For the fourth time – and so the fourth month – we gathered, ready to walk in silence. Until now, we'd walked in cold, under cloud, against wind, through wet. This time, for the first time, we had fine weather. A new season approached.
We started toward Wear Bay Road, via the outer harbour. Gulls fussed over white scallop shells left on the low-tide mud. There are seven or eight fishing boats that still work out of Folkestone harbour, and such traces of their work often lie upon its bed.
We passed behind The Stade (an old harbourside terrace) and climbed the long steps to the clifftop. Morning sun lit the world below head-on. Boats, people, houses, stood out like markers for their shadows. About us, sparrows chirped and rummaged leaves.
At the end of Wear Bay Road, with the Martello Tower above us, we were joined on the walk by some latecomers. Filled with the sun's warmth, we were somehow thrown from our silence. Perhaps it was a sort of human photosynthesis that we felt, an increased energy found in sun that sought expression. So, slowly, we broke into full conversation.
Our path passed the site of Folkestone East Battery, a Second World War defensive post. Two concrete shells that once housed large guns now rest empty on the sandstone head of Copt Point. Today they serve as shelter from weather, or as teenage hangouts, and are full of graffiti.
With our silence abandoned, we shared stories as we moved down the cliffs to the rocky shore below. One person told of a canoe trip they'd made on Romney Marsh the previous summer. After a two hour paddle, they'd dosed off, and the gentle current had taken them back to where they'd started.
At that moment, we seemed to be in a similar gentle current ourselves. It carried us along the shoreline, oblivious to time, as we scavenged fossils – time turned to stone. We scrambled over rocks and boulders round the headland shore, and decided none of us was in a hurry to end the walk. The last of the poems that we read that morning reflected:
Is there anything better than to be out, walking, in the clear air?
It seemed that for us, lost to time by the beauty of the day, and the pleasure of company, the answer was clear. We continued the walk until its natural end, a little late, with pockets of fossils.
If you would like to join us for a silent morning walk, please do come along. It’s entirely free, and we’d love to see you there. The next one is on Saturday 27th May. Unusually it will not be silent, and we will have naturalist Melanie Wrigley along to talk to us about the ecology and landscape that we encouter. This walk is being run as part of Normal? Festival of the Brain in Folkestone. We meet outside the foyer of Folkestone Quarterhouse at 4.30pm. The walk lasts for 1.5 hours and ends back where it begins. Dogs and children are welcome. You can find out more at https://www.quarterhouse.co.uk/whats-on/in-praise-of-walking