The southeast is dotted with unique memories of a bygone era.

On the south and east coasts of England are several short, squat towers protecting the shore.

These are known as the Martello Towers, and dozens of them were built in the southeast between 1804 and 1812.

READ MORE: My fascinating visit to Brighton’s oldest pub where Jack the Ripper planned his murders.

Built to withstand an attack from the Napoleonic Navy, most of the towers have stood the test of time and 43 still stand to this day.

43 is an ambitious – but not impossible – number and two men from Kent decided they were going to try and visit all of them.

Daniel Falvey and James Johnson, 29, both grew up in Folkestone, Kent. They are admirers of the Martello towers, so much so that they decided to cram into their classic Mercedes and visit them all on a mega road trip.

Growing up in Folkestone – where the first Martello Tower was built – Daniel and James knew all about the towers from a young age.

“Daniel and I grew up in Folkestone, which is home to the first tower,” James told KentLive, “so we’ve always been aware of these slightly unusual-looking buildings – upturned flowerpots.”

The couple had made a few big trips abroad together in the past, visiting the Middle East and the United States in recent years, but the COVID restrictions this year meant they looked a bit closer to home. them for their next adventure.

“We were looking for something to do in the UK, and we settled on the Martello Towers because of our connection to Folkestone, and it was something we thought we could do in a week.”

James, 29, now lives in London but has decided to return to his hometown to start the eight-day trip.

Over the course of the eight days, they managed to squeeze through the 43 Martello towers, staying in guesthouses every night along the way.



Daniel exploring a cistern in one of the towers

From Folkestone, Daniel and James headed west along the coast to Hythe, Dymchurch and beyond into East Sussex.

While in Sussex they stopped at places such as Pevensey Bay, Rye and Seaford as they visited some of the best sights on the East Sussex coast.

However, it was in Dymchurch that James found one of his favorite stops of the entire trip.

“One of the best we have seen was a house restoration in Dymchurch (Martello tower number 23),” said James, “and it was a great example of how the towers are used now.

“The guy over there, through a real labor of love, had turned this military fort into a beautiful house with a lot of character.



Folkestone was the pair’s first stop

“Some are abandoned, some have been turned into museums and many are restorations of houses.

After leaving Sussex, the couple headed north to Essex, before ending their tour in Aldeburgh – the last and tallest tower on the tour.

With the towers now over 200 years old, people in their local communities have had plenty of time to turn them into something completely different over the years.

“One of the most unusual we saw was in Felixstowe, which then became the foundation of a 20th century hospital,” James said.

The Martello Towers were adopted by the British in the early 19th century, but they were by no means the first to build them.

They were first inspired by a Genoese Deadly tower built almost 300 years earlier by the Corsicans, who began using chunky round towers to defend their seas in 1565.



Aldeburgh, the tallest Martello tower

The British had such a hard time defeating one of these towers in the late 18th century that they took the design for themselves and implemented it throughout the South East a few years later. .

However, they got one thing wrong; the name.

Somewhere along the line the old one Deadly rounds were poorly transcribed as Martello, but the incorrect name stuck and remains to this day.

Examples of Martello towers can also be found in Ireland, Canada, Spain and the Caribbean.

With the realities of COVID this summer, James and Daniel still managed to have a good time and were happy to find out more about where they grew up.

“It was a bit surreal staying at a B&B in Dymchurch when we grew up just down the road, but actually it was a lot of fun to do,” said James.



What the Felixstowe Tower looks like from the inside

“It allowed us to appreciate and understand our region a little more, so it was this great mix of rediscovering things about Kent and the areas close to home, but also discovering totally new things.

“It’s often like that when you grow up somewhere that you’re not always going to explore, so I had never really explored Dungeness or places like that, so it was a good mix of old and new. . “

Although they had a great time on their very English road trip, the couple are eager to move back abroad after spending so long in the UK.

“We’re probably not quite ready for another Martello Towers tour just yet, but we’re really looking forward to doing more international travel in the future,” said James.

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