A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about photography

At the edge of England

Dungeness

large_370320867008522-Houses_and_o..stuff_Lydd.jpg
On the beach at Dungeness

As I said in the introduction to this blog, I plan to mix entries from recent outings and those taken some time ago, and to mix entries on London with some from further afield in the UK. So today we are on a short visit to the Kent coast.

For those who like a coastline to be photogenic rather than picturesque, and who are more interested in exploring than lying on a beach, Dungeness is close to perfect. But don’t come here expecting to swim, to eat ice cream and to make sandcastles. Dungeness is for fishermen, walkers, photographers and lovers of the wild and windswept. Oh, and it just happens to be Britain’s only desert – yes, really!

large_7008547-Dungeness_at_the_edge_of_England_Lydd.jpg

large_7008546-Old_fishing_boat_Lydd.jpg
Old fishing boats, Dungeness

We visited on a chilly but bright February day and we spent a couple of hours wandering around and taking photos. We were on our way to visit friends so couldn’t stay long enough to go to the nearby RSBP nature reserve, so that will have to wait for another day.

There’s lots more we didn’t have time for too, or weren’t able to visit because our timing was wrong. There’s an old lighthouse to be climbed (closed in the winter), fish and chips to be eaten at what has to be one of the more unusually-located pubs in the country, a lifeboat station to be visited and an old narrow-gauge railway to ride (but not in January or February). We will definitely have to return.

Houses at Dungeness

large_777552817008524-Houses_and_o..stuff_Lydd.jpg
Houses in Dungeness

Scattered almost at random across the shingle banks are a number of houses. Some are little more than shacks, others more sizeable, and a few are quite attractive, up-market looking homes. Many of the more down-to-earth properties are owned by local fishermen and you’ll see their boats pulled up on the shingle alongside. Others are the homes of artists who are drawn by the unique light and atmosphere. Some of the smarter ones are holiday homes, some of which can be rented. Many of the houses are made from old railway carriages, abandoned here when the old South Eastern Railway Marshlink line stopped serving Dungeness in 1937. You can still see the track in places too, and part of it has been repurposed as a freight only line to serve the power station.

Unusually (in England at least) there is for the most part no distinct boundary to these properties which sit amongst the shingle. Their age and unusual design makes some of the more characterful of them ideal for photography, but remember that they are private property and keep a respectful distance – just because there isn’t a fence or wall, it doesn’t mean you should be peering in through the windows!

7008548-Dungeness_at_the_edge_of_England_Lydd.jpg

486495327008523-Houses_and_o..stuff_Lydd.jpg

359301857008526-Houses_and_o..stuff_Lydd.jpg

101590837008525-Houses_and_o..stuff_Lydd.jpg
On the beach at Dungeness

Along with the fishing boats, random bits of disused railway track and assorted rusting metal objects whose former use I could only guess at, the old houses and shacks made for some very satisfying photography and we spent a happy hour or so wandering around to get the most interesting viewpoints.

Prospect Cottage

large_7008537-Prospect_Cottage_Lydd.jpg
Prospect Cottage, Dungeness

While we were exploring the headland we were always on the lookout for what is probably the most famous house here, Prospect Cottage, the former home of the late artist and film director Derek Jarman. We didn’t see any sign so I decided to do a Google search on my phone to check where it was, and as soon as I saw a photo we realised we had parked right next to it!

7008544-Prospect_Cottage_poem_by_Donne_Lydd.jpg
Prospect Cottage, Dungeness
- poem by John Donne

The house is quite striking, being of very dark tarred wood with cheerful yellow window frames. On a side wall raised letters form a quotation from a poem by John Donne, ‘The Sun Rising’:

7008540-Prospect_Cottage_Lydd.jpg
Prospect Cottage

‘Busie old foole, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls thy sphere.’

7008543-Prospect_Cottage_garden_Lydd.jpg
Prospect Cottage garden

But the house is best known for its garden, made with pebbles, driftwood, scrap metal and a few plants hardy enough to withstand the bleak climate. The garden carried lots of meaning and was very important to Jarman. He had retreated to Dungeness, drawn by its desolation, and used it as the setting for a film, “The Last of England”, an allegory on the social and sexual inequalities in England under Margaret Thatcher. He had been diagnosed as HIV positive and started to campaign on gay rights while throwing his energies into the creation of this garden using plants that grow naturally in this environment and found objects.

