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.