Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Folkestone Warren and a Railway through the Chalk

Folkestone Warren is an area of landslip between the cliffs and the coast to the east of the town. It’s composed of fossil-rich chalk and provides an excellent habitat for birds, insects and plant life. Since 1884 a railway connecting Folkestone with the port of Dover has run through it – there’s a network of footpaths through the thick vegetation but no public roads traverse the site. Two years later a station (Folkestone Warren Halt) was built on the landslip, much to the displeasure of the landowner, the Earl of Radnor whose objections forced it to close within a few months. In a more favourable climate it reopened in 1908 and tea rooms, ornamental gardens and picnic sites were developed to attract visitors by train. Between 1915 and 1919 it was out of action following a major landslip that necessitated complete rebuilding of the railway. Final closure came in September 1939.

Panoramic views of the entire undercliff and the railway can be seen from the cliff top at Capel-le-Ferne. The area is designated and managed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and operates as a Country Park. Such a photogenic location offered lucrative opportunities for the postcard industry and cards were printed and sold in great quantity. Many of them include the railway, and a few focus on the station itself. Some even succeed in capturing something of the incongruity of a station in such a remote location – an effect that the Belgian Surrealist, Paul Delvaux brought to life in his Gare Forestière.

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