Monday, 30 July 2012

A change of air (part two): Dungeness

From Paris I went to spend a few days with friends in Kent. What a contrast. From busy streets to green, rolling hills. From crowds to relative solitude. And although the Seine was lovely, in my opinion nothing beats the seaside.

The absolute highlight, I have to say, was visiting Dungeness. Yes, it has a nuclear power station, which, I appreciate, might be off-putting for some people. But there is also one of the biggest shingle beaches in the world and a unique garden made by the late film maker, stage designer, writer and painter, Derek Jarman. For years the book about this garden has been on my shelf and I always wanted to see the place for real. It was almost a surprise when we drove up the long road beside the beach, and I recognised Prospect Cottage, which I'd admired so often in the book's beautiful photographs by Howard Sooley.

I think maybe there are not so many of the driftwood and metal sculptures in the garden as appear in the book, but you can still see an extract from the John Donne poem 'The Sunne Rising' on the side of the cottage.

Beneath blue skies and sunshine, the place was tranquil. A skylark sang and the waves lapped gently on the pebbly beach. I imagine that in the middle of winter, in a howling gale, it may seem bleaker. In the book, Derek Jarman wrote about a power cut which lasted five days. Ironic, when the cottage is in spitting distance of the power station which remained, he said, "a blaze of light". But what a view to wake up to every morning. 
Whereas Paris was intense, full-on, bombarding the senses from every angle, Dungeness was a much simpler. A pared down kind of landscape. I noticed much more the textures of things. The variety of colours in the pebbles. The clouds passing over the sea. I'd love to go again, whatever the weather.

16 comments:

Joanna said...

This is a beautiful post, Joanne. The contrast with Paris is powerful and must be inspirational for your writing. I love the picture of the beach, sea and sky, so perfectly divided into thirds and the colours blend together, bleeding one into the next. It captures those textures too.

I'm glad you had such a rewarding time. What a fabulous break.

joanne fox said...

Thanks Joanna. I did have a fabulous break, but I so need to return to the writing now!

Laraine Eddington said...

Now I have another place to visit! What exactly is a shingle beach?

Jenny Woolf said...

I was amazed at Dungeness when I went too. What a place, you would hardly believe it existed. Nice to see Jarman's garden in sunshine, I am glad they have kept it up.

joanne fox said...

Hi Laraine - it's pebbles of all different sizes, and the beach ends up kind of ridgy as the smaller pebbles get washed to the top!

Jenny, it's kind of surreal isn't it. Unforgettable, in fact.

Old Kitty said...

You make me want to go and live there!!!! Awwwwww what nuclear station thing!?!??! I am liking the beach and the gorgeous cottage and the solitude and calm!!! Wonderful! Take care
x

joanne fox said...

Thanks, Old Kitty. Stay calm. x

Frances Garrood said...

I love the beach photo. It would make great wallpaper.

Denise Covey said...

It's lovely to have contrasts - Paris then your tranquil spot. I love both. Pebbly beaches aren't my favourite though - bit hard on the feet - I love the white sand beaches. The pebbly ones do look cute though. That's what the beaches are like at Nice, South of France.

Great pics.

bazza said...

Hi Joanne. I recognized the Derek Jarman garden instantly. There was a TV documentary about it a few years ago. Your first picture is the best one I've seen of it as it appears to have 'matured' rather nicely.
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Teresa Ashby said...

Lovely post and pics, Joanne. You've really captured the tranquillity of the place. What a perfect home for a writer :-) x

joanne fox said...

Frances, is that wallpaper on the wall, or on the computer screen? I'd love it as actual wallpaper, except I wouldn't be able to have any furniture in the room.

Denise, pebbly beaches are nice and crunchy though, if not to so good for paddling!

Bazza, it blends in with the landscape so well, doesn't it.

Teresa, I'm sure I would do no writing if I lived there as I'd be too busy watching the sea!

Rachel Cotterill said...

That's such a gorgeous cottage, isn't it?! I haven't really considered holidaying in Kent, but it looks lovely :)

Kay G. said...

You are so much talking my language. We always stay in Eastbourne but I love Kent, the rolling countryside and all the trees! Never been to a beach in Kent but of course I have read of Dungeness, thank you so much for this post. I hope to see it one day!

Amanda said...

Really enjoyed your post and photographs, Joanne, thank you.

joanne fox said...

Rachel, there is really so much to see in Kent, and quite handy for London too.

Kay, I hope you get there. I've never been to Eastbourne, but still hope to.

Thanks Amanda.