Day 379 Into Kent and Around Dungeness

Thursday 18 August 2016

Rye, East Sussex to New Romney, Kent

19 miles

New Romney Caravan Park

I packed up early and headed off to catch the bus back to Rye, arriving before 9 am. This gave me chance to wander once more through the town in the quiet of the early morning and to stop for a big breakfast in a cafe. 

the view from Rye down to the River Rother
I admired the view from Ypres Castle atop the hill and walked through the last remaining landgate built in 1329 from a grant by King Edward III to fortify the town. Then I dropped down to the River Rother, crossed the bridge and headed for Camber. 

crossing the River Rother
Camber Sands was the first sandy beach I had seen since Littlehampton; most of the South East coastline being shingle. The sandy beach was lovely (although a couple of weeks later I found out how lethal the currents can be when sadly a few people lost their lives swimming here). 

holidaymakers at Camber Sands
I walked past some lovely houses built at the back of the beach, one of which I had spent a night in (thanks Nicki) a couple of years ago, and been swimming in the sea 2 days before Christmas. This time I didn’t stop for a dip. 

houses at the back of the beach (4×4 vehicles required)
Rather than walk through the deep sand I climbed onto the sea wall to walk to Jury’s Gap, where I was forced inland to Lydd as there was no way across Lydd Ranges. The sea wall was part of a new coastal defence scheme and only opened in March 2016. It is designed to protect 1,400 homes and businesses across the low-lying marshland, sandwiched between the sea and the Military Canal. 

walking the sea wall to Jury’s Gap
It was going to be a boring, hot walk alongside the road to Lydd so I cut out about 3 miles by catching a bus. It saved me about an hour and carried across the county border into Kent. 

expansive views across Walland and Romney Marshes
From Lydd I followed the huge overhead power cables that tracked over the ranges and led me across Denge Marsh and Denge Beach to Dungeness. What an eerie place! 

Dungeness Power Station viewed from Lydd
I could hear gunfire on the Lydd Ranges and stopped to ask for guidance from a guard to check that I could reach Dungeness Power station following the road/track I was on. I passed a strange, dilapidated farm in the middle of the ranges and in the shadow of the power station pylons. As I walked past it there was a flock over a hundred gulls (I tried to count them) swirling high overhead and I thought I might have walked onto the set for a horror film. Very odd. 

following the power lines across the barren shingle to Dungeness Power Station
The landscape was so desolate and wind-blown, and of course the main ingredient on the ground was shingle. 

the long shingle beach following West Road to Dungeness
I knew I was walking towards a power station because the weather had turned grey and overcast. This surreal landscape was enhanced by a grey sky, a grey landscape and a grey sea. I had ventured into another world. 

arriving at Dungeness…it’s another world!
I had to endure some walking across the shingle to reach the power station and then the settlement of Dungeness. Weirdly, on the beach in the middle of nowhere, I passed several groups of people. There were the usual fishermen casting their lines from the beach and then there were several Asian families enjoying a day out. No one even looked at me so there was no opportunity to engage in conversation. Perhaps if they had I might have seen their red, alien eyes and been immediately extinguished (or maybe that just happens in the movies). 

Dungeness Lighthouse and one big house
I arrived at Dungeness, a strung-out town built on the shingle at the point of land where the West Road meets the East Road (these are the names given to the stretches of sea, they are not land-based roads). It was a place with an other-worldly feel to it so I felt compelled to stop at the Britannia Inn for fish and chips. 

Dungeness community: small houses spread about the shingle wasteland
Dungeness lighthouse dwarfed by the Power Station
Dungeness is a popular tourist destination and I had just missed a coach load of tourists. I could have paid to climb up the lighthouse; however, it didn’t seem worth it when everything around was grey and indistinguishable today. 

wooden shacks – some old, some new
Most of the Dungeness houses were wooden shacks, originally created from old railway carriages. (The one opposite the pub was apparently Queen Victoria’s personal carriage.) 

houses that were once railway carriages…
…was this one Queen Victoria’s personal railway carriage?
Some of the houses had been given “Grand Designs” makeovers and looked quite futuristic. It seemed like such a strange and fascinating place to me. 

