Disintegration at Dungeness
After seeing Dungeness in a TV documentary in ~2011, I thought it looked fascinating and I wanted see the place. I finally managed my first visit in early 2012 and now, I try to go back about once a year.
Dungeness is a place with much to recommend it. It's really quite picturesque, if you look in the right direction.
At the tip of the headland is that distinctly ugly 1960s Dungeness (A and B) nuclear power station. Dungeness has two nuclear power stations, two lighthouses, two pubs and one narrow gauge railway.
It is also an internationally important conservation area with important plant, insect (invertebrates in general) and bird communities. It’s a National Nature Reserve, a Special Protection Area and is part of an area of Site of Special Scientific Interest. There have also been two pieces of Banksy art there, giving Dungeness the highest per capita Banksy access anywhere in the world, the first piece was stolen shortly after completion and the second piece was removed for preservation after EDF energy set out plans to clean up the beach. Other artists and photographers live in the hamlet and of course, Derek Jarmon once lived there.
In addition to being popular with beach fishermen and birdwatchers, Dungeness is also popular with photographers and film makers. What draws them is the hamlet (some houses made from old railway carriages) and an array of derelict fishing boats, and their associated gear and buildings. Unfortunately, among the people going there to take photos, one group thought smoke bombs would be a good idea and burned the boat Molly Rose to the ground. It was also appalling to see that someone else had done a wire wool shot next to one of the other boats.
The most photographed of the derelict boats has lost its deckhouse and another, the Our Cathlene, that had been in reasonably good condition has been knocked about very badly.
What struck me after a couple of visits, was that the boats and buildings on the beach aren't just decaying because of the weather and time, they have also been deliberately damaged. Now, as much as anything I'm recording the slow disintegration of what is left.
Diamond navigation marker.
I think this marker was erected after the nuclear power station was built. It was washed away at the end of 2019.
Molly Rose was a fishing boat in use from 1968 into the 2000s.
In May 2016, people with cameras wanted to use smoke bombs for a photograph and burned the boat to the ground.
Dungeness has no harbour so its fishing vessels were launched from the beach using ropes, winches and bulldozers. The boats, were less than 10 metres in length, had a design that allowed them to allow them to be run up onto the shingle beach on their return. The RX boat registration letters indicate that the boat was registered with the port of Rye. RX435, Our Cathlene operated between 1964 and 1997.
When I saw the boat for the first time, it was intact. It looked like it had fresh varnish on her and even had oars strung on either side and I thought if was a working vessel.
I travelled for about two and a quarter hours and then lugged by camera gear across the shingle beach to get sunrise photos of the boats and I'm pretty glad I did.
By January 2017, the mast was gone and the deck house was over to one side too.
By November 2017, the deck house and mast of Our Cathlene had gone altogether. Another boat had had the deck house removed and placed to one side, so this wasn't weathering.
Both of the boats in the image below had deck houses in place at my previous visit. The deck house remains on the ground in the foreground hadn't blown there in a storm, it had been placed there.
This photo had been photographed on time-expired Kodak colour film. I'd tried some other time expired film before and it was great, but this stuff was a disaster.
The Net Shed and the Dungeness Fishing Boat
the Net Shed, was a fisherman's hut close to what is arguably the most photographed of the Dungeness fishing boats is the one in nearest to Prospect Cottage. It stands beside a narrow gauge railway railway that was used to transport fish across the shingle beach.
When I first visited the beach, there, the net shed was shabby, there were lots of nets around it and lots of stuff inside, but it was still upright. There was also a small shed beside the boat, next to the winding gear.
The Net Shed in March 2012, still largely intact.
By December 2019 it was gone.
As an aside. The small shed beside the boat had been decorated with a cartoon. All of the debris was removed, so that little art work is gone too.
Once the current corona virus pandemic eases and we can get out again, I hope to get back there and see what it looks like.
If this blog tempts you to visit, do so, but please remember all this stuff belongs to someone. treat it with respect and follow the local rules.
June 2021 Update - The Latest Dungeness Boat Fire
In June 2021, I learned that the most photographed of the Dungeness fishing boats had been destroyed by fire. I travelled over to see what had happened and what was left. It was a poignant site, almost nothing was left, just some rusty steel and the engine block.