Folkestone & the Hythe Sound Mirror

The south coast sound mirrors first caught my eye in the brilliant BBC comedy Back to Life. I only now realise I mistakenly thought the location used in the series was the impressive array near Dungeness that is only accessible on certain days of the year. Turns out that the sound mirror featured in the show was a short distance along the coast between Dover and Folkestone at Abbot’s Cliff. Instead I decided to walk from Folkestone towards Rye to the sound mirror in the hills above Hythe – in what was one of the best hikes of the year so far.

Part of the appeal of heading for the Hythe sound mirror was that it would take in a section of the 28-mile Royal Military Canal that I picked up at Seabrook, til I spied the sound mirror embedded amongst undergrowth just beneath the ridge in the Roughs, marooned like a crashed UFO. This particular sound mirror was built in 1929 as part of a chain of coastal defences, with the aim of detecting incoming aircraft crossing the channel. It possesses a latent magic of a much older artefact. The fact a human being had to plug themselves into to this enormous concrete dish via a metal trumpet and a stethoscope to listen for the distant rubble of aircraft engines amplified its mystery.

Hythe Sound Mirror

Returning along the coast at early evening I caught the sunset on the Harbour Arm and remembered the video series I shot down here with brilliant artist Bob and Roberta Smith for the Folkestone Triennial in 2016 – Folkestone is an Art School. As the sun went down and the wind battered the Harbour lighthouse I wandered up the meandering Old High Street already making plans to return.

The most underrated part of London & other Questions

The other week I took a stroll around Wanstead Flats answering a whole load of questions that’d been sent to me via Instagram, YouTube and Patreon. It was great fun.

Some of the questions I answer in this video:

Hi John! Hope you are well. Apologies if this has already been asked but what is your favourite film about London? Take it easy.

A walk I’d like to do one day and you may find interesting is to visit all 20 Wetherspoons pubs in London, what do you think John? Only 20 in zone 1 which makes it walkable if you can still walk towards the end John

1) would still love to see you walk more of the southern side of the Thames, gravesend, higham, grain etc.

2) will you write another book one day?

Do you believe in certain places being haunted or retaining some past stories?

What is your favourite part of Britain that you always look forward to returning to?

Any more plans for walks in Europe? Loved ur Berlin trip

In your opinion, what’s the most underrated part of London? Equally, most overrated?

What’s the best place to get a good pint right on the river Thames in the summer?

Related links:

Patrick Keiller Interview

Paris Arcades video (with Heidi Lapaine)

Walking London Loop Section 3

London Loop Section 3 – Hayes Common to Petts Wood

I seem to use the London Loop as a device to re-orientate myself after time away from the city. The outer London orbital path resets my internal compass. So after my trip to Berlin with my son, I returned to the Loop at Hayes in the London Borough of Bromley to pick up the path I left in August last year.

Probably the greatest thing about the London Loop is how it exposes just how green a city London actually is. That although the capital clawed the surrounding countryside into its grasp, consuming chunks of Surrey, Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire and nearly the whole of Middlesex, large swathes of verdant land remains. The Loop takes you through farmland, country parks, woodlands, nature reserves, parks, along riverbanks, and naturally … golf courses. And Section 3 that took me from Hayes Common to Petts Wood turned out to be possibly the greenest section so far.

St Giles Church Farnborough, London Loop Section 3

As I hone in on the conclusion to my four years walking the London Loop I realise just how many of the memorable walks of that time have been on the Loop. I could pick out highlights then that would simply be a rundown of the route so far – from Enfield Lock through Uxbridge, over the Thames at Kingston to where I ended up at Petts Wood. I may draw out the last two sections just so I don’t have to end the circuit just yet.