Grand Designs?
I turned North and walked along the road to Littlestone-on-Sea, the seaward extension of New Romney. I walked along the road because the other option was to continue across the ever-widening shingle beach. I suppose I could have caught the miniature steam train that travels from Dungeness to Hythe along the small-gauge railway line behind the houses that line the road. Such an odd place. 

beware of small trains!
Behind the houses and the railway line was the Dungeness National Nature Reserve, one of the largest areas of vegetated shingle in Europe. This included old gravel pits, which were the habitat for bloodsucking medicinal leeches. I didn’t stop for a swim!

The New Romney Caravan Park was at the other end of the scale to the abominable place at Camber Sands. This one was run by an ex-Army man and he kept a small bit of grass for hikers, cyclists and the like who needed somewhere to pitch for the night. He charged me £7 and I was able to use the laundry and get a meal in the on-site bar. Perfect. 

this house was my favourite (it had a lovely garden and a poem inscribed on the side wall)

Day 378 Following the Saxons and a Military Canal

Wednesday 17 July 2016

Hastings to Rye

14 miles

Hastings Touring Park

I decided to leave my tent where it was and walk ‘light’ for the day as I could get a bus back from Rye. I was intending to walk to Camber Sands, where there is the only campsite for the next 30 miles. However, it would have cost £53 for me to pitch my little tent for the night. Ridiculous. (It was another of those detestable parks with “computer says ‘no'” staff.)

Camping by the road at Camber Sands – it could have been me for £53 per night!
I left early and walked through Hastings Country Park on the top of the cliff, part of the High Weald AONB. 

Hastings Country Park
It was sunny, hot and hazy under a bright blue sky. A beautiful day. The views from the cliff top were extensive, although I couldn’t see France. 

looking down on Covehurst Bay and Fairlight Cove
I was following the Saxon Shore Way, a 163-mile long path that follows part of the coastline from Hastings around to Gravesend. At least this path was relatively well-marked. 

I passed through Fairlight Cove, a small town surrounded by lots of trees, and on to Cliff End. Here was the start of the Royal Military Canal. This amazing defensive structure (the 3rd longest in Britain after Hadrian’s Wall and Offa’s Dyke) was completed in 1809, having been begun 5 years earlier when the threat of a Napoleonic invasion was high on the agenda, just before he was defeated. The canal was still finished, although in most places it is not as wide or deep as it was intended. It is 28 miles long and cuts off the vast, low-lying marshland that sits behind the pointed corner of land that is Dungeness. So Napoleon’s Army might have landed on the flat beaches but hopefully it would have come unstuck at the canal that bisects the land from Hastings to Folkestone. 

the start of the Royal Military Canal at Cliff End
I walked inland, along the canal bank, as far as Rye, passing Winchelsea on the way. I had to walk inland to Rye in order to cross the River Rother. It was an open walk next to the water and I saw plenty of dragonflies, swans, ducks, a couple of buzzards and a kingfisher. 

walking alongside the Royal Military Canal, near Rye
Winchelsea (including the Strand Gate) on the hill rising above the Royal Military Canal
As well as the wildlife I could see all across the edge of the flat marshland that led to Rye Bay. 

the flat marshland, grazed by sheep, between the Canal and Rye Bay
In the middle of the flat land was Camber Castle; strange to build it in such a location I thought. 

Camber Castle
Rye is a beautiful old, walled town, perched on a small hill overlooking the River Rother and the surrounding marshland. I wandered up and down the narrow cobbled streets admiring the architecture. 

one of the steep cobbled streets inside Rye Citadel
It was very hot so I stopped for a break at the Mermaid Inn, in the heart of the Mediaeval citadel. Apparently some of the bedrooms have secret passages. 

The Mermaid Inn
After cooling off I carried on wandering, stopping only to buy an amazing pork pie from Simon the Pieman’s shop to keep me going. 

Rye’s sole remaining landgate of the 4 built from a grant given by King Edward III for fortifying the town in 1329
I was going to catch the train back to Hastings but hopped on a bus instead. I was surprised to find it more expensive than the train. 

looking at Rye perched on the small hill, viewed from Rye Harbour
The heat had sapped my energy and I needed another stop in a cool, dark pub in Hastings Old Town. I was back early afternoon so I had time to wander along the Stade Beach again and to visit the Fishermen’s Museum before I caught the East Hill Lift back up to my campsite. 

East Hill lift viewed from Stade fishermen’s beach
I spent the evening in the on-site bar again. It was bingo night and fairly soulless but I was too tired to walk into town.