At the end of my last walk I was in a hurry to make the last train of the day from Dungeness (which is not a place you would want to get stuck!) so I didn’t get much chance to look around. So I was pleased to be able to put that right on this walk.
I drove down to Dungeness via the M25, M26, M20 and the A2070. It is now taking me quite a while to get from home to the next stretch of coast. The last part of the journey had quite a remoteness to it, something you rarely get in the south of England, as the road got narrower and ended up at a small car park that felt like the end of the world!
I parked in the car park near the station (it may even be the station car park). First it was time to take a look around. First the old lighthouse.
Unusually, it was painted in black (lighthouses are usually red and white or white with some green). Perhaps it is because it was disused. Again it was not open to the public either I was too early in the day or too early in the season, so I could not look inside. This is in fact the 4th lighthouse built here but stopped being used in the 1960s I think because the adjacent Nuclear Power station blocked the view of it and a taller lighthouse had to be built instead. The power station is certainly not pretty either though we certainly need such things and they have to be built somewhere.
The rest of the buildings were low rise, mostly bungalows though some were little more than sheds. I was amused by a sign on the wall to the power station stating it is a nature reserve and to take your litter home. Worthy sentiments but then I have to wonder what a Nuclear Power station is doing in a nature reserve! Most of the rubbish in the area seems to be abandoned fishing equipment anyway, rather than rubbish left by visitors.
From the top of the shingle bank alongside the power station I could gain enough height to get a view over the village. It is certainly and unusual place and I think the weirdest place I had come to on my coast walk so far.
Still I could also see the attraction even if it is not somewhere I would want to live. Free from the noise of traffic there is just the sound of the waves breaking on the miles of shingle to be heard most of the time.
Sadly my camera soon began to play up again so taking photos was taking longer than usual. In fact this was to be it’s last coastal walk, it would die completely on a different inland walk the next weekend and so I had to bring my old Olympus out of retirement for the next coastal walk.
As well as the cottages and bungalows around there were also some buildings that looked as if they might have had some military uses, still protected with fences.
In places a boardwalk had been constructed to aid passage over the shingle, as it is hard work otherwise.
I soon passed the new lighthouse. This is taller but lacked the charm of it’s older cousin.
I was now heading away from the power station and could look back over this rather desolate landscape with just a few scrubby bits of grass growing in places on the shingle. Inland I could look over the unusual buildings of Dungeness that lined the only road in and out.
I had now rounded the corner and was heading north. I was excited to look out along the coast and see the famous white cliffs of Dover in the distance.
The top of the shingle bank was now lined with numerous fishing boats and associated debris.
There were the remains of nets, boxes for fish, buoys, derelict sheds and tractors that looked not to have moved in many years. It is not a pretty place, but it is certainly an interesting one and I was glad I had now had time to look around properly.
The fishing boats soon ended and I was back to just the shingle. In fact there is a footpath further inland (basically, the road) but I stuck to the beach as the most coastal route.
At some point I had transitioned from Dungeness to Lydd-on-Sea. The tide was going out however and I was delighted to soon find a thin strip of sand at the tide line, which was much easier to walk on.
I was below the shingle bank now so could not really see much inland beyond pebbles a few metres to my left, but at some point I had transitioned from Dungeness to Lydd-on-Sea.
It was a gorgeous beach and it was only when I popped up above the shingle bank I realised the coast was now built up again, as houses lined the shore again. The sea seemed to be receding quickly, there was now a huge expand of sand with the white cliffs just visible in the distance. I had not expected such a good beach.
Despite the nice weather it was deserted too. I was surprised by this given that the road was a short distance inland. I varied my route, mostly along the beach but from time to time popping up above the shingle to take a look inland. As the tide continued to go out birds were now gathering on the sands, Oyster catchers being particularly common here.
About here I think I had moved from Lydd-on-Sea to Romney Sands. It was hard to tell where one place finished and the next started. But I had some more interest to my right as some people were sand yachting. It looks quite fun and the wide expanse of largely deserted sand makes it a good location for it too.
From the masts poking above the dunes that were now behind the shingle I think more were setting up.
As you can see I had now more or less reached the end of the shingle. Ahead the pebbles ended and it was now a sandy beach backed by dunes. Sand yachting is obviously quite popular here, they even had a wind sock set up. Houses were close by inland though largely out of site, though I liked at one point the only clue one was there was a union jack poking up above the dunes!
I was really enjoying this lovely beach and so made good progress. I had passed through Greatstone-on-Sea and had now reached Littlestone-on-Sea. There was a lifeboat station here too though thankfully it was all closed up at the time. The coast turned to the right ahead so I could now see it stretching out ahead for many miles. Dymchurch was up there, somewhere.
The shingle had re-appeared now too and as in Dungeness, fishing boats were on top of it. I puzzled at the forces at work that meant all the stones wash to Dungeness, then there are none and then another thin strip of shingle here again. Odd. Littlestone-on-Sea felt that it might have been a low-key resort once, there were some hotel like buildings inland now, but they weren’t hotels now.
One unwelcome feature was the groynes had made a return too, making progress on the beach harder though most were low enough I could simply step over.
This was one of the most defended coasts during the war and instantly made me think of Dads Army when I saw a sign for a Mulberry Harbour that was constructed here during the War, some of which still remains out to sea.
