National Coastwatch Institution Folkestone


Carol started her new contract on Monday (14th November), I was left to my own devices for the day, which proved to be a real’pea-souper’. Visibility at times was down to about twenty feet, hardly a day for photography. I set out to find the local NCI lookout, said to be atop a cliff to the North of the town of Folkestone. One dear local lady pointed me in the general direction and suggested that I just keep walking until I find it. Well, I did keep walking, even beyond the point that said “Strictly No Entry, Land Slippage!”. The path looked fairly reasonable initially, but then became obviously dodgy. So I retraced my steps, working on the basis that i was being an idiot, and found the small path I had missed in the fog leading to the NCI lookout.

I was made very welcome by the three watchkeepers, Andrew Lovibond, Tom Graham & Martin Shepperd, served excellent coffee & biscuits, and given the full tour of their facilities.

The lookout at Folkestone has not been without its difficulties. The original station disappeared into the sea following a major landslip. Resolutely, they then set up in the nearby Martello Tower, which proved to be too damp & wet to be useable. It certainly didn’t look very hospitable on a foggy day, and this picture was taken after most of the fog had cleared.

The third and current station will be the envy of many others throughout Great Britain. Built on the site of a WW11 gun emplacement, and with the generous help of many local benefactors at a cost of £100,000, the station enjoys first class facilities. There was some resistance to having internet at the station initially, however the provision of a Ship Plotter from COAA has proved to be invaluable in what must be one of the most crowded shipping lanes in the world. On average there are over 600 shipping movements each day, together with over 100 ferry crossings from nearby Dover. The station is fifty metres above sea level, and usually enjoys views of the French coastline. Unfortunately, on the day I arrived we could see only about twenty feet – as far as the sign advising of impending cliff slippages. A precarious position for the new station! In the Summer, with beaches on each side of the station, there is also the potential for tourists getting into difficulties on the water.

The designated chart table is tucked away in the annexe, to the top left of this picture.

The kitchen and gereral purpose are at the rear of the main lookout;-

The training room and secure storage at the rear;-

Some exterior views, including the Danger sign to the right;-

A few images of Folkestone on a grey day!

A view of the Grand Burstin Hotel, Folkestone where Carol & I stayed. But that’s another story…

As a post script, I returned to Folkestone as Carol’s contract concluded there as a consequence of finding something closer to home. On this occasion the sun made an appearance. This is a shot over Folkestone harbour.The red arrow on the horizon indicates the NCI Station. The Martello tower is to the left of the lookout.

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