In 1885, Cliffe Fort became the site of an experimental harbour defence system. In 1890, the following device was added. Called a Brennan guided torpedo, this lies to the north-west of the fort and was the worlds fire wire guided missile. Is was replaced 25 years later with quick firing guns, so it’s exciting to see that it remains today! After checking this out, we headed to the main site, hopping over the fence with a ‘man-made’ step. We then progressed to the glorious site that met our eyes in the summer of 2013 – which we visited as part of a camping trek across the Kent Thameside. The map (not ours) shows us the site in 1897.
Walking along this walkway/rooftop we had the dilemma, up ahead, of getting down to the level where everything is on. After finding the best we, we decided just to take the plunge and jump. We’d face working our way up at the end! We walked along however we had to walk on the buildings (it was safe) as the area was waterlogged.
When we were inside, we were greeted by an amazing corridor. Built up of bricks, this really gave the place a historic feel. Wondering through, this seemed to go on a very long way. Along it were the gun emplacements.
We then walked back to start (including climbing back up where we jumped down!) and with a couple of scrapes and scratches on us, we progressed to the very top. We come across this which is shown below however we’re not sure of it’s use. On the Kent History Forum, ‘Andrew401968’ states:
The coning tower / directing station is another mystery area, as the only solid information/evidence available is the physical remains on site at Cliffe, which consist of a concrete conical ring on the roof, and mental cylinder inside it, and runs down to the roof below. There appears to be rails inside the cylinder. Below that is another hole, and then pit into which the tower must have retracted. Now this tower must have been heavy, and the means to retract must have used power, unless a system of counter weights where used. Could it have used the steam from the boiler to power postons?
We got a fantastic round off to the site with the views from the tower. This was our last explore and we then exited the site and headed for quite a long walk to where we were camping. Being very exhausted, we must have walked for about an hour as we hunted for suitable land. We arrived at our area (we just settled with this bit!) at about 7pm and started to set up the tent. Problems:
- The ground was stony so the pegs wouldn’t stay in.
- We were all very exhausted and had to take care of our water supplies.
- Gnats absolutely loved us and wouldn’t leave us alone (with myself getting over 20 bites all over, ankles, fingers e.t.c) When we dismantled the tent we were surprised by a swarm of them which had been sitting between the layers of the tent.
This was the first day over and after roasting marshmallows, we then went to bed.
The following images are used kindly under the permission of Dave from SpaceWarp. They feature the fort during the 1970s before the ground floor became flooded.