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“Dungeness, a strange land of extremes, one of the most valuable and yet vulnerable nature conservation sites in Great Britain”
Dungeness is unique – no boundaries, a desolate landscape with wooden houses, power stations, lighthouses and expansive gravel pits. Yet it possesses a rich and diverse wildlife within the National Nature Reserve in one of the largest shingle landscapes in the world.
IT IS A FRAGILE HABITAT
The communities of plants and animals living at Dungeness are unique, precious and exceptionally fragile. The diverse wildlife, complex land form and sheer size of Dungeness make it one of the best examples of a shingle beach in the world, home to many uncommon plants, insects and spiders. It is also a great place to see migratory birds in the spring and autumn.
NATIONAL NATURE RESERVE
Dungeness has been designated as a National Nature Reserve (NNR), Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). It is home to 600 species of plants which is a third of all plants found in the UK. The National Nature Reserve stretches across Dungeness to encompass the vast RSPB reserve and is intended to help protect the landscape and its wildlife.
To find out more about National Nature Reserves in Britain you can visit the Natural England website.
If you come to visit please help look after Dungeness by only driving on the roads, not on the shingle and walking on the established footpaths and roadways.
Click here if you would like to contact the Romney Marsh Countryside Partnership. If you’d like to find out more about what the project does you can also visit our website.
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Reserve and Visitor Centre
The RSPB reserve is important for many migrant birds and a haven for breeding and wintering birds. The RSPB manages the reserve not only for birds but for the many plants and invertebrates that make their home there. There are hides, nature trails and a visitor centre. To find out more information about this and details of the visitor centre visit the RSPB website.
Dungeness Bird Observatory
The Dungeness Bird Observatory aims to share information about the natural history of Dungeness and has be running for over 50 years. The observatory run a website for people to access information on flora and fauna which is updated daily.
The lifeboat station at Dungeness is home to the RNLI’s ‘The Morrell’ lifeboat, which regularly assists those in distress at sea off the coast of Dungeness. There are events at the station throughout the year visit the station website for more information.
The water tower at Dungeness is not open to the public but is a distinctive landmark. The tower was built alongside a gravel pit in the 1900s to provide water for New Romney, Littlestone, Greatstone and Lydd.
The Old lighthouse is a Historic Grade II building and was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1904. If you would like to visit from April to October or find out more information your can visit the Old Lighthouse website.
The new lighthouse at Dungeness was officially bought into operation in November 1961. This lighthouse is unusual as the whole tower has been flood lit, this has been shown to reduce the bird mortality rate. The lighthouse is not open to visitors but if you want to find out more you can visit the Trinity House website.
Dungeness A power station ceased to produce electricity on the 31st of December 2006. When it was operational on a typical day it supplied enough electricity to serve the energy needs of the South East of England. Dungeness B power station is still operational and due for closure in 2018. To find out more about Dungeness A visit the Magnox website. Dungeness B station began generating power in 1983 and is capable of producing enough electricity to power 1.5 million homes. To find out more about Dungeness B you can visit the EDF website.
Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway
The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway terminates at Dungeness and is a popular tourist attraction for the region. This narrow gauge railway was built in 1927 and claimed to be the smallest railway in the world. The track was extended from New Romney to Dungeness in 1928, where there is now a café and gift shop at the holt. To find out more visit the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway website.
The Pilot Pub
As well as parking and fine views The Pilot offers real ale and is well know for its local fish and chips. The Pilot is said to have been built in the 17th century from the remains of a Spanish ship looted by local smugglers. You can find out more at The Pilot’s website.
The Britannia Pub
The Britannia is a few minutes walk from the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. There is disable access to the beach opposite and the pub has its own garden. The Britannia serves food and specialises in local fish. You can visit The Britannia Inn’s website to find out more.
M & M Richardson
This family owned fish supplier have run a fish shop for over 70 years. Their fresh fish is caught by local Dungeness boats. To find out more you can visit their website.
