A Resident’s Guide to: Dungeness
The phrase ‘post-apocalyptic’ and Dungeness go together like fish and chips. The flat, shingle-strewn 468-acre estate is loomed over by a nuclear power station, punctuated by eerie weather-beaten shacks and sits below a seemingly perpetual overcast sky.
But, over the last two decades or so, a number of contemporary homes have established the headland as an architectural playground of sorts, with architects conjuring creative responses to the challenge of building on a national nature reserve and conservation area.
Interior architect and designer Fiona Naylor, who we recently visited for our ‘My Modern House’ series, was one such trailblazer, having first overhauled Coastguard Lookout with her late husband, photographer Peter Marlow, in 2001.
Here, Fiona shares her insider tips on what to see, eat, shop and do in Dungeness and the surrounding area.
Derek Jarman’s Garden, Dungeness
The late Derek Jarman’s garden in Dungeness now supersedes the varied and successful career he had as a filmmaker, stage designer, and author. Surrounding his clapboard cottage, the boundary-less sprawl of wildflowers, found objects and saltwater-loving flora are a manifestation of Jarman’s artistic and philosophical inclinations in which narrative, intrigue and allusion are defining themes.
Sound Mirrors, Dungeness
The former Royal Air Force base of Denge is a reminder that this part of the world once represented the nearest thing Britain had to a front line. The base is best known for its sound mirrors, which once forewarned of approaching aircraft, but now stand as sculptural remnants of bygone technology. While not publicly accessible, guided open days are held throughout the summer by the RSPB.
Jerwood Gallery, Hastings
Architecture practice HAT Projects picked up a RIBA Award in 2013 for their simple, functional design of the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings. Admire the black glazed-tiles that coat the building’s exterior, before heading inside to admire a collection defined by its focus on mid-century names: Sir Stanley Spencer, LS Lowry, Walter Sickert and Augustus John, to name a few.
The Standard Inn, Rye
This local favourite is in the historic centre of Rye, occupying a building that was first established as a pub in the 15th century. The lauded dining room serves seasonal fare, which looks to showcase local ingredients in dishes like Salt Marsh lamb and scallops with herb butter.
Dungeness Fish Hut Snack Shack, Dungeness
The opening hours of these two family-run shacks differ depending on what time their boats return from a morning at sea. It means that everything sold has been caught the same day, and whether you’re in the market for a bass, cod or sole to cook at home, or fancy a prepared crab lunch, it’s harder to imagine fresher fish.
A local favourite, Knoops is a small, unassuming and somewhat incongruously placed café, that also happens to be Rye’s most highly rated eatery. Not that there’s much to eat: Knoops dedicates its menu to chocolate of the liquid variety – hot chocolate and milkshakes – with a range of origins on offer that can be flavoured with spices like cardamom and star anise.
A G Hendy and Co. Homestore, Hastings
This shop and restaurant is the brainchild of chef, food writer and stylist Alastair Hendy. Occupying a restored Grade II-listed Georgian timber townhouse in the Old Town of Hastings, the shop champions practical, hard-wearing homeware, along with vintage finds. Book a table to sample dishes like whole grilled plaice with sorrel butter, or cuttlefish and cabbage.
Merchant and Mills, Rye
An emporium for beautiful fabrics and haberdashery paraphernalia, Merchant and Mills was established in 2010 with the intention of bringing style and purpose to the sometimes-staid world of sewing. Its owners Carolyn Denham and Roderick Field source the rare fabrics from around the world, and also sell patterns for creating classic garments at home.
Camber Sands Beach
The jewel in East Sussex’s coastal crown, Camber Sands is an expansive stretch of sandy beach, comprising one of the largest dune systems on the south coast of England. Pack a picnic and grab your trunks for a day at one of the area’s most beautiful landscapes.
“The road cycling around here is great,” says Fiona. “Romney Marsh is packed with little lanes. I got lost there once and asked someone for directions and the man I asked said, ‘people live here for 20 years and they don’t know where they’re going!'”