The shingle beach and headland at Dungeness is so large that it’s the only place in Great Britain that is officially and geologically classed as a desert by the Met office. Located in the county of Kent, England, it is also said to be the largest single stretch of shingle beach in Western Europe and has only evolved since the last ice age some 15,000 years ago. Dungeness beach and headland protects a large area of low-lying land known as Romney Marsh which is a haven for wildlife and birds. In fact, Cheyne Court near Dungeness was the first nature reserve to be created by the RSPB in Britain in 1930. The Dungeness and Romney Marsh reserve was formalised in 1931 and is the oldest extant RSPB nature reserve and provides an internationally important environment for wintering wildfowl. The beach and the marshes are a region of special scientific interest and are protected by law.
Dungeness is renowned for the incredible variety of wildlife and plants that can be found in the area. More than 600 plant types have been identified in the immediate environment which collectively represent a staggering 33% of all of those found in the UK. With such a diversity of plant life it is not surprising that the area is also rich in insects such as bees, moths, beetles and spiders – some of which are only found in this location. Dungeness beach is also recognised an excellent location where anglers will fish for winter cod.
The name Dungeness, pronounced ‘dun-jen-ess’, may originate from Old Norse meaning ‘Marsh of the Denge’. However, an alternative origin suggests that it may be French in origin and means ‘dangerous nose’ a very old joke referring to the huge size of the headland.
Five lighthouses have had to be built on Dungeness beach. As the size of the shingle headland grew so it was necessary to keep building lighthouses further and further from the main shore. The first temporary lighthouse was constructed around 1605 and the most recent in 1901. Only the most recent of these towers is still standing. The beach is also famous for its isolated shacks and seemingly abandoned fishing boats which add to the mystery and loneliness to the environment. Most of the shacks are still owned by local fishermen.
In the past the beach has been used for military exercises and there are still sections marked as dangerous. The Dungeness Nuclear Power Station is located at the eastern point of the main headland. Warm water from this facility has stimulated a microclimate that researchers believe has proved beneficial for local wildlife. The first radio signal sent from Britain to the European continent was transmitted by G Marconi from Dungeness beach. The area was also used as the starting point for the World’s first underwater oil pipelines. These were established in 1944 to supply fuel to the British and American forces during the military liberation of France following the D-Day Landings of WWII.
Dungeness beach has been featured in films such as Michael Winterbottom’s 1998 film ‘I Want You’ and the cult fantasy movie from the 1970’s – The Time Bandits. It has featured in music videos and album covers for numerous bands including Pink Floyd, The Lighthouse Family, The Thrills, The Prodigy, Athlete, Aled Jones, Coming Fire and Turin Brakes. It may well be the most musically represented beach in the world. It has also been featured in numerous TV shows including; The Poison Tree, East Enders and Dr Who. There have even been rumours that it may feature in the latest trilogy of Star Wars films (VII & IX).
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Coast Road, Normans Bay, Pevensey
East Sussex, England, BN24 6PR
+44 (0)1323 761 190
- Address: Dungeness Road, Lydd-on-Sea, Kent, England, United Kingdom, TN29 9NJ
- GPS: 50.93061046853782,0.9663339646484701
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: TN29 9NJ
- Entrance Fees: Free access
- Disabled Access: Yes
- Visibility from Road: Excellent
- Image Credits: Header Image: Mark A Bond