When walking on the Romney Marsh it is easy to get a feeling of remoteness that is difficult to find elsewhere in the south east of England. The farmland of the Romney Marsh has hundreds of miles of footpaths which, together with the quiet country lanes and bridleways, make it simple to organise walking and cycle routes that suit you. Alternatively the Romney Marsh Countryside Partnership has produced a pack of self guided walks and a pack of self guided cycle rides. To find out more about the area you can visit the RMCP website.
Royal Military Canal
Whatever the weather or season there’ll be something to see or do along the canal. You can walk the Royal Military Canal Path which runs for 28 miles along the entire length of the Royal Military Canal from Seabrook, Kent to Cliff End in East Sussex, there also a pack of self guided walks available. A five mile stretch of the Royal Military Canal Path has been surfaced and makes an excellent cycle route along the canal banks. To find out more about the wildlife and history you can go to the Royal Military Canal website.
New Romney Warren Country Park
The country park is home to a number of rare species such as the great crested newt and great diving beetle. Habitats for these and many other species are managed by the Romney Marsh Countryside Partnership. There is a Romney Marsh Visitor Centre, run by the Kent Wildlife Trust, based in the grounds of the Country Park. At the visitor centre there is a shop and an exhibition where you can find out more about the local area. To find out more about the centre you can visit the Kent Wildlife Trust website.
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
The Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and bird hides are open to visitors at all times. There are a network of footpaths and entry is free. To find out more about this reserve and the rare plants and animals that thrive here you can visit the Rye Harbour Reserve website.
Camber Castle was built to protect the towns of Rye and Winchelsea. The main structure of the castle remains largely intact. There are footpaths that run alongside the castle which you can use at any time. To see inside the castle itself details of opening hours are available on the English Heritage website.
Dungeness is a hostile landscape but it has many distinctive plants which favour the pebble habitat close to the sea. Blackthorn grows in a prostrate form as do the yellow flowered broom bushes which hug the shingle landscape. The blackthorns in particular can be smothered in lichens due to the clean air.
Dungeness is rich in an array of insects, notably its moth species. One speciality is the Sussex emerald moth, which is a night flying green moth which appears in July. The caterpillar feeds on wild carrot which is a relatively common plant in Britain. However, Dungeness is the only place in Britain where this moth is found. Another rarity is the pygmy footman moth which is supported by the lichen community at Dungeness. To find out more about the moth population you can look at The Moths of Dungeness website.
If you would like to find out more about recent wildlife sightings at Dungeness, from the latest migrant bird or the complete plant list, to butterfly and moth sightings, visit the Dungeness Bird Observatory website or the RX wildlife website which includes sightings from Hastings to Romney Marsh, both websites are updated daily.
Sea kale Crambe maritima
This plant is similar to cabbage both in it’s appearance and in its properties. Sea kale grows in clumps of waxy grey-green leaves similar in shape to cabbage leaves. In the past people used to blanch the leaves by piling shingle on top of them, then cooking and eating them as we would cabbage. This plant produces dense clusters of white flowers from June to August.
Viper’s bugloss Echium vulgare
The name ‘bugloss’ is Greek in origin meaning ox’s tongue and the likeness can be easily seen. Not only are the leaves of similar shape but they are rough like an ox’s tongue . This plant is particularly useful for some invertebrates as its hollow stems provide a place for them to over-winter. Humans have found uses for this plant including boiling the seeds in wine, the resulting concoction was said to ‘comfort the heart and drive away melancholy’.
Nottingham catchfly Silene nutans
The Nottingham catchfly is no longer in Nottingham, but Dungeness does support a large community of this rare plant. Nottingham catchfly’s habitat is limestone rocks and shingle and was famous for growing on the walls of Nottingham castle until the 19th century. The fragrant drooping white flowers of this plant open at night between May and August.
Wild carrot Daucus carota
Wild carrot is a common plant growing in various habitats and is an ancestor of the cultivated carrot. The plant produces no edible root but has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries as it is believed to have diuretic and stimulant properties. The scientific name is suggestive of this as Daucus originates from the Greek ‘dais’ meaning to burn.
