Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ruthless Infrastructure

I hesitated to put these pictures up because on the day we visited Dover Harbour I forgot my camera. Again. But the place was so fascinating that I took these ones on my phone and thought they might be of interest anyway. I hope you can forgive the fuzziness and appreciate the oddness....



If you came this way, taking the route you would be likely to take, and you wanted to stay, then you might stay here, at the first hotel on the road out of Dover harbour. It's a fabulous creation, a pastel stuccoed Regency villa, overgrown with ivy and sitting immediately below the white cliffs. A second world war pillbox hovers on the edge of the cliff and, sandwiched between the candy striped entrance columns in an agreeably surreal way, is a K6 phone box*.



An utterly unprepossessing border control point. A suitable symbol for the bureaucracy obsessed, cheap as chips, PFI funded, project managed miserableness of contemporary Britain. I like the custard yellow coloured anti-car bomb concrete barriers though and the thoroughly un-heroic Union Jack half hidden behind the column.



A fabulous collapsed geographic representation of Great Britain in ceramic tile used to welcome passengers arriving in the UK from the ferries on foot. The single brown seat represents the irrepressible spirit of British individualism.



The deserted baggage hall, now no longer in use due to the decline of foot traffic following the Eurostar's arrival. The B stands for Ballardian.



The harbour does have some really formidable infrastructure. The concrete column supports Jubilee Way, an elegantly spiralling elevated road that cuts through the white cliffs and deposits container trucks and booze cruisers onto the concrete apron of the East Harbour itself. The harbour is run as a trust and therefore doesn't need to apply for planning permission for development within its boundaries. It's covered in random and mysterious sheds containing giant x-ray machines and places where lorries are stripped to pieces and searched.



Jubilee Way emerges from between the chalk to fly over the green chain link fence that snakes across the harbour demarcating the Restricted and Secure Zones. Vehicles theoretically leave the UK briefly as a result before circling back round like landing aircraft. Watching this and the movements of the ships from the harbour control tower was a strangely hypnotic experience. I could have stayed all day.



For some reason the pixels on this picture are starting to break up. It sums up the harbour though which is a weird mix of container lorries continuously trailing on and off the ferries, vast graphics alternately telling you which lane to be in and and how exciting it is to be in the UK, ruthless infrastructure and crumbling chalk cliffs. £80 Billion pounds worth of goods come through Dover each year and this is set to increase with the massive new development of the West Harbour.

The lorries roll on and roll off, snaking through the town on the way to the M20. Not much stops there. The harbour is both the reason for Dover's continued existence and an autonomous entity developing according to its own internal logic. It is also tied symbiotically to Calais across a highly congested piece of water, so that the two are like twins developing together at exactly the same rate.

* There's a thorough description here of the evolution of the K series phone box. Personally my favourite is the K8, which is the Trimphone of public telephone facilities.

9 comments:

Matt Tempest said...

There is a blue, British Transport Police, K8 on the district line platform at South Ken. It's locked.

My friend and I once had to find a B&B at short notice in Dover, after cycling around France and Belgium, and getting back to Blighty to find the last train to London had already gone.

We were lead through a "lounge" full of drinking Polish cab drivers, out to a lock-up garage at the back, which had an external fire escape staircase leading up on to the roof, on which was a Portakabin (TM) - aka, our room for the night.

Cost around 50 quid *EACH* for that double, IIRR.

Sarade said...

Enticing descriptions...I love the idea of an ivy-covered villa.

Charles Holland said...

The standard of accommodation has not improved greatly in the interim I don't think.

Re: the K8 box. I've seen that episode of Doctor Who. The blinking angels have the key. Come to think of it. If I was going to write an episode of Who I would set it in the East Cliff Hotel...

Murphy said...

I remember reading an article in the 20thC. society newsletter about the K8 where there was a palpable lack of enthusiasm for mounting a campaign to get them listed...

Charles Holland said...

There are four left in Swindon apparently.

Nemesis said...

There is a K8 now listed. And the c20th still has the teatowels for sale

http://www.peoplewillalwaysneedplates.co.uk/k8.html

Nemesis said...

Here's the c20th Press Release about the listing

http://www.c20society.org.uk/casework/press/release/iconic-60s-phone-box-listed-by-engl.html

Lang Rabbie said...

Jubilee way is bravura engineering, but it surely can't be described as elegant.

It was briefly quite exciting, as they built the structure onto the seabed before the rest of the land reclamation for the Eastern Docks was completed:

http://www.tony-frost.fotopic.net/p16828473.html

Charles Holland said...

Nem, lovely tea towels. You have to love the K8 if only for the fact that it appears to made from the same mould as the Reliant Robin.I'm heartened that some have been saved.

Lang, not from the ground maybe but there's an elegance about its curvature, surely? Thanks for the link to the photos.