The cliffs of Dover were mentioned by Julius
Caesar in his account of the Roman invasion of Britain in
55 BC. Shakespeare too makes reference to them in 'King
and the lines beginning "There is a cliff, whose
high and bending head looks fearfully on the confined deep"
are commemorated by Shakespeare Cliff to the west of the town.
Throughout the centuries, the chalk cliffs have been a symbol
of home to Britons abroad and coupled with bluebirds
in the popular song of World War II
, they provided a world-wide
symbol of peace. Although any visitor hoping to see the bluebirds
will be disappointed as they were artistic licence on the
part of the song writer - obviously bluebirds sounded more
romantic than sea gulls!
The cliffs were formed in the Cretaceous Period (Mesozoic
Era), which commenced about 136,000,000 years ago, and are
essentially marine in origin, probably originating in deep,
open sea. They consist mainly of upper, middle and lower chalk,
i.e. white, soft pure limestone composed ofcountless shells.
The top of Shakespeare Cliff for example, consists of nodular
upper chalk with flints, the centre of middle white and nodular
chalk and the bottom of chalk (glauconitic) marl and grey
chalk on a base of gault and greensand.
Numerous fossils have been discovered in the chalk, ranging
from shark's teeth, ventriculites, micrasters and many sponges
in the upper chalk, to large pectens, palatal teeth oysters,
ammonites, remains of saurians and brain corals in the middle
and lower chalk.
A large area of cliff-top to the east of the town, known as
, is now owned
and managed by the National