One of the important things to remember about Kent and Sussex is that it is the place invaders like to start on; it being near to France and all.
As a result we get places like Dover Castle where the Romans dominated the channel and the Normans built a castle to let everybody know that they owned the place. Later Dover Castle and the chalk hills underneath it were used by Churchill to act as a place from whence to keep an eye on that vicious Charlie Chaplin look-alike, Adolf Hitler and his mad armies.
The White Cliffs act as a natural barrier to invasion, although nowadays much of takes place on trucks coming from Calais, attacking both Dover and Folkstone. It is the latter area that we are concerned with here. Beyond Folkstone is a flat land where the cliffs and the North Downs recede leaving the Romney Marsh famous for its breed of sheep and for its smuggling.
Tales of Doctor Syn and the Revenue men of the 18 C are all part of the mystique.
But there is another tale, a sad one in its way, that dominates the area. The Royal Military Canal which stretches from Seabrook outside Sandgate to just beyond Pett Level not far from Hastings. Built to prevent Napeolonic invasion the canal failed its purpose and even when Hitler was looking to attack England the canal was not that much use. Today it has a charm as a waterway and acts a drain in flood for the marshes and irrigation in times of drought, which is about as useful as it will get other than for recreation.
The French can come across on the train anyway and the Germans already have family ties ( early Old English and the Royal family) so there is not much point.
But that was not the purpose of the day>
We had to go to Folkstone, that is my fellow Artist, Bob Collins, and myself, me to pick up a couple of paintings and he to perhaps leave one for the exhibition. Afterwards, and coffee at The Grand, we took a ride to Hythe following the canal but turned off to go to Dungeness where we saw the steam engine pulling a train and stopped to have a meal and a pint.
Dungeness, a bleak place in winter and a place of isolation in the summer.
Dominated by the Power station and the old lighthouse it curves around the coast separated from the marsh by the RSPB area and popular as a fishing beach in contrast to StMary’s Bay where sandy beaches and holiday sites abound. We stopped and I took pictures whilst Bob sketched. I did a shoot from the road while Bob sat and watched until we arrived at the Britannia Inn where he did his bit with the pencil and I waved the camera around.
At the risk of being ostracised by fans of Derek Jarman I can understand why he chose it as his place to live – weird, as weird as Jarman appeared to those who struggled with his ideas. But the place is weird and anybody visiting Dungeness cannot help but feel the strangeness. The broken bit still used sheds, the ancient fishing boats left to decay on the beach, the rusting rails and hauling gear, the flat beachland and the contrast of phallic lighthouses all add to the character. In addition
there is the Dungeness Terminus of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway line to contend with. A popular attraction this railway line is a fully working line which was once used by the military as part of the coastal defences. There is a picture in the museum of a carriage with a mounted gun manned by army personnel. Good military fun.
A beer and fish and chips at the Britannia hit the spot and afterwards, I took pictures of one of the Choo-choos leaving the station and a few other pictures whilst Bob did his sketching.
We left for Rye and the sharp turn onto the Appledore road passing the RSPB reserve entrance on the way to Lydd. We drove past Camber Sands liking the proliferation of water and birds until we reached Rye to take the Appledore road past Iden Lock where the Royal Military Canal spills into the river Rother.
At Appledore we saw a steam tractor with three men attending and stopped to look. Out with the camera and Bob and I had a wonderful time admiring this immaculate Choo-choo and enjoyed the comic remarks of the geezers driving it. Nice guys, friendly and fun with a valuable machine in pristine condition, taxed and insured for the road. Not bad for a machine originally built in the 19C.