Volkswagen Magazine

From Dover to Dungeness

No, you can’t see Europe from here, but you can feel it everywhere. A mere 33 kilometres separate the Brits here from the mainland Europeans, and above at Dover Castle, from which you have a beautiful view of the still very busy ferry harbour, you get an impressive idea of why this city, this castle, these chalk cliffs hold such significance for English patriots. For millennia, the White Cliffs were the first thing that new arrivals and those returning home saw of Great Britain – a proud and steadfast white landmark rising up to 106 metres high. Even Julius Caesar chose to avoid them and landed with his legions further to the north-east.
Dover is the symbolic fortress of the Brits, a national landmark and the ideal starting point for our little trip through the counties of southern England. 
The village of St Margaret’s at Cliffe is situated even closer to Calais by a few metres – this is where the Channel swimmers begin, and also where mobile phone reception switches to French providers. The Passat seems to enjoy traversing the winding and steep path to the bank of the Channel. The first tests for the 6-speed double-clutch DSG gearbox, as well as the assistance systems ABS, Side Assist and Park Assist – perfectly mastered.

Some places appear untouched by time – Dungeness is definitely one of them. Right at the front of the shingle beach that stretches out for several kilometres, there are rotting fishing boats that are more perfectly shaped than any still-life painter could have arranged them. In the background the cooling towers of the two power stations soar into the sky, and scattered in between them are wooden houses, some of them still fishermen’s homes and others belonging to artists and bohemian types. One of them was the home of film director Derek Jarman up until his death. The cover of the Pink Floyd album “A Collection of Great Dance Songs” was shot here, and you can often find whole groups of photography students from London – there’s no better place to find such an impressive motif as this wind-blown headland.

The new Passat on the road in Dover. In the background are typical Victorian-style houses.

Via Rye and on to Brighton

Few towns in southern England were attacked as often as Rye, though luckily this didn’t steal any of the charm from this jewel in Britain’s crown. On Mermaid Street, rumoured once to have been a centre of smuggling, tourists from all over the world admire the intact medieval idyll. In a side street we find “Simon the Pieman”, the oldest tearoom here. The home-made cakes on display in the window don’t disappoint. After this traditional sustenance, we continue westward and pass the famous series of chalk cliffs, the Seven Sisters. The navigation system calmly keeps us on track. A USB connection is enough for us to enjoy our favourite iPhone songs with the high-quality sound of the eight speakers.

The “Simon the Pieman” tearoom is well-known for its homemade cakes.

It’s a lucky seaside resort that has a landmark as lovely as Brighton Pier. A pier like this, with integrated amusement park can only be seen here – anything else is just a copy. As original as it is undiminished is the soft spot held by Londoners for their favourite sophisticated day trip spot, ever since George IV had his Royal Pavilion built here in 1815 in the extravagantly exotic Maharajah style. Over many decades, Brighton acquired a reputation as a sanctuary and extravagant location for those who had grown tired of the city, as well as an outdoor space for all kinds of eccentrics, as a party hub and rainbow metropolis – and it still does justice to this reputation.

There are meanwhile 1,000 pubs to 270,000 current residents, and the number of cultural festivals and the concentration, variety and quality of restaurants, clubs and concerts is even impressive by London’s standards. This evening we are drawn to “The Office” in the pubbing and clubbing area of North Laine – the pub was recently featured in the “Great British Pub Awards” in the “Best Spirits” category. Manager Sarah Hale lets us sample the best of the 45 gins they have, while on the pub walls we read the exciting, more than 200-year-old history of this juniper berry spirit. The kitchen serves this with a really good Thai curry. Strange mixture? Well, we are in Brighton.

In the alleyways of Rye’s old town, there are numerous boutiques and souvenir shops.

From the Devil’s Dyke to Parham Castle

The next day we leave the coast road and head for the South Downs, the 100-kilometre-long hilly landscape that runs from the Seven Sisters to the hinterland of the harbour town of Portsmouth, and which is mostly made up of hiking trails and sheep pastures. This is England “as English as it possibly gets”. Half an hour’s drive to the north of Brighton, the Passat takes us to a very different type of steep escarpment.
In the midst of the hinterland, unknown people some 1,500 years ago built a 12.1-kilometre-long earthwork with a ditch – such defence lines have been widespread since the Neolithic period and the Devil’s Dyke ranks among the best preserved of them all. In addition, this is the perfect place for hiking.
The rest of our relaxed drive through the county of Sussex in the best spring weather is only interrupted by numerous stops in enchanting spots – in Poynings or Fulking you can imagine Robin Hood and Maid Marian jumping out of the bushes.

Cruising in the Passat is a lot of fun. The precise steering and the dynamic and quiet 2.0-litre TDI engine ensure we have the best trip through the scenery of Great Britain.
And if a Mediaeval cart drawn by a donkey were to suddenly appear around the corner, we know that the Passat has the right assistance system for practically any driving situation

Nearby Petworth House may be more famous, but Parham House with its 354-hectare parkland is an unknown jewel among England’s manor houses. To enjoy daydreams on the property with its herb and rose gardens, as well as the mostly natural park, you don’t have to be a fan of Rosamunde Pilcher or Jane Austen, nor do you have to have read “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”.
It’s enough to have an appreciation for beautiful countryside – and preferably for high-class English landscape gardening. 
As we drive on to the west, we refresh ourselves in the “White Horse Inn” in Pulborough with delicacies of English cuisine such as charcoal-grilled roast beef or pork belly with black pudding – everything prepared with organic and locally sourced ingredients.

Narcissi are sprouting in front of the remote stone chapel of St Andrew’s in Edburton, constructed in 1180.

From the New Forest to Corfe Castle

Since William I decreed this the royal forest for stag hunting in around 1079, the New Forest has scarcely lost any of its charm.
Even numerous clearing operations over the centuries have scarcely affected this 300-square-kilometre area of forest and moorland, with the cleared space allowing the forest’s wild horses the opportunity to make themselves at home. Around 3,000 of the New Forest ponies roam free throughout the entire park – some of them apparently liked the Harvard Blue Metallic of our Passat so much that they lost their shyness and approached us full of curiosity.

When they see the new Passat, the New Forest ponies soon become confident.

For days we carefully approached this landmark, and then it was suddenly in front of us: possibly the most photogenic ruin in the world. As if in a painting, it towers up over the village of Corfe, to the north of the seaside resort of Swanage. It almost resembles a new Hollywood-made “Braveheart” film set, with the scenery so uncannily resembling historical Scotland. But no, everything about Corfe Castle is real, since the Normans began building it in 1090 and members of the New Model Army blew it up in 1646 during the Civil War. There are countless legends about Corfe Castle. King Edward the Martyr is said to have been murdered here, and Edward II held captive. The ascent to this atmospheric mount is definitely worth the effort. 
We complete our trip with a night in “The Crown Manor House”, probably the most faithfully preserved hotel in the New Forest National Park, together with old English wallpaper and bedding. When we drive back to London Gatwick airport the next day, we look back over our three eventful days.
Conclusion: it’s rare to see so many fundamentally different worlds in such a short time anywhere. Wonderful, varied southern England – a huge range of different styles and qualities. And thus our dream setting for the new Passat.

We spend the last night in the stylish “Crown Manor House” surrounded by old English wallpaper.