|View from the dunes at Greatstone|
My wife and I had discussed the possibility of a drive down to the coast, and we agreed we would do this on the Bank Holiday Monday, providing the weather was good. Fortunately the sun was shining when we woke up that morning; a complete contrast to the previous day, so after a light breakfast we set off to drive down to the coast, for a day at the seaside.
We live in West Kent, close to the border with Sussex, and whilst we are approximately an hour’s drive away from the sea, we have a choice of destinations depending on which route we decide to take. For example, if we head due south, we will be in Hastings, whereas heading south-east would take us towards Romney Marsh and the beaches of Dymchurch or Greatstone.
We turned off just east of Ashford and made our way onto the A2070; a fairly new road which leads down onto Romney Marsh. I know this area well, having lived and grown up just outside Ashford, when trips to the seaside, across the Marsh, were a fairly regular family occurrence. Eileen and I have also been fairly frequent visitors to the area; although these visits were normally made from the other direction. In fact when our son was small, we rented a couple of different properties in the Rye-Winchlesea area, and enjoyed some really good family holidays.
On this occasion, we drove into New Romney; a pleasant enough coastal town which once had its own harbour; as befitting of a member of the Cinque Ports. Nowadays, the town is a mile or so from the sea, and it was the road down to the seafront that we followed, emerging at Littlestone of Sea. This small settlement was a favourite place to visit, during my childhood, as it has an extensive sandy beach which leads right along the coast; to Dymchurch and St Mary’s Bay in one direction and to Greatstone and Dungeness in the other.
|The art-deco Jolly Fisherman at Greatstone|
|Nuclear power on the Kent Coast|
Dungeness is also home to two lighthouses; the oldest of which was first lit in 1904. It is no longer in use as a lighthouse but is open as a visitor attraction. With the sea gradually receding, the need to construct a new lighthouse became more apparent; especially following the construction of the power station, when the light of the 1904 lighthouse became even more obscured. The current, fully automatic structure, built as a replacement, became operational in 1961.
In addition to the power station and lighthouse, there are a number of dwellings, most of which are of wooden construction. Many are owned and occupied by fishermen, whose boats lie on the beach. Fresh seafood can be purchased from some of these dwelling. Several of the houses have been constructed around old railway coaches, which gives them a characteristic appearance.
|Old lighthouse, Dungeness with the new one in the distance|
We parked up adjacent to the entrance to Dungeness A Nuclear Power Station, just a short hop from the Britannia; Dungeness’s other pub, a concrete structure which has been gradually extended over the years. It was a short walk from the car park, up a steep shingle bank, to the sea. We stopped and passed the time of day with two heavily armed policemen, who were probably glad to relieve the boredom of their patrol around the power station perimeter.
Eileen was however, keen to get back to the car and out of the wind, so once back in the warmth I started the engine and we headed back long the coastal road to the Pilot. We noticed there were even more vehicles in the car park than there had been earlier, and despite managing to find a parking spot it was pretty obvious that the pub was heaving inside, and there we would face a long wait for our fish and chips.
|Best fish & chips on this stretch of coast|
Once we’d finished our meal, I scrambled to the top of the dunes to take a look at the beach. The tide was in, and the sea looked rough, but there were still a few dog walkers taking strolling along just below the seaward signs of the dunes. Eileen, rather wisely, remained in the car.
We drove back to Tonbridge via Camber and Rye. We were tempted to stop off at the latter, but we will save the delights of that lovely old town for another day; especially as we will be able to travel there by train (assuming the crazy strike affecting Southern Trains is over soon).
Journeying back inland through such delightful places as Northiam, Newenden and Hawkhurst, reminded us of how lucky we are to live in this idyllic corner of the South East. It was still light when we arrived home, but the light was beginning to fade, so once indoors, it was a question of lighting the fire, and pouring ourselves a nice stiff drink, after what had been an excellent day out.