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A desert to shingle out

PUBLISHED: 16:03 20 May 2009 | UPDATED: 17:30 16 August 2010

Shingle crunches constantly beneath your feet, crashing waves send spray and spume far inland on wind that brings tears bursting from blurry eyes, gulls scream