History of Dunkirk
The village emerged from its history as a lawless hamlet in the woods at the top of the large hill between Faversham and Canterbury and a church and school were built on opposite sides of the main road. The Red Lion already existed as an inn or tavern but there are very few other buildings around the village that date from before 1840 when the church was built. Constructed, as is the original part of the school built just afterwards, from flint and stone the church has a tower that offered a magnificent view over the surrounding woods. Now that Dunkirk was an ecclesiastical parish the woodland on the top of the hill was partly cleared to encourage farming and to discourage robbers.
The eastern end of the Blean woods complex, provide magnificent all-year round walking through a large number of footpaths; the walks may be circular through nearby villages of Selling, Hernhill or Boughton or take you to Canterbury, Blean or Whitstable. There is now a pair of linked routes that cover the whole of the woods as the Big Blean Walk, a total of 25 miles for the intrepid but which can be done as separate 12 and 13 mile loops and this was opened in May 2012.
The woods are home to many varieties of butterfly, moths, birds and trees and are the remnants of what was once an extensive wood stretching from Thanet to the Medway towns. In the summer there is a background noise of rustling as the millions of wood ants (formica rufa) build and maintain their mounds. Much of the soil is either sand or London clay so the use of boots is recommended if you are walking in anything other than really dry weather.
The top of Boughton Hill was the site of one of the first radar stations that was brought into use in 1937 as part of the Chain Home system. The area was progressively built up with gun emplacements and small barracks hidden in the woods. It was bombed twice in the summer of 1940 but the open structure of the radar towers made them difficult to destroy and the station was back in operation within hours. It was steadily upgraded throughout the war. As other radar stations further north on the east coast were more useful in the Cold war all but one of the steel towers were brought down in 1959 and this tower used for a military radio microwave link connecting the UK to Paris, Brussels and Western Europe. For more information on the Dunkirk Chain Home Radar Station History, please click here.