facilities are provided, including car parking, toilets and a tea kiosk.
Samphire Hoe is named after the wild plant rock samphire that was once collected from the Dover cliffs; its fleshy green leaves were picked in May and pickled in barrels of brine and sent to London, where it was served as a dish to accompany meat. A 'hoe' is a piece of land which sticks out into the sea.
The name was coined by Mrs Gillian Janaway, a retired English teacher from Dover, by way of a public competition.
The cliffs above the current park were blown up with gunpowder in 1843 to aid the creation of the Dover to Folkestone railway. In 1880 an attempt was made from the site to create a tunnel that would pass under the English Channel but it failed shortly afterwards. In 1895 a coal mine was sunk there but this closed in 1921 after being very unsuccessful. These activities were served by Shakespeare Cliff Halt railway station at the western end of the Shakespeare Cliff tunnel; the remains of the platforms can be seen from the road to the car park. A community of fisherfolk and others once lived at the foot of Shakespeare Cliff.
In the 1980s the site was deemed the most suitable of sixty proposed to dump chalk from Channel Tunnel excavations, and work began on it in 1988. As the 30 hectares that make up the park were totally reclaimed from the sea, the first job to be completed was the building of walls in the sea to create an artificial lagoon. It was completed in 1994 and opened by Queen Elizabeth II and President François Mitterrand. It opened to the public in 1997.
The park now attracts around 110,000 visitors per year. Walking, cycling, angling on the sea wall and bird watching are some of the activities available. The park is open between 7am and dusk; admittance is free and car parking is £1. It is very wheelchair friendly and an education room is available for school use.
The site has a walking trail and serves as a wildlife area. Samphire Hoe has been managed by the White Cliffs Countryside Project, in partnership with the owner, Eurotunnel.
Samphire Hoe has a walking path which makes a full circuit of 2 kilometres (1.2 mi). The level of the path has mild slopes with an average gradient of 1:15 though a little steeper in places and with cross slopes of up to 1:25. The nature trail within the Hoe is tarmac with fine gravel, but the seawall path is made of smooth concrete. The area has been used for jogging and fun runs on special occasions.
The ecology of Samphire Hoe includes wildflowers and birds. It is now a chalk meadow-land with a number of nationally rare plant species including the early spider orchid. In July each year, the rock sea lavender blooms, along with rock samphire.
Peregrine falcons have been seen flying along the cliffs. Some stonechats and meadow pipits gather on the meadow, while rock pipits move along the base of the cliffs. House martins make mud nests under the overhangs of the chalk cliffs.