Thursday 18 August 2016
Rye, East Sussex to New Romney, Kent
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The landscape was so desolate and wind-blown, and of course the main ingredient on the ground was shingle.
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.
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).
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 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.
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.)
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.
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.