Now there was a sea wall and a promenade. I returned there for a little while though things were now feeling more urban. Grafitti covered part of the wall and the glass of the shelter behind whilst a section of the Victorian terraces had been replaced by more modern flats.
So I headed back to the beach. Much better down here! Looking back to Dungeness the power station was now just 3 lumps in the distance under clouds which were beginning to look like rain (thankfully it didn’t rain). I was now nearing the edge of Littlestone. The road was now mostly reduced to a dirt track with fly tipped rubbish though behind it were some still quite grand looking buildings and this attractive tower.
I later found out that this lovely tower is a water tower and Littlestone was intended to be a resort but the tourists never came in the numbers hoped for. To my left was the golf course, one of the things that was meant to help attract the tourists, though it must have attracted sufficient golfers to stay in business. I passed another nice building, Romney Bay House which I think still is a hotel.
The beach had now become mostly shingle again so I headed to the track behind the sea wall, the last of the road from Littlestone. It was not much of a road now, a sign warned “Road unsuitable for vehicles”. So not much of a road, then!
Still I was grateful since it is never nice walking next to traffic. There was still a bit of graffiti about, but at least it was more creative now, I liked this crab!
After a while there was more sand again, so I headed back to the beach. Soon it had become all sand again, as I reached St Mary’s Bay. I enjoyed walking on the wide expanse of sand here, the water still on the sand making it almost like a mirror.
Soon I passed a Martello tower on the left. This marked the start of Dymchurch.
From the view I got from the shore it looked quite a pleasant town. The immediate area behind the sea wall was taken up with a fun fair, though it was quite quiet (in terms of number of people) at this time of year.
I was earlier than I needed for the train back so I decided to head inland for a little look about. It was a pretty little town.
Back on the shore there were Donkey rides on offer too, though at the time no takers.
Although I planned to end my walk at Dymchurch I decided to continue along the shore for a while. Beyond the funfair the road soon became a dirt track again.
At one point a rusty tank was just below the sea wall. I did wonder if it was bought and put here on purpose or simply left here after World War II.
The beach was soon narrowing again with a sea wall sloping gently down to the sand.I headed back to the beach and the sea wall was looking in bad condition further along, with much sign of patching.
So it was perhaps not a surprise a bit further ahead to come across a sign “Beach closed beyond this point”. Scaffolding and fences blocked the way ahead. The reason was repairs to the sea wall, though no work was being done this weekend.
So at this point I headed back and sat on the beach for a while. It was nice looking back over the glistening sea to Dungeness, now very distant.
It was a beautiful afternoon now and very relaxing sitting on the beach enjoying the sun and sea.
Soon though it was time to head to the station and the train back to Dungeness.
This is a lovely narrow-guage steam railway. The line is very straight here so I could see the train approaching some distance away.
In fact it was a bit of a treat as the trains were running often enough today they needed to pass here, so two arrived at once.
They are lovely little steam locomotives. You can’t really appreciate the scale from this photo but they really are small, yet beautifully kept, with everything gleaming. Inside the carriages are basic but it’s the view out that is the main attraction, and the smell of the steam wafting in through the open windows.
Soon were were off and the train felt surprisingly quick, perhaps it is because you are so close to the ground. Soon we were heading around the loop to Dungeness, that familiar lighthouse and power station coming into view.
Of course train tracks are normally laid on ballast – stones and shingle, essentially so here they didn’t need to bother and could lay the tracks straight on the shingle! I was sat near the back and the train was quite long so you could lean out and see the locomotive at the front rounding the corner.
They can pull quite a weight, despite their size. Once we reached Dungeness I headed up to take a photo of the locomotive, along with everyone else! Mind you with these children in front of it you can see how small they are!
They even had a little buffet car at the front. It’s a great little railway and I very much enjoyed the ride.
I took a few more photos of Dungeness, now in the attractive late afternoon sun. It is certainly an odd place. In places it feels like some disaster may have happened and the place been abandoned.
I then headed home. Actually, the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway is not the only railway to serve Dungeness. Although now closed to passengers there is still a rail line heading down to Lydd and on towards Dungeness. It closed to passengers in the 1930s and the last mile or so (to Dungeness) had the road to the power station built on it, but the rest of the line remained for freight trains taking away the nuclear waste from Dungeness. On my way back I noticed the old station in Lydd still standing and stopped to take a photo through the fence. I was surprised to see it in such good condition after being out of use for so long.
This proved to be a very interesting walk. Dungeness is a fascinating (but weird) place and well worth a visit, because it is like more or less no other place on the coast (with the possible exception of Orford Ness. I was also very pleasantly surprised at the beautiful beaches north of Dungeness, with miles of largely empty sand. This does feel like a coastline that has never really been “discovered” by visitors despite early attempts and has the feel of a place that has changed very little over the years. I enjoyed it very much. The ride back on the tiny but beautiful steam engine was another highlight, too.
Here are details of the public transport needed for the walk :-
The Romney Hythe and Dymchurch railway : Hythe – Dymchurch – St Mary’s Bay – New Romney – Romney Sands – Dungeness. Trains run at weekends only during the winter months (generally November – March) and daily for the rest of the year. Check the timetable on the website, as the frequency varies. It varies from around an hourly service to 3 trains a day. On some weekends trains operate only between Dungeness and New Romney, but there are buses from New Romney. It takes around 45 minutes for the journey and single fares are available. There are no buses to Dungeness.