A Day at Dungeness
Once you’ve visited Dungeness beach, and the weirdly wonderful land that surrounds it, you start to see it everywhere.
On TV. In movies. As the setting of that random daydream you occasionally entertain, in which you decide to throw off the shackles of the rat race, fake your own death, then go and live as a hermit, by the sea. In a converted rail carriage. Next to a power station. Oh, don’t say you haven’t thought about it…
There are certain places in the world so distinct that they stick in your mind forever and Dungeness is one of those places – which I guess makes it unsurprising that it’s so often used as a filming location these days. Seriously, though: I can’t even tell you how often Terry and I have been watching TV lately, and one of us has suddenly been all, “Wait: isn’t that Dungeness again?” And it is.
(OK, I CAN tell you: it’s been twice – in the TV adaptation of Brave New World, and a show we randomly stumbled upon, called Back to Life. The fact that Brave New World is set in a dystopian future, and someone looked at Dungeness and though, “Yup, this seems like the place!” says quite a lot about it, actually. It’s just got that kind of ‘end of the world’ vibe about it, you know?)
For those who’ve never heard of it, Dungeness sits on the very tip of Kent: it has two lighthouses, a miniature railway, a power station, and an apparently infinite amount of pebbles on its desolate shingle beach. It’s a nature reserve, and it’s also home to a selection of often ramshackle cottages, some constructed from old rail carriages. It’s one of the strangest, most other-worldly places I’ve ever been, and exactly the kind of place where the Famous Five would’ve had a ripping adventure, filled with smugglers, ginger beer and buried treasure.
Most importantly of all, however, Dungeness is also the location of my brother and sister-in-law’s restaurant, The Pilot, which is why it’s always the very first place we go when we visit them in Kent:
(I’m sure there must be better things than a cold glass of wine on a sunny day, but that’s pretty much my idea of perfection, so I wouldn’t know…)
The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch miniature railway runs right behind the fence you can see at the back of the outdoor seating area, and you can board it at the station further along the beach. We didn’t ride the train this time around, but it remains famous in our house as the only place Max has ever fallen asleep other than in his bed, or the car, so I’d love it for that reason alone, really…
If you’re looking for somewhere to have fantastic fish and chips in Kent, then, I can highly recommend it. And if you’re looking for somewhere slightly surreal and other-worldly, where you can wander along the beach and feel a bit like you’re in some kind of post-apocalyptic drama, then I recommend it for that, too. In the meantime, if you’d like to see more from our day at Dungeness, you can take a look Behind the Blog Post over on my Patreon…