Do you have memories of Cliffe Fort in previous days?
If so, and you are willing to share them with others, please
Marzipan, who grew up in Cliffe Village in the 1970s, recalls:
I was resident in the village until I got married, I am now 36! Doesn't sound very old, but the marshes were
changing. In the summers, the flamingoes arrived. I know that around '74 there were vast numbers, and they came back most years.
There were also wildcats that lived on the marshes. Of course, there were always stories of wild beasts. It seems that the stories were true, I myself having seen a lynx when I was around 9.
We used to be able to go into the fort, because Blue Circle wasn't that bothered about going to check during the days. I think many of us village kids were banned after a few minor accidents in the nights, but as more people came in from the town, the police were called out to the fort on many balmy summer evenings. I know in the early '80's, when the fort was closed, there was a fatal accident out there, with some lads on motorbikes trying to do acrobatics. Very sad occasion.
Because of the extent of some of the fort, we used to go camping round there, a whole group of parents and kids, all in different tents, caravans and camper wagons. We used to have fun playing in the fort, and down the tunnels. This was '69 up to '73. The local school used to take us down, to frog spawn and pick bullrushes, and there was always a large supply of chalk for sculpting.
We used to go swimming off 'the pipes', which are out in one of the waterways, although we knew that Blue Circle owned it, and our parents told us it was dangerous.
Marzipan is one of a number of people who have seen flamingoes on Cliffe pools, although they are not native birds. Chris Bradshaw, of North Kent Birding, provides this explanation:
Flamingoes have been seen in the Cliffe area on and off for many years (since the mid-70's at least), although I was not aware of them having been seen recently. The flamingoes are not wild, but are escaped birds from captivity or just possibly birds that have arrived from feral (i.e. escaped birds that now live in the wild) populations in Germany/Holland.
Maxeen Kimber recalls the Fort thirty years ago:
I used to go there with a group of friends, probably around 1977/8/9 and later
with a photographer about 1980ish. Most of the lads hailed from Cliffe, which is
probably why we chose the fort. My memories are of some large doors to the fort
which I don't think were in use; we generally used a way in
via the beach, up onto the first storey roof and jumping in through a hatch into the
building. Those dark interiors will always stay with me. The eerie offshoot passages,
filled with water, dark and forbidding - scary stuff for teenagers and adults alike!
And the echoes! We roamed around the fort - I think we camped out within the central
grassy area overnight once - I can't remember exactly, but I remember the group of
friends very well, and have photos somewhere of us reclining in the darkness within
the fort - illicit kisses well away from parents! On the lower floor, ground level,
there was a sort of open-sided 'room', just off the central area with huge, corroded,
iron, hollow balls in - I presume for some kind of floating device for the river.
Not sure why I remember them, but I do.
In about 1980, I waxed lyrical about the
photo opportunities of that area and succeeded in getting a photographer to come along
and take photos of me there. I had a few petty beauty titles in the area, and he was
happy to take some shots. On the occasion we went to the fort - there was more in
store than we reckoned on. A gold Mercedes car was immersed in the shallow water on
the beach (how did it get there?) and we took some memorable shots with me perched
ridiculously on the top of the roof - I remember having to get off sharpish as the
tide came in! I'm not sure what happened to those photos, I don't have them now
Lloyd Clayton also remembers the Fort in the late 70s and early 80s:
Brought back great memories of my childhood, seeing the pictures of the fort again. Having grown up in Cliffe village,
me and friends were always playing in the fort. We could in those days either squeeze through the chained gates or climb up via a rope by the "lookout turret".
We also ventured down many of the long dark tunnels and rooms, holding dim torches or even candles! There was always talk of
We also used to play on the old ship - climbing up to the deck (which was dangerous and holey even then!)
Tom Lyons has more recent recollections:
I first happened on Cliffe Fort in 1986. I had no idea that these places existed at all, in fact I did not know
the area of Cliffe until I stumbled upon it, and being from London I did find it rather strange, very forlorn is the word
I can think of. I recall cycling from South Norwood to Cliffe, then having to take shelter for a few hours from the rain in one of the concrete
shelters along Salt Lane, just across the road that leads to Cliffe Fort.
I eventually got away around 7pm of that day back in March 1998, and arrived back in South Norwood a few hours later.
I must take a ride out there again soon, perhaps when the summer starts up.
I was quite taken with Cliffe Fort, what a solid building it is. I did manage to get into it a few times through the wire fencing,
and explore most of it, however there are a couple of dangerous looking holes that one hopes never to fall into within the fort itself.
Keith Beagley writes:
I have fond memories of Cliffe. We moved to Cliffe in 1964, and it didn't take long to find that it was a special place.
I was four years old and I soon started to make friends - we spent most of our time down the marshes, and we used to ride our bikes down what seemed at the time a long straight road down to the fort.
We used to spend hours playing hide and seek and pretending that we were guarding the fort against the Germans!
As we matured we would buy old mopeds and motorbikes and spend most of our childhood down at the fort and the marshes.
We used to swim in the Blue Circle boat lake and catch eels in the lakes which we sold to the landlord of the Vic pub on Church Street.
There was so much to do it seemed like this place was made for kids: blackberry picking, catching newts, building camps.
Due to work commitments we moved in 1982 and I now live in Yorkshire, but I have been back a few times only to find that the Fort is closed to the public and the village seems to have changed.
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