the Romney Marsh.net
Nick Levinson describes Dungeness:
Dungeness is a big attraction to visitors, artists, photographers, fishermen, walkers and consumers of sea food. It is a peculiar place, quite different from the lush inland pastures as it is composed of the largest shingle beach in Europe, a peninsular built-up over about six thousand years by the sea. Despite being one of the driest parts of the United Kingdom, it is a haven for wild flowers and birds. The Southern tip has a curious colony of black tarred
fishermen‟s huts and winching equipment for hauling their boats up on the beach and the strange little dwellings, often incorporating old railway carriages, erected before the days of planning permission.
It has been said that Dungeness is like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. The stark wild beauty and distinctive character of this shingle desert engenders feelings of awe, wonder and curiosity.
Dungeness lies on a headland on the south Kent coast formed largely of a shingle beach in the form of a foreland, between New Romney, Lydd and Camber on Romney Marsh. It shelters a large area of the low-lying land Romney Marsh.
The area is dominated by two nuclear power stations, one currently being decommissioned, two lighthousess and is at the end of the line for the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.
There is a scattered collection of dwellings; some of the homes, small wooden houses in the main, many built around old railway coaches (see picture bottom right), are owned and occupied by fishermen. Some are occupied by people trying to escape the pressured outside world. The shack-like properties have a high value on the property market. Perhaps the most famous house is Prospect Cottage, formerly owned by the late artist and film director Derek Jarman.
Dungeness is an important ecological site with flora and fauna unique to its shingle landscape. It has a National Nature Reserve, which encompasses a RSPB reserve, and is home to 600 species of plants, which is a third of all plants found in the UK. The site represents the most diverse and extensive example of stable vegetated shingle in Europe.
It is also one of the best places in Britain to find insects such as moths, bees and beetles, and spiders; many of these are very rare, some found nowhere else in Britain. The short-haired bumblebee, Bombus subterraneus, was last found in the UK in 1988, but has survived in New Zealand after being shipped there more than 100 years ago. It is to be reintroduced at Dungeness.
The flooded gravel pits on Denge Beach, both brackish and fresh water, provide an important refuge for many migratory and coastal bird species. The RSPB has a bird sanctuary there and every year thousands of bird watchers descend on the peninsula to catch a glimpse of a rare bird from the bird observatory.
One of the most remarkable features of the site is an area known as 'the patch' or, by anglers, as 'the boil'. The waste hot water and sewage from the Dungeness nuclear power stations are pumped into the sea through two outfall pipes, enriching the biological productivity of the sea bed and attracting seabirds from miles around.
Beach fishing is popular at Dungeness, with the area being a nationally recognised cod fishing venue in the winter.
The RNLI has one of its all weather lifeboats stationed at Dungeness
There have been five lighthouses at Dungeness since the early 1600s, with the fifth one still fully operational today.
The first lighthouse was built in c1615, but as the shingle banks grew and the sea retreated, a second brick lighthouse , approximately 110ft high was constructed around 1635. This second lighthouse lasted over 100 years, but it too became victim of the increasing shingle banks and was replaced in 1790.
In 1901 Trinity House commissioned Patrick & Co of London to build a new, taller fourth lighthouse, approximately 150 ft high. This lighthouse, now known as The Old Lighthouse, was ceremonially opened by His Majesty, The Prince of Wales, later George V, in 1904. It is still standing and is open to the public during the summer months.
Please visit our Lighthouses History page for more information.
The Old Lighthouse is open for visitors From Easter to October. You can find out more here.
Dungeness B Power Station Visitor Centre
Dungeness B Power Station has an award winning visitor centre. The centre gives the opportunity for members of the public to enjoy the interactive exhibition zone and embark on a guided site tour to see the plant in operation. You can find out more here.
Prospect Cottage was home to Derek Jarman, the well known film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener and author. He is also remembered for his famous shingle cottage-garden, created in the latter years of his life, in the shadow of Dungeness nuclear power station.
Prospect Cottage is built in vernacular style in timber, with tar-based weatherproofing, like others nearby. Raised wooden text on the side of the cottage is the first stanza and the last five lines of the last stanza of John Donne's poem, The Sun Rising.
The cottage garden was made by arranging flotsam washed up nearby, interspersed with endemic salt-loving beach plants, both set against the bright shingle. The garden has been the subject of several books.
A passionate gardener from childhood, Jarman combined his painter's eye, his horticultural expertise and his ecological convictions to produce a landscape which mixed the flint, shells and driftwood of Dungeness; sculptures made from stones; the area's indigenous plants; and shrubs and flowers introduced by Jarman himself.
There are two galleries at Dungeness, Dungeness Open Studios and Dungeness Gallery. You can find out more here.
Photography and Filming on Dungeness
Dungeness is a private estate and a National Nature Reserve and if you are filming or photographing for commercial purposes at Dungeness you must obtain the permission of the Trustees and agree the details beforehand.