Sunday 28th August 2011
Toilets: Platforms at Ashford International; most stations on the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway; cafe and pub in Dungeness; various pubs and restaurants in Hythe.
A friend had posted some photos of Dungeness online, which looked *ahem* rather interesting, so we decided to go and see it for ourselves. We took a train from St Pancras to Sandling, which took an hour including fifteen minutes of waiting time whilst changing at Ashford International. From Sandling, we walked for about two miles into Hythe. There is a bus service, but it only goes four times per day on Sundays and public holidays; there’s a lot more of them during the week.
We went for a little journey on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, which is one of Britain’s tiniest railways and is reminiscent of Thomas the Tank Engine. It cost £15 for an all day pass.
The journey to Dungeness took just over an hour. We sat with the doors open, and passed numerous level crossings along the way, as well as a lot of people’s back gardens and a lot of trainspotters. I suppose everyone who lives there must be used to it.
Whenever we go for a walk or go on holiday somewhere, I usually start the “I want to live in that house” game. It involves pointing out which houses I would like to live in if I ever won the lottery. Dungeness was quite the opposite. It was certainly an interesting place to visit, but it’s so barren and windswept that I just couldn’t imagine wanting to live there. Each to their own, and all that.
One of the first things we saw upon arrival was this:
What’s so unusual about that? Surely everywhere in Britain has a lighthouse right next door to a nuclear power station? In fact there are two nuclear power stations, one of which has been decommissioned. The lighthouse above is open to visitors and you can go up to the top for interesting views. There’s also a second, newer lighthouse, which looks a bit lonely on its own and isn’t accessible to the public.
The whole area is made up of shingle. Whilst much of Britain is experiencing coastal erosion, the area around Dungeness is constantly being added to. Not only is shingle difficult to walk across, but it also means there are no trees in the area, adding to the eerie feel.
As for the houses, well, they were just weird. It wasn’t just the design of the houses themselves; it was the way they seemed so haphazardly strewn about the place, in no kind of order. Some of them were run-down places made out of old train carriages, and others were designed by funky modern architects. It didn’t seem to make any sense.
Presumably there are enough people who love the windswept and remote feel, but personally I think the place looks a bit of a mess. It’s an interesting place to visit for a day, but living there could get a bit gloomy.
We had lunch at The Britannia Inn, which was nice enough. There’s another pub about a mile and a half up the coast called The Pilot Inn, which looks like it might have nicer food, but we were hungry so we just went to the nearest pub. There’s also a place at Dungeness Station called The Light Railway Cafe, which serves fish and chips.
On our way back we stopped off at New Romney Station, home to some engine sheds and a model railway museum.
I’m glad we visited Dungeness, but travelling on the little railway from Hythe made it into a full day out. I might have felt a bit disappointed if we’d just driven to Dungeness and not gone anywhere else. You can also get there from Hastings and Rye.
Upon arriving back at Hythe, we walked through the town looking for a nice pub to eat at. We settled upon The Kings Head, where the food was excellent. I had a halloumi salad that was a proper vegetarian dish – there was definitely no mushroom risotto on the menu. We then took a taxi back to Sandling.
Hythe is a lovely little town and we could easily have spent a day or two there. If we’d realised this beforehand, we’d have booked some accommodation. It has lovely old streets and shops, and a beach. One thing we wanted to do, but didn’t have time for, was to visit the crypt at St Leonard’s Church, full of bones. We only really went to Hythe so we could go to Dungeness, but I’d really like to go back and explore Hythe in its own right.