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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Walk 81 Dymchurch to Dungeness (Kent)

Walk   81 Dymchurch to Dungeness (Kent)

 (Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End

Map: L/R 189
Distance: about 10 miles or 15km
Difficulty:  Fairly easy – flat some beach walking
Terrain: footpaths, pavement, beach
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway has stations at both ends – check the seasonal timetables.

A military firing range at Hythe means that the coast is inaccessible for a few miles, consequently this walk starts at Dymchurch.

Dymchurch is now a popular seaside resort. In the past it was an area rife with smuggling; Russell Thorndike’s books about Doctor Syn are based on this activity and the town holds a celebration of the stories every couple of years.  In the sixteenth century the village had a magistrate known as the
Leveller of the Marsh Scotts. The ‘scot’ was a tax to fund maintenance of the sea wall paid by Dymchurch residents. Those outside the boundaries of the village did not have to pay and were said to have got away ‘scot free’. Thorn bushes were used to help build the sea wall as it was believed that the leaves were impervious to sea water. Those who failed to make a contribution were said to be in danger of having one of their ears cut off!

There are three Martello Towers in Dymchurch. One is now a home, one is empty and the other is a museum run by English Heritage with exhibits explaining the history of these buildings which were designed to defend against an invasion by Napoleon.

The walk continues along the wide promenade to St Mary’s Bay. This area, which once housed a major school journey centre, is now mainly housing. E Nesbitt, the author of the Railway Children lived here for a time and is buried in a local churchyard. A mile or so further along is Littlestone on Sea. A major landmark is the red water tower near the beach. Looking out to sea it is possible to spot the section of an old Mulberry Harbour. During the allied invasion of Europe in 1944 a complete floating harbour was built and towed to the landing beaches of Normandy. Some of it broke off and a section of it lies here.

Inland from Littlestone is New Romney. This was one of the original ‘cinque’ ports and was at the head of the River Rother until it changed course. The headquarters of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway is here and worth a visit if you are interested in the history of this small gauge railway.

Greatstone-on-Sea  is a fairly recent development with most of the housing built in the 1960s and 70s. An RNLI station is near to the pebbly beach. A local rector once warned that many witches were living on the nearby Romney Marshes.

From here the choice is to walk on the large pebbly foreshore or on the pavement. Lydd on Sea has a row of bungalows facing the foreshore; some residents have gardens on the beach which is on the opposite side of the road; ‘Private’ and ‘ Keep out’ notices are on roped off plots on the shingle. Near to this point is a path going to a sound mirror similar to the one described on the previous walk from Dover – this will involve a few miles detour. Unfortunately, it can only be seen at a distance unless permission is gained to enter the site.

The walk from Lydd on Sea to Dungeness is probably best done on the road. Dungeness is a wild, desolate place with a unique landscape favoured by those who choose to live here. Bungalows are dotted around on the shingle in no particular order – many appear to be no more than fishermen’s shacks. Nevertheless, they evidently have a high value for those wanting to get away from the ‘rat race’.  

 Dungeness Nuclear Power station is in fact two buildings; one is now closed but the other has had its licence extended until 2018. Nearby are two lighthouses; the newest one, built in 1961, replaced the older one built in 1901 as shipping could no longer see it when the power station was built.

Dungeness has one of the largest areas of shingle in the world. A path enables you to walk out on the headland and look along the coast. The surrounding area is a wildlife sanctuary with a wide range of protected wildlife. If you arrive at the right time you will be able to get a drink in the Britannia Pub which can be easily found near to the paths.

Snaps show: popwer stations, Dungeness; Britannia Pub, Dungeness; centre the water tower near Littlestone; Dymchurch beach; huts on the beach at Dungeness; the front at Littlestone; New Romney narrow gauge rail station.

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