The White Cliffs of Dover are undoubtedly one of Britain’s most famous coastal landscapes, and a most appropriate location to test the performance of the nautical-style clothing produced by a number of the cherished heritage brands that Mason & Sons represent. (All photographs by Rob Baker Ashton).
St. Margaret's Bay, Kent, England
We chose St. Margaret’s Bay as our specific landing point. It's as close to France as you could possibly be whilst standing on British soil (or rocks). Close enough, in fact, to confuse our mobile phones - which, on our arrival, reset themselves an hour ahead to Central European Time.
Look carefully, and you can see France
It was a cold, blustery, November day, but our maritime outfits of Camplin Peacoat and Peregrine "Avon" Polo Neck Sweater performed admirably. Despite their rugged appearance, both the coat and pullover are soft and light in weight. They offered perfect protection from the harsh wind blowing across the Dover Straits, together with a high degree of comfort… the signature “cordage” of the Camplin Peacoat allowing ample room for the sweater’s roll-neck when fastened to the top.
British winters demand well shod feet
The walk along the pebble beach called for sturdy footwear, which was kindly supplied by Tricker's in the form of their Burton Country Shoe, and to ensure that neither of us got cold feet on the day, they were paired with soft, snug, Scott-Nichol Marl Socks.
Preparing for an act of astonishing bravery
The danger sign, positioned in front of a small cluster of buildings at the most easterly tip of St Margaret’s Bay, suggested that we may be reaching an exciting moment in our excursion. The properties were once owned by British playwright Nöel Coward, who originally bought the house with the red-tiled roof in 1945, before acquiring the remaining homes to secure his privacy.
The dramatic location of the "White Cliffs" residence
Nöel Coward named the house “White Cliffs”, using it as a holiday home to entertain his circle of famous friends from the arts, stage and film, including Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey, Daphne Du Maurier, John Mills and Gertrude Lawrence, and a very special guest, Ian Fleming, who fell in love with the place. In 1951, Fleming bought the property from Coward and used it as a weekend retreat until 1958. He wrote the majority of his James Bond novels during this period, including Moonraker (1955) in which St. Margaret’s Bay and local town, Deal, became key locations.
The white chalkface: a symbol of home and wartime defence
Moonraker is unique amongst 007 novels in that the hero doesn’t get to leave the British Isles for some exotic location, with all of the action taking place between two areas that Fleming loved, London clubland and the Kent countryside. It is on the route between London and Deal that Bond loses his beloved Bentley, and it is upon the clifftops between Deal and St. Margaret’s Bay that his enemy, Sir Hugo Drax, positions his missile launch facility. We decided to investigate the scene.
Surveying the site of the Moonraker nuclear missile facility
The trip to the top of the cliffs called for a change of clothing. With a stiff breeze blowing dark clouds above our heads, the Peacoats were exchanged for the Peregrine "Bexley" and "Baxter" jackets, both made from British Millerain 100% showerproof Antique waxed cotton – just in case the heavens opened.
Wrapped up and weatherproof
The temperature had dropped, and the 5 gauge Peregrine "Airedale Trawlerman" Roll Neck was chosen to provide a little more insulation than the 7 gauge "Avon" previously worn. The Tricker’s shoes were replaced with the Stow Country Boot from the same stable, allowing us to tramp through the grassland with surefooted ease - increasingly aware that the cliff edge is not the place to stumble.
News breaks that supper will soon be served
As we started to lose the light, it was encouraging to hear that we would soon be heading to our final destination, Deal, where we would be doing what Nöel Coward, Ian Fleming, James Bond, and everyone who’s ever been to a British coastal town should’ve done…. eat fish and chips on the seafront.
When in Britain, do as the British do