When I was growing up, Dungeness was a place I’d heard many people talk about, but I had never been there, despite it being very close to home. I was told it was a desolate, miserable place, with nothing to do and nothing to see, so I never went. I took everyone’s word for it that it wasn’t worth a look. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I started to see this place is a different light. I had seen caught glimpses of it on television and in films made my my college friends, and I realised that, although it was indeed desolate, it was also beautiful.
It was still quite some time until I actually experienced Dungeness for myself. I went for a ride in my friend’s car and we drove by it, close enough to see it, but not close enough to take it all in. This quick glimpse made me hungry to go back and see it up close. I had been driving for almost three years by then, and realised that it was no longer somewhere out of reach that no one wanted to take me to. I could take myself, so I did, and it was magical.
Expanses of stony beach littered with ramshackle fishing huts and old boats spread out in front of me as I stood there, clutching my camera excitedly. I knew instantly that I was about to capture some of my most beautiful shots ever; it was now abundantly clear why so many film makers and photographers before me had chosen to shoot on this beach. It was flat and desolate, the horizon, sharp like a blade through the land and sky was in full view wherever I looked.
I couldn’t help but feel jealous as I strolled along the beach. On my right was a row of houses, some very beautiful. Oh to be one of those people who could enjoy this beach every single day! One house in particular caught my eye, a darling little black weather-boarded hut with bright yellow accents on the window frames and doors, surrounded by a garden full of textures. As I got closure to the house, daring to tread into the garden, I noticed writing on the wall. It was a poem, which read:
Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls thy sphere.
Curious to know the origin of these words, I headed to Google and discovered that they were written by John Donne, a poet. I also found out that this little house was the home of Derek Jarman, an English film director. He crafted the garden himself, careful to keep away from the modern garden style that he hated.
Dungeness is a photographer’s dream, not only for wide shots of the open landscape, but for zooming in on the tiny details and textures. Rusty metal, flaky wood, scraggly fishing nets, and an array of bobbly leaved plants sprout up between the smooth pebbles. It is easy to frame a shot here, as wherever you turn your camera, your lens is filled up with colour, shape and texture. My walk along the beach lasted several hours, as I kept noticing all of these intricate details and texture combinations. Albeit desolate, Dungeness is a feast for the eyes.
Even things that, by rights, should be considered an eyesore, seem beautiful at Dungeness. Dungeness B Power Station takes up a considerable amount of the landscape and epitomises everything I consider ugly in a building, yet somehow it is softened by its surroundings. From the beach, it was slightly veiled by mist in the distance, and I managed to get a few good shots of it where it actually looked quite striking. I remember hot, sleepless summer nights as a child where the whirr of the distant power station crept across the flat land and into my bedroom, several miles away, and the ever present threat that, “if that power station blows up, we’ll all be killed in an instant”, or so my mother has always told me. Standing in front of it, it somehow seemed less daunting.
Towards the sea, Dungeness becomes less desolate. There are more houses, more boats, and two lighthouses. There is also a light railway, still in operation. I have yet to ride on it, but that’s definitely a plan for the future. You still get the sense that you’re in the middle of nowhere in this part of the village, but it’s a little busier, with tourists wandering around. I didn’t spend long here as it was quite a culture shock after being alone for so many hours on the beach, but by no means is it bustling! Dungeness is very much a sleepy place, perfect for a visit if you need somewhere quiet to escape to.
In short, if you’re looking for somewhere quiet, or somewhere to get some interesting photography, head down to Dungeness. There really is so much to look at, but you need to get out there and see it for yourself.