Folkestone to be featured in Channel Four TV series

Contributed by editor on Oct 12, 2016 - 05:50 PM


By Ray Duff

A new Channel 4 TV series, 'Britain's Ancient Tracks' with Sir Tony Robinson begins on Saturday 15 October at 8pm and features 'Icknield Way'.



East cliff archaeological site

The final programme of three, to be screened on Saturday 29 October, will focus on a journey along the 'North Downs Way' through Kent and finishing at the archaeological excavations on East Cliff, Folkestone.

Top: L-R Dr Andrew Richardson of Canterbury Archaeology Trust with Sir Tony Robinson. Below: Dr Richardson shows Sir Tony part of the Iron Age site.  Photos: Ray Duff

At the time of filming, last July, we were not permitted to announce the show until the TV company had finalized the screening dates. However, it can now be revealed that Sir Tony Robinson filmed across Kent for the programme as he followed the ancient trackway to the cliffs above Folkestone where it now ends.

It was there that Sir Tony joined the dig, led by Canterbury Archaeology Trust (CAT), who are currently excavating part of the extensive Iron Age site at East Cliff. Staff and volunteers watched as the filming proceeded; with CAT's Dr Andrew Richardson showing the presenter the site, some of the artefacts found, and relating how people and goods would have moved up to the trackway from the site.

The production team is understood to have also filmed for the series at Castle Hill and along Crete Road East and West that forms the coastal end of the trackway and finishes beside the Valiant Sailor pub near the top of Dover Hill at Capel.

Left: Andrew tells Sir Tony about some of the multitude of important trading finds from the area. Right: Diggers get to work cleaning the 3rdC AD ditch  Photos: Ray Duff



The trackway itself is ancient and precedes humanity by many millennia. It is thought to have originally been an animal track which linked what is now Britain to the continent between numerous Ice Ages when the Channel largely dried out.


Prior to that, and before 500,000years ago when the Channel proper was formed during a massive flood through the Dover Strait, the track traversed above a line of chalk hills across the Channel to around the Cap Griz Nez area.

Following the last Ice Age; and whilst some late Palaeolithic humans may have already been in the area; people from the Continent began to move across the channel basin following the animals as they also moved north again as the ice retreated. Once the Channel began to refill, ending at around 8000 BC, Britain again eventually became an island.

The East Cliff area of Folkestone became ever more occupied as a settlement and port area especially in the Bronze and Iron Age with the site becoming very active from around 50BC until just after the Roman invasion of AD43.

Traders and goods from this site travelled to and from inland Britain via the North Downs Way, rather than using the primary travel by sea routes around the coasts and along rivers .

The trackway traverses along the top of the North Downs through Kent via Ashford and Maidstone and then crosses into Surrey before joining other tracks into Britain.   One branch takes it down to Wiltshire and Stonehenge and on into the West Country.


A branch from Ashford via Canterbury went to the then seaway of Wantsun Channel which cut off Thanet.

It latterly became part of the Saxon Shore Way in places and the Pilgrims Way to and from Canterbury.

More details

TV Announcement of the series:

The North Downs Way-walking route:
Archaeological Cantiana (PDF): - 1951/064-03.pdf
Canterbury Archaeology Trust.
Folkestone Research & Archaeology Group.



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