A Different Canal – The Royal Military Canal

A Different Canal

The Royal Military Canal

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The Royal Military Canal is a canal running for 28 miles (45 km) between Seabrook near Folkestone and Cliff End near Hastings, following the old cliff line bordering Romney Marsh, which was constructed as a defence against the possible invasion of England during the Napoleonic Wars.

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Despite the fact that the canal never saw military action, it was used to try to control smuggling from Romney Marsh. Guard houses were constructed at each bridge along its length. This met with limited success because of corrupt guards. Although a barge service was established from Hythe to Rye, the canal was abandoned in 1877 and leased to the Lords of the Level of Romney Marsh.

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There is a public footpath running the entire length of the canal. The path makes an excellent long distance walk and is part of the longer 262km Saxon Shore Way. Aside from being historically significant in its own right, the path passes by numerous WW2 pillboxes and unusual acoustic mirrors, the historic cinque port towns of Hythe, Winchelsea and Rye, the 12th century St Rumwold’s church, as well as Lympne and Camber castles. The walk is generally flat and can be broken evenly into two sections of 22km with Ham Street in the centre.

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The canal is also an important environmental site. The Environment Agency is the navigation authority and uses the waterway to manage water levels on Romney Marsh and Walland Marsh. It is important for fish and other wildlife, including kingfishers, dragonflies and marsh frogs, and it passes through several Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

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All photographs taken in Hythe

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