Today we were kindly invited along on a picnic by our Viking re-enactment group leader for a very different historical period to the one we portray ourselves.
It was the open weekend of a place I had never heard of – the Drop Redoubt fortress located in the Dover Western Heights.
The Dover Western Heights are a huge network of fortifications that were begun during the Napoleonic Wars to defend England
from potential French invasion under the command of the Emperor Napoleon. The Drop Redoubt is a fortress that forms part of this fortification and later saw use as part of our WWII defences. It seemed incredible to me that such extensive fortifications were almost completely hidden from the road – I would never have known they existed were it not for our friend’s invitation.
The Western Heights are publicly accessible during daylight hours, but the Drop Redoubt itself is a more exclusive property, accessible only during open weekends such as the one we went to, and tours conducted by the Dover Western Heights Preservation Society which seem to occur monthly (details here). We were very grateful to the volunteers from the preservation society for opening up the site this weekend and allowing us to explore a hidden gem, as well as providing demonstrations of Napoleonic and WWII era clothes and weaponry.
The boys thoroughly enjoyed exploring the fortress and the surrounding area, full of intriguing tunnels and paths. Added interest was provided by a Steampunk group camped out in one of the rooms with a fun selection of merchandise and walking the grounds in their elegant costumes.
See the notes below with regards accessibility, but if you are reasonably able bodied enough to negotiate steps, uneven ground and low tunnels I would highly recommend looking out for further open days and tours.
Notes: The volunteers did an amazing job of making the site as safe and accessible as possible, but the nature of the fortress means it has plenty of steps and uneven ground to navigate. The site is fairly challenging to get around, especially the Grand Shaft, a solution to moving troops quickly from the seafront to the fortress up an ingenious triple spiral staircase. The site is definitely unsuitable for wheelchair users, and I doubt you could get a pushchair through the narrow, low ceiling tunnel that you crouch down to pass through to get into the inner walls. Toilets on the day were provided in the form of port-a-loos. Entrance was £5 per adult, with accompanied children free. Demonstrations of weaponry, including mortars, were very loud, so it’s worth taking along ear defenders for kids with sensory issues.