Sunday, 10 January 2016

Shingle, Shipwrecks and Cottages at Dungeness Beach

Ship and hut on Dungeness beach

There is a light that falls over Dungeness in Kent. It is golden yet muted, capturing the strange, slightly surreal atmosphere on the beach. I try not to experience envy in life but on countless occasions I’d caught myself gazing longingly at photographs of Dungeness Beach, the shipwrecks and cottages. I knew that I wanted, more than anything, to visit and finally made a pilgrimage there with fellow adventurer and friend Sarah, plus the crowd from IGers Kent.

There are rumours that Dungeness is the only desert in Britain but it is a little bit more complicated than that. Ten thousand years ago the area lay under water until a shingle sandspit began to emerge from the sea. Stretching from Hastings to Hythe, a lagoon and salt marsh began to develop behind the sandspit and Romney Marsh was created.

Today the area is known as Dungeness, from the Old Norse word for ‘headland’, and it is an important area of conservation and ecology.

You wouldn’t know it strolling across the shingle beach. Arid and stony, with remnants from a long extinct shipping trade, it feels like you’ve entered another world when you crest the small incline and emerge to see the water beyond. Oh what stories these boats and ropes could tell us, what hidden tales in the forgotten tools!

Ship wreck on dungeness beach

Old rail tracks on Dungeness beach

An abandoned hut on Dungeness beach

Sparse on Dungeness beach

Skillet on Dungeness beach

Shipping ropes on Dungeness beach

Abandoned boat on Dungeness beach

Woman and horizon on Dungeness beach

Boat and smoke on Dungeness beach

The ship on Dungeness beach

Ship detail on Dungeness beach

Hut on Dungeness beach

Explorers on Dungeness beach

Ship, hut and sky on Dungeness beach

Hut and tracks on Dungeness beach

We visited in late October and there is only a small window of optimum light and temperature on days like that. We met up at the iconic lighthouse and walked down to the beach just after noon. We walked past neat little cottages with pretty gardens and vintage cars parked outside. I wondered how it must be for residents to have crowds of visitors descending on the beach each weekend but it seems that they cope by keeping well out of sight for the area is eerily quiet.

We explored the beach for a good ninety minutes, sometimes wandering off alone and reuniting at times to compare photos. We chatted to people we hadn’t met before and took the opportunity to catch up with old acquaintances.

All too soon it was time for lunch and we walked back to the only pub in Dungeness, The Britannia Inn. Sarah and I sat outside in the sun enjoying our lunch, remarking first how unseasonably warm it was for October and then minutes later hurriedly putting our cardigans and jackets back on. Dungeness does get warm during the day but it also gets cold really quickly!

Dungeness is one of those places that I would like to visit again, especially when it is warmer. I have romantic notions of sitting on the shingle and writing poetry. I have to admit that we couldn’t have visited at a better time for that golden, late autumn light and I can imagine that it must be quite beautiful in the dead on winter too.

If you are visiting Dungeness, it is good to remember that there are no public toilets except for the pub so do plan accordingly. (I should mention here that there are toilets on the guest map but we didn’t find them so if you do know where they are, feel free to give directions in the comments below). Visiting the beach is free but there is a small fee to visit the Old Lighthouse. We drove to Dungeness but a great idea for a day out is to travel to Dungeness from one of the bigger stations on board the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway.

The parking is free and is situated by the Old Lighthouse:

The Old Lighthouse
Dungeness
Romney Marsh
Kent TN29 9NB

Have you ever been to Dungeness? What is the strangest place you’ve been to in Britain?

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© 2008 - Mandy Southgate | Emm in London

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