Dungeness, Kent

Dungeness beach hut

If, as some people argue, the world is actually flat, then I’d like to nominate Dungeness as one of the ends of the earth. It certainly feels remote and strange enough for maps of the area to tell you that in the sea beyond the coast “Here be monsters”.

Dungeness is at the end of a mile and a half shingle promontory, between New Romney, Lydd and Camber on Romney Marsh in Kent. Aside from a collection of seemingly random huts and shacks, it has two nuclear power stations (once upon a time you could visit them, but in these days of tight security, that was thought to be a bad idea), two lighthouses (one defunct), is the terminus of the miniature Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (of which more soon), some fishing boats moored on the shore, and a collection of flora and fauna unique to its shingle landscape.

The Dungeness Estate is privately owned (hence the gates at its entrance), and whoever originally decided to purchase it was obviously a genius, as it has to be one of the best investments ever: Each year more and more shingle is deposited on the shore, so Dungeness, unlike a great deal of the rest of the coast, is actually getting bigger. To see how much it has grown, look at the distance between the old lighthouse (1902) and the new (1962): Both were once almost on the shoreline.

In the aftermath of the First World War, when housing was at a premium, people began to rent plots at Dungeness and erect their own dwellings, often making use of old railway carriages to do so. Some of these are still there, although adapted and added to over the years. It was also home to filmmaker Derek Jarman (you can see his famous garden at Prospect Cottage).

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