Thoughts on visits: Sound Mirrors near Dover

Apologies first, have been lazy, and not blogged earlier in the day.

Yesterday I came across a postcard among our stock of birthday cards, an upcoming birthday prompted the search. The card, shown below, is of South Foreland Lighthouse and the coast towards Dover. As thoughts of what we’ll do when the country gets back to normal, one thought crossed my mind when looking at the card, we must re-visit the Sound Mirrors at Fan Bay, which I didn’t get enough time to study when we were on our National Trust tour of WWII tunnels and sound mirrors at Fan Bay. The dip in the coastline in the centre of the photo is Fan Bay, where the mirrors are located.

You can read about our visit in 2019 HERE – amazing isn’t it that a whole year has gone by with hardly a mini-adventure or holiday. Here’s to vaccination and 2021. I’ve posted a photo of one of the mirrors at Fan Bay, and a diagram of their location.

Seeing what’s been hidden for over 40 years

At the beginning of July I wrote about our taking a mini-adventure to the Isle of Thanet and hopefully to see some sound mirrors up close.

How lucky we were, the weather was fine, and we saw much that was new to us. We based ourselves in Ramsgate, which has a busy little harbour, plenty of eateries, and has attractive regency and Victorian buildings that have so often been demollished elsewhere in the country.

One of the main items on our agenda was to visit the recently uncovered first World War sound mirrors on the White Cliffs near Dover.

Built as aircraft and airship early warning devices for coastal towns between 1915 and 1930, parabolic sound mirrors concentrate sound waves enabling detection of incoming enemy aircraft. They were developed from sound ranging experiments during WW1 to fix the postion of enemy gun batteries by plotting the sound of gunfire.  Many of the 20 or so sound mirrors survive being located in quiet and out-of-the-way places. They became redundant as the speed of aircraft increased such that the amount of early warning time became so small as to be of little benefit, and the arrival of the more efficient radar.

Two sound mirrors at Fan Bay near Dover were covered up by Kent County Council in 1970’s along with all evidence of adjacent three coastal gun batteries to rid the coast of unsightly redundant wartime buildings and tunnels. In 2012 the National Trust acquired a stretch of the White Cliffs coast and knowing that gun emplacement, searchights and tunnels existed at Fan Bay decided to open them as a tourist attraction. These are the photos of our visit to the Fan Bay Deep Shelter and Sound Mirrors. [More info about sound mirrors can be found HERE, and HERE and HERE].