Dungeness (headland)

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This article is about the headland in Kent, England. For the sand spit in Washington, United States, see Dungeness Spit. For the headland on the border of Chile and Argentina, see Punta Dúngeness.
Aerial view of Lydd, Kent.JPG
Aerial view of Dungeness
Dungeness is located in Kent
 Dungeness shown within Kent
OS grid reference TR0917
Civil parish Lydd
District Shepway
Shire county Kent
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Romney Marsh
Postcode district TN29
Dialling code 01797
Police Kent
Fire Kent
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Folkestone and Hythe
Website http://www.dungeness.org.uk/
List of places

Coordinates: 50°55′00″N 0°58′00″E / 50.916667°N 0.966667°E / 50.916667; 0.966667

Dungeness (UK /ˌdʌnəˈnɛs/[1]) is a headland on the coast of Kent, England, formed largely of a shingle beach in the form of a cuspate foreland. It shelters a large area of low-lying land, Romney Marsh. Dungeness is also the name of the power station and a few other nearby buildings near the beach, and of an important ecological site at the same location.


The name Dungeness derives from Old Norse nes: "headland", with the first part probably connected with the nearby Denge Marsh. Popular etymology ascribes a French origin to the toponym, giving an interpretation as "dangerous nose".


Dungeness is one of the largest expanses of shingle in Europe,[2] and is classified as Britain's only desert by the Met Office.[3] It is of international conservation importance for its geomorphology, plant and invertebrate communities and birdlife. This is recognised and protected mostly through its conservation designations as a national nature reserve (NNR), a Special Protection Area (SPA), a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and part of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) of Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay.

There is a remarkable variety of wildlife living at Dungeness, with over 600 different types of plant: a third of all those found in Britain. It is one of the best places in Britain to find insects such as moths, bees and beetles, and spiders; many of these are very rare, some found nowhere else in Britain.

The short-haired bumblebee, Bombus subterraneus, was last found in the UK in 1988, but has survived in New Zealand after being shipped there more than 100 years ago. After unsuccessful attempts to reintroduce the New Zealand bees at Dungeness in 2009-2010, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Hymettus, Natural England and the RSPB teamed up with the Swedish government in a second attempt and introduced 51 of them in 2012 and 49 in 2013 to the Dungeness Reserve. This will be continued each year to ensure a successful integration.[4]

The flooded gravel pits on Denge Beach, both brackish and fresh water, provide an important refuge for many migratory and coastal bird species. The RSPB has a bird reserve there, and every year thousands of bird watchers visit the peninsula and its bird observatory.

One of the most remarkable features of the site is an area known as 'the patch' or, by anglers, as 'the boil'. The waste hot water and sewage from the Dungeness nuclear power stations are pumped into the sea through two outfall pipes, enriching the biological productivity of the sea bed and attracting seabirds from miles around.

Beach fishing is popular at Dungeness, with the area being a nationally recognised cod fishing venue in the winter.


There have been five lighthouses at Dungeness. At first only a beacon was used to warn sailors, but this was replaced by a proper lighthouse in 1615. As the sea retreated, this had to be replaced in 1635 by a new lighthouse nearer to the water's edge known as Lamplough's Tower.

As more shingle was thrown up, a new and more up-to-date lighthouse was built near the sea in 1792 by Samuel Wyatt. This lighthouse was about 35 m (115 ft) high and of the same design as the third Eddystone Lighthouse. From the mid-19th century, it was painted black with a white band to make it more visible in daylight; similar colours have featured on the subsequent lighthouses here. This lighthouse was demolished in 1904, but the lighthouse keepers' accommodation, built in a circle around the base of the tower, still exists.

In 1901 building of the fourth lighthouse, the High Light Tower, started. It was first lit on 31 March 1904 and still stands today. It is no longer in use as a lighthouse but is open as a visitor attraction. It is a circular brick structure, 41 m (135 ft) high and 11 m (36 ft) in diameter at ground level. It has 169 steps, and gives visitors a good view of the shingle beach.

As the sea receded further, and after building the nuclear power station which obscured the light of the 1904 lighthouse, a fifth lighthouse, Dungeness Lighthouse was built.

Power stations[edit]

Dungeness B

There are two nuclear power stations at Dungeness, the first built in 1965 and the second in 1983. They are within a wildlife sanctuary deemed a Site of Special Scientific Interest and birds flourish in the warmer water created by the station's outflow.[citation needed]

The older power station closed on 31 December 2006,[5] while the newer station has had its licence extended to 2018.[6]

Tours of the power station stopped due to security fears after the September 11 attacks in 2001, but resumed in 2013. The visitors' centre closed in 2003.



There are two access roads: from Lydd to the north-west; and from New Romney to the north along the coast.


A branch from the Marshlink Line at Appledore to New Romney was opened by the South Eastern Railway: it had a short branch to a station at Dungeness, which closed to passengers on 4 July 1937; it was closed completely when the Lydd to New Romney section closed on 6 March 1967.[7] The remaining section to Lydd transports waste from the power stations. The track is shown on Ordnance Survey map sheet 89, and a number of cottages have been constructed from old carriages.