Emperor dragonfly Anax imperator
The adult male emperor is bright blue and the largest dragonfly in the UK. It is one of the fastest flying insects and can often be seen patrolling over the gravel pits at Dungeness. With it’s delicate wings beating 30 times a second, the male emperor is rarely still as he fiercely defends his territory.
Small copper Lycaena phlaeas
This small butterfly can be seen from late April to the end of October and is common at Dungeness. The small copper is also very territorial and the adult male can often be seen perching on or near the ground ready to purse any passing butterfly.
A summer visitor to the UK, it breeds on the islands at the large gravel pits on the RSPB reserve and feeds offshore diving for fish.
Dungeness is one of the best places to see this striking white duck which arrives for the winter months. The smew is a small duck and can be seen diving to search for underwater food such as fish and insects.
One of the earliest migrants returning from Africa, the wheatear can be seen from March to October. It is a small bird that spends much of its time on the ground where it nests and hunts for insects and larvae.
The RSPB manage large areas of gravel pits, reed beds and shingle habitats which have strong colonies of seabirds, breeding duck and wintering wildfowl.
To discover more and explore the Dungeness RSPB reserve, why not visit the reserve with its visitor and education centre. Facilities include a large car park and toilets. You can also explore a number of nature trails and hides around the gravel pits of Dungeness.
Contact the RSPB on 01797 320588. email email@example.com or visit their website.
This is the rarest and largest of the three species of newt found in the UK. Many of the flooded pits at Dungeness hold healthy populations. Up close these creatures look almost prehistoric with warty skin, a shaggy crest and large tail and a bright orange belly.
The largest of the leeches in Britain, it feeds on the blood of fish, amphibians, birds and mammals. The medicinal leech is the only leech in this country able to suck blood from humans. The belief that these leeches could extract bad blood and leave the good behind lead to over collecting across Europe and a severe decline in the leech populations. Dungeness is now one of the best areas in Europe to find them.
The pattern of shingle ridges have built up at Dungeness over 5,000 years. The height of a shingle ridge can be used to determine the sea level at the time it was formed. Across Dungeness the ridges have been used to produce a series of records showing how sea level has changed naturally over the past 5,000 years.
Dungeness has attracted the gravel extraction industry for generations. Today, the legacy of this extraction can be seen in the number of gravel pits across the landscape. These pits are home to a plethora of wildlife from breeding seabirds, wintering wildfowl, to the rare great-crested newt and blood sucking medicinal leech.
The vast Lydd Ranges have been owned by the Ministry of Defence since 1881, with the Royal Irish Rifles forming the first garrison there. The first permanent buildings were erected in 1906 in what are today very busy firing ranges stretching from Camber to near the power stations.
There have been five lighthouses built at Dungeness over the centuries. Today, the Old Lighthouse which was built in 1904 still stands adjacent to the Round House, which once had a lighthouse on the top of it, the round house was built in 1792. The New Lighthouse (the stripy one) was built in 1961 to aid shipping further out to the Point. The New Lighthouse remains operational, while the Old Lighthouse is a tourist attraction.
At the back of two gravel pits at Lade on an island are the three concrete listening mirrors, built in the 1920’s and 1930’s to detect enemy aircraft as they approached Britain. This is the only site in Britain where all three designs are situated in one place. This early warning system with a range of 20 miles became obsolete by the outbreak of the Second World War. The site is now managed by the RSPB. Please see here for details of guided tours.
There are nearly 100 homes across the Dungeness Estate of many different shapes and sizes. Some near to the lighthouses originate from old railway carriages dragged across the shingle nearly one hundred years ago. Houses near to the Lifeboat Station are larger and are inhabited mainly by local fishermen, which are able to dry nets in the loft spaces.
Romney Marsh Countryside Partnership
Romney Marsh Day Centre,
Kent. TN28 8JR,
Telephone & Fax: 01797 367934
Mobile: 07770 670316
White Cliffs Countryside Partnership,
c/o Dover District Council,
White Cliffs Business Park
Kent. CT16 3PG
Telephone & Fax: 01303 241806
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