Ed’s holiday stay in Dungeness, Kent

Dungeness at rush hour

Holiday home at the end of the Earth

For those unfamiliar with Dungeness, it’s a tiny settlement perched at the sea-sharpened edge of Europe’s largest shingle bank, making it a truly unique place of stark beauty. The headland, that juts out into the English Channel, is home to tiny hamlet, a nature reserve (Romney Marsh), a 15-inch gauge railway with steam trains, and two nuclear power stations (one of which has been decommissioned).

Settling in at Stonihoe

My idea of what’s considered a beautiful landscape may differ from many, but I’m not alone as Dungeness attracts thousands of visitors who come to witness the unusual blend of nature and industrial decrepitude in the area. Fishing boats sit on the shingle amongst derelict huts and discarded winches, boat wrecks and the odd shell of a car. Beach fisherman cast their lines for cod and bass, so most fish that you can buy and eat here is locally landed. Because of the flatness of the land, there’s no mistaking that you are definitely in the land of big skies. I chose to spend a week in early March at a holiday cottage called Stonihoe - a wonderful, former Pullman coach that had been converted into a bungalow. With my wife, Rose and my intrepid dog, Flossie, we enjoyed a sequence of unforgettable sunrises and sights. The house is the perfect getaway for those looking for a distinctive place to relax and lie low; it’s quiet, quirky and comfortable. There’s a wood burner and effective heating, so you’ll be cosy once inside, all year round.

I spent much of my time on Dungeness taking photographs of the curious mixture of tumble down huts, wildlife, artists’ single-level homes, the twin lighthouses, the boat wrecks, the power stations and the unusual new homes that oddly complement this desert-like place. I also took long walks along the shore, and enjoyed the relative quiet of the place. Little can be heard over the crashing waves on the shingle.

Dungeness boasts two pubs – whilst threadbare to the eye, The Britannia Inn, really does live up to the claims of serving up a selection of delicious meals. I can highly recommend the bangers and mash, and the cod and chips is just excellent! The Pilot is at the far end of Dungeness and it is mentioned by one-time local resident Derek Jarman in his autobiography as serving the best cod and chips on Earth.

Although a private residence, one particular place of interest that can be seen quite clearly from the main road is Prospect Cottage, the former home of the previously mentioned filmmaker and artist, Derek Jarman. With its distinctive black and yellow exterior, the garden is a design wonder, consisting of hardy wild flowers and plants amongst twisted pieces of metal and wood that Jarman found washed up on the beach. Last, but not least, is the gigantic EDF Energy-owned Dungeness A & B – the nuclear power stations that can be seen for miles. There is no waste kept on site, so being in such proximity is as harmless as taking a high number of long distance flights - virtually nil. Tours are bookable via the website and are highly recommended. Uniquely, Dungeness houses the only gas-cooled reactors in the UK, so they are the only ones that the public can physically see, as the others are submerged in water at other locations. Don’t leave booking until the last minute as security checks and ID are needed for visits.

Whilst Dungeness won’t be everybody’s idea of an idyllic retreat, it is a well-loved nature reserve, full of surprises for those that take time to look. It’s eccentric, especially when you take into account its ⅓ scale steam train that travels the 14 miles between Dungeness and Hythe. The area has a lot of charm and it really is one of the country’s best-kept secrets for those that want something different from mountains, rolling hills, woods and rivers. Dungeness really does feel like you’re standing at the edge of the world. I for one can’t wait to go back to get that feeling back.

If you would to book a stay in Stonihoe, why not visit our page to check out availability?

Posted by Ed on 20th June 2017