A Sunny Day in Dungeness

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Inspired by stories I had read of how much the film director Derek Jarman loved the area, and how dedicated he was to creating a garden there, I’ve had Dungeness on my list of places to visit for some time.  It was only this week that I properly looked at a map and realised how close it is to Hastings.

It’s a place that screams contrasts.  A protected environment for its expanse of shingle and rare plants, a small community of wooden houses sparsely scattered across the stones, working fishing boats operating between the rotting hulks of their abandoned cousins, a mini steam railway tended by the enthusiasts that such ventures require, a couple of lighthouses, an area popular with bird watchers for the multitude of water birds which foregather on the nearby ponds as well as the shoreline, all dominated by the square hulking presence of the nuclear power station.

I’d gone hoping that I would see something of what I had seen in Derek Jarman’s photographs, but what I saw was that and much more. a land where it was easy to imagine the end of the world; what might be a post apocalyptic landscape when the industrial complex has failed and all that is left is scattered cottages and small sheds, a human scale still overshadowed by the shell of exhausted industry.

For a flat place it had a multitude of curves and horizons over which it was impossible to see.  We walked along the shingle dunes, our feet cracking and crunching with each step, deep into the stones beneath us.  Sometimes it felt like wading, as the chimneys and lighthouses rose and fell from view.  When we had tired ourselves and climbed back onto more solid ground, and our ears were no longer filled with the sound of the sea and the wind, there was the noise of distant gunfire from the nearby MOD firing range.  The whole place was both deserted and full of people, wild and fully developed, remote and easy to get to.

And salad of freshly caught crab.

Extraordinary.

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4 Comments

  1. Looks like a coastal version of Baghdad Cafe. Eerie, in a way.

    Reply
  2. bashothegreat

     /  September 8, 2012

    What a magical place!

    Reply

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