Fan Bay Deep Shelter

Buried within the White Cliffs of Dover, and only recently opened to the public by the National Trust, is Fan Bay Deep Shelter. The shelter was constructed during World War II to operate in conjunction with new gun emplacements installed along the cliffs to control the passage of ships through the English Channel, especially German boats operating from occupied France.

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Entrance to the shelter is by timed ticket and a guide takes you around in a small group of up to 12 people at a time…..we were lucky though with only 3 other people in our group so we had a more intimate tour :)

You go down 125 steps into the shelter, so it’s buried well into the cliffs.

Several of the bigger passages in the shelter would’ve been lined with bunk beds for the gunners to sleep on when they were down there, but none of them remain now. In various places along the beams though are several improvised clothes hooks made from pieces of wire……since they’ve been hanging down there in the damp conditions for so long they are incredibly delicate, and are likely to disintegrate if touched now >.>

In later years following the end of the war parts of the tunnels were dismantled to recover the metal used in the supports, but the loose rock packed in around the outside of the metal structures began to collapse, so that idea was given up on…..which is lucky for us though, as it means the tunnels are still there to be seen now :P

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There are more rough areas of the tunnels which lack the corrugated metal linings and finishes, and here you can see the loose material packed in around the outside of the passages.

Through these areas there’s a straight band of black flint on each side of the tunnel which has enabled experts to determine ancient sea levels for the area, which used to be much higher than they are now.

There are also a couple of exposed fossils in the chalk here, and lots of names carved into the soft rock dated in the 1940s :)

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At the far end of the tunnels there is an exit out onto the cliffs again, and here they have uncovered 2 sound mirrors. These were a British innovation in times before modern radar, but they work in much the same way.

These concrete shapes collect sound and bounce it back to a point in front of them where a listener would be positioned. One of these mirrors is slightly angled upwards to listen for planes, while the other is positioned to monitor for ships.

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The tour of the shelter takes about 1 hour, and it’s a really really interesting place to see….it’s very different from the usual National Trust places of gorgeous houses and beautiful landscapes, but it’s a fascinating tour and very much worth a visit if you have a chance ;)

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