A while ago I set the mission to explore Dungeness. My friend and I wanted to spent 2 days at the famous coast in Kent, which apparently is the largest expanse of shingle on earth, to take pictures and find out about the people who live there. See objectives post.
However, for a while it looked like the entire trip was doomed. A day before we were about to set off our accommodation was cancelled. We managed to find something near by in Romney Sands (30min by train) but that meant we didn’t get a chance to chat to the people living directly at Dungeness.
The next blow came from the weather gods who sent pretty much the first and only rain in 2 weeks on the day we were heading to the beach. And I mean it was pissing down. Trapped in a caravan park all day, all we were able to do is to hang out in the pub and play snooker. Ok not a bad day overall but frankly not what we had planned.
Optimistic for a sun rise the next day we set the alarm for 4 am and then for 6,7 and finally 8am until the rain finally stopped. Honestly I was ready to call it a day and head back to London.
But we set off anyhow and after 8 hrs walking along the beach we were happy, exhausted and even managed to get a sun burn (at least I did).
I still want to find out more about the people who live on Dungeness. What you can see is that the few thousand residents are overwhelmed with 1 million visitors each year. It’s a bit like being the attraction in a zoo and happy snappy tourists point their camera directly into your bedroom window. This can’t be fun.
I personally took only a few images of houses and only when they were either not occupied or in respectable distance.
Instead I got obsessed with the decaying machinery and rotting boats that are littered all along the beach.
Enjoy the slide show below.
Obviously we had to catch a ride back on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway, which again supposed to be the smallest passenger railways in the world. To be honest it is very small.
Objective 1: the photography away day
It’s time to get out of town. I love London but sometimes this town can drive you nuts.
A friend and I planning to head for Dungeness beach in Kent. A strange desolate place that has been featured in various music videos (the Prodigy and Nicki Minaj) as well as in TV, film and advertising. It’s a nature reserve, a place of scientific interest, home to a tiny community and features a massive power plant. The Guardian described it once as, “where the wild west meets the post-apocalyptic”. I had no idea such a place exists in the UK and less than 2 hours away from London. Just google image ‘Dungeness’ to get an idea.
Objective 2: what’s it like to live on Dungeness
Dungeness is private land and was bought in 2015 for £1.5m by EDF who subsequently own and run the local power station. My cynical mind questions how much good will it do for the local community. Surely EDF’s main interest is the plant and their business. According to an BBC article, “It was scheduled for decommissioning in 2018 but is now scheduled to remain open until 2028”.
The area gets roughly 1 million visitors a year, enjoying the landscape and checking out the small community (who pay lease and rent to the new owners). However, anyone planning to shoot for commercial purposes, including student projects and bigger organised photo groups will be asked to apply for permission from the new land managing trust and to pay a fee which can go up to £1200 for the day.
Now what bothers me is that the local shops and properties weren’t in the original deal. If you shoot for commercial reasons or film a Dr Who episode then I think it’s only fair to pay a fee but I wonder how much of it actually goes back into the community?
The truth is, only because you forked out expensive fees to take pictures on the land (especially as a student), you would still need the to ask the locals if they are ok with you taking pictures of their houses and shops – for free. Really what does the community get back from EDF? EDF’s Community Report for May 2017 states:
“EDF Energy maintains its strong ties with the local area through our Land Quality Management Team and continues to support the area through roadway improvements, signage, rubbish clearance and biodiversity improvement programs”
We will be staying with a local artist couple for one night and I hope they’ll be willing to have a chat about what it’s like living on Dungeness and what they think of the new owners.
Find out how it turned out.