The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, opened to New Romney in 1927, was extended to Dungeness a year later, and continues to operate.

Defence uses[edit]

The beach and marshes have been used for military training and there are marked Danger areas.

Acoustic mirrors[edit]

Acoustic mirrors at Denge

Denge is the site of a set of acoustic mirrors, known as the "Listening Ears". Built between 1928 and 1930, the three massive concrete structures formed an experimental early warning system that aimed to detect invading aircraft by focusing sound waves. The site was chosen as being one of the quietest in Britain. Their different forms are evidence of their experimental nature; they were not particularly effective and were abandoned when radar became available. English Heritage and English Nature have joined forces to provide public access to the site.

Operation Pluto[edit]

In 1944 some of the world's first submarine oil pipelines were laid between Dungeness and France in Operation Pluto. The lines from Dungeness were part of a network called Dumbo and ran to Ambleteuse in France.

The "Village"[edit]

Prospect Cottage, Dungeness (2004)

In addition to the power station and lighthouse, there is a scattered collection of dwellings. Some of the homes, small wooden houses in the main, many built around old railway coaches, are owned and occupied by fishermen, whose boats lie on the beach; some are occupied by people trying to escape the pressured outside world. The shack-like properties have a high value on the property market.

Perhaps the most famous house is Prospect Cottage, formerly owned by the late artist and film director Derek Jarman. The cottage is painted black, with a poem, part of John Donne's "The Sunne Rising", written on one side in black lettering. But the garden is the main attraction: reflecting the bleak, windswept landscape of the peninsula, Derek Jarman's garden is made of pebbles, driftwood, scrap metal and a few hardy plants.

Another house of Dungeness is represented on the cover of Pink Floyd's album "A collection of great dance songs".

There are two Public Houses "The Pilot" and "The Britannia". There are more solidly-built houses around the site of the power stations. Fresh seafood can be purchased from several outlets across the shingle.


The landscape is of relatively recent late medieval origin and was further altered when the marsh was drained and replaced by the large arable fields of industrial agriculture.[8]

The Dungeness area will potentially be affected by plans to lengthen the runway of London Ashford Airport to accommodate large passenger jets.

Media references[edit]

Dungeness now appears quite often in music videos, album covers and adverts. The shingle beach and fishermen's shacks feature extensively in the Lighthouse Family promotional video for their 1998 song "High". The acoustic mirror at Dungeness is featured on the cover of the album Ether Song by the British indie band Turin Brakes. Dungeness appears on the covers of albums as diverse as So much for the city by The Thrills and Aled by Aled Jones. The Prodigy's single "Invaders Must Die" video was filmed here, and shows both the acoustic mirrors and the lighthouse.

Athlete have a song on the album Vehicles and Animals called "Dungeness" which is about the area. Get Cape Wear Cape Fly mention Dungeness and the lighthouse in their song "Lighthouse Keeper". The Kent-based hardcore punk band November Coming Fire released a 2006 album entitled Dungeness, featuring a track called "Powerstation" which included a recording of waves on the beach.

In television, the Dungeness landscape, the lighthouse and the power station have been used on digital channel E4 at the beginning and end of advertising breaks. It was used as a backdrop for 2 part ITV drama The Poison Tree.[9] It featured in an episode of the BBC detective serial The Inspector Lynley Mysteries and in March 2007 was the setting for a major part of an EastEnders special. The BBC filmed episodes of Doctor Who in Dungeness during the 1970s. The 1981 fantasy film Time Bandits shot its 'Time of Legends' sequence on the beach, and Dungeness was used to film a scene in Danny Boyle's Trance.[10]

Much of the Michael Winterbottom's 1998 film I Want You was set in and around Dungeness: the lead character's home was one of the wooden beach dwellings.


Climate in this area has mild dfferences between highs and lows, and there is adequate rainfall year round. The Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is "Cfb" (Marine West Coast Climate/Oceanic climate).[11]

Climate data for Dungeness (headland)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7
Average low °C (°F) 3
Precipitation mm (inches) 48
Source: Weatherbase [12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dungeness". Collins Dictionary. n.d. Retrieved 23 September 2014. 
  2. ^ McVeigh, Tracy (15 January 2012). "Dungeness's strange beauty under threat from shingle plan". The Guardian (www.theguardian.com). Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  3. ^ Middleton, Christopher (20 May 2010). "Dungeness nature reserve: Secret life of Britain’s only desert". Daily Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk). Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  4. ^ "Projects: Short-haired bumblebee reintroduction". The Rspb. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  5. ^ "England | Kent | Nuclear switch-off at Dungeness A". BBC News. 2006-12-31. Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  6. ^ "News". British Energy. Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  7. ^ "history of the Dungeness railway line and pictures". Subbrit.org.uk. Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  8. ^ Liverpool University and Romney Marsh Research Trust web site linking ecology, geomorphology and human history in an accessible format for the non-specialist.
  9. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office The Poison Tree Film Focus". 
  10. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Trance Film Focus". 
  11. ^ "Climate Summary for Dungeness". Weatherbase.com. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  12. ^ "Weatherbase.com". Weatherbase. 2013.  Retrieved on July 9, 2013.

External links[edit]