The garden featured in his 1989 film ‘War Requiem’, and the next year was the focal point of ‘The Garden’ (which he described as, ‘a parable about the cruel and unnecessary perversion of innocence’), serving as both the Garden of Eden and that at Gethsemane.

Lighthouses old and new

large_7008527-Lighthouses_old_and_new_Lydd.jpg
Dungeness lighthouses

583549967008529-Distant_view..house_Lydd.jpg
Distant view of the High Light Tower

This headland, though not rocky, sticks out into the English Channel and thus poses a danger to ships and sailors, so warning lights are needed. The first lighthouse was erected here in 1615, replacing a simple beacon. It was probably made of wood and had a coal fire at the top – which sounds a bit risky! As the sea retreated a new one was needed nearer the water’s edge, so in 1635 a replacement, known as Lamplough's Tower, was built.

But the sea continued to retreat, and more shingle was piled up on the headland, so in 1792 a third lighthouse was built. This was taller, at 35 metres, and was painted black with a white band, colours that are still used on today’s lighthouse. The light was powered with oil, though in the 1860s this lighthouse was chosen by Trinity House to pioneer the use of electricity, which however proved too expensive at that time. This third lighthouse lasted until 1904, when it was demolished (though some associated buildings, such as the keeper’s cottage, still remain).

The so-called Dungeness High Light Tower was built to replace it and was first lit on 31st March 1904, almost 110 years before our visit in February 2014. It was opened by the then Prince of Wales, later George V and its light, flashing every 10 seconds, could be seen from about 18 miles away.

This one still stands but is no longer in use, though it is possible to visit and to climb to the top for (I have read) great views of the headland. Unfortunately it was still closed for the winter when we were here so we couldn’t visit. Details of opening hours etc are on the website.

When the Dungeness Power Station was built in the late 1950s / early 1960s it blocked the view of the lighthouse from the sea, so this fourth one was decommissioned and a fifth built closer to the water’s edge, which opened in November 1961. This one is automatic in operation (that is, it needs no keeper) and is still in use today. In my photo above the old High Light Tower can be seen on the left, next to the power station, and the new lighthouse on the right.

7008530-New_lighthouse_and_fisherman_Lydd.jpg
The new lighthouse

RSPB Reserve

7008545-RSPB_Reserve_Lydd.jpg
At the RSPB Reserve

The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) has a nature reserve at Dungeness, located just before the land turns into shingle. We ran out of time to explore this properly, only stopping for a few photos by the roadside, but it seems to be such a worthwhile place to visit that I am including a mention of it here. You can find out all about it and see what’s happening at the time of your visit on the website.

As you’d expect given who runs it, the emphasis is on the local birdlife which is very varied. Many water species are attracted to these wetlands and there are hides from which to watch them and trails to follow. There are also special guided walks and events, all listed on the website.

Posted by ToonSarah 07:43 Archived in England Tagged beaches boats coast history houses lighthouse photography Comments (9)

Introduction to this blog

large_London_photo__P1110970.jpg
A travel photography exhibition in London

You don’t have to go far from home to feel like a traveller, if you set out with a sense of exploration – and, in my case at least, the essential camera. This blog will focus on more local adventures – walks in and around London, plus some visits to different parts of England.

There will of course be plenty of photos. I will show you the sights, naturally, but also include images simply because they please me, like the one above - street photography, wildlife, landscapes - all the thing I most like to photograph.

Entries here will not necessarily be chronological, as I will mix recent outings with some older ones, reusing some of the material I wrote for Virtual Tourist. I hope to introduce you to some of my favourite parts of my home city and country.

Here are a few more random photos to whet the appetite.

395214634132359-The_only_rea..estershire.jpg
Adlestrop, Gloucestershire

3702517-Beach_Hastings_Old_Town_East_Sussex.jpg
Beach with huts for drying fishing nets, Hastings Old Town

4366702-Thames_and_city_skyline_London.jpg
The Thames and city skyline, London

7008548-Dungeness_at_the_edge_of_England_Lydd.jpg
Dungeness: at the edge of England

7660211-A_brief_history_of_Syon_.jpg
Syon House, near London

Posted by ToonSarah 05:58 Archived in England Tagged landscapes beaches architecture london views village river city photography street_photography Comments (6)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]