19 October 2012

space and light

Even at nine o'clock this morning I had to have the lights on because it is so dark and grey, in here and outside.  It must have been the anticipation of this greyness that was behind my impulse to go back to Dungeness a couple of weeks ago, to catch as much of light as I could while it was there.

We found just what we wanted on an exceptional late September day, warm enough, masses of low cumulus clouds scudding across the blue.  Beach, big skies, birds of prey, bumble bees, dragonflies, lakes, pebbles, shingle, wildfowl, wind.  Not my words, but the ones you will find on  RSPB website and they tell most of the story.   Those dragonflies - there were masses of them, red, blue, striped, and harriers, sparrowhawks, kestrels.   And there was the space and light, of course.  I'd entirely forgotten, along with my sunglasses, just how bright it is out on the shingle.

Dungeness,  power station in the distance
It must be the light that makes Dungeness impact so strongly on the memory, that and its oddity - ramshackle houses, fishing sheds, boats, the lighhouses, a seemingly interminable wind and, on the beach, that fierce sound from the sea hitting the shingle and dragging through it, even the serpentine pipes of the power station. We brought our boy here when he was little, five or six years old and with a minor obsession for collecting green plastic fishing floats and bits of scrap metal which ended up in the garden at our allotment. We knew about the garden at Prospect Cottage and thought he might find it inspiring.  I asked  him before I started writing this and he still remembers the day we drove out across the shingle, bought a giant spotted turbot from one of the fishing sheds, went to the top of the lighthouse where he boldly stepped through the little door on to the windy platform at the top while I clung to the wall with my heart in my mouth, and took a ride on the miniature railway. You can still down with a cup of tea outside the cafe at the end of the railway line and you'll see the delight on the faces of the boys - most of them grown men - inspecting the engines and having their snaps taken with them.

One day out on the shingle and marsh wasn't enough for me. We went back again a week later.  This time I wanted to see the bones in the ossuary at Hythe, but we were too late - it closes on 30th September for visits. After a quick trip around Hythe, quite pretty as it happens, we mooched along to Dymchurch to sit on the rather fine seawall for a sunny home-made lunch and a cup of licorice tea. Praise be for the vacuum flask. Then we stopped off further down the beach road and found a sign pointing us to the acoustic mirrors or Listening Ears out on Denge Marsh.

Out on the shingle, Listening Ears in the distance.  Love that barbed wire
We walked across the shingle - hard work- before we reached the track which takes you around the lake and down the causeway along a very pebbly path, surrounded by bushes and trees.  Then suddenly there they were, on a small island.

The Listening Ears
The Listening Ears were built here because of the silence.  This was before the shingle had been scoured away for the building trade and the lakes later created.  Now the air is full of the sound of wildfowl.  And on the way back, with the sun going down, there was the crunch of our feet on the shingle, at least before we reached the rows of bland bungalows which line the beach road.

The bridge will be open on 4th November.  We may well be visiting again.


SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Reading this made me envious ... then I remembered that there's a very nice little island about an hour's journey just north of here . It probably won't be sunny but I think I can find the thermos .

Annie Cholewa said...

I am envying you too. Oh how I need some big skies and the sound of sea on shingle!

Rattling On said...

Love those ears. No islands round here, but plenty of empty space without much noise. Beautiful pictures.

Knit Nurse said...

It's a fascinating place, I've only been the once, on a bike trip, but the weather was pretty much the same as you had on your visit. Must go again and see the ears - I've seen a couple elsewhere but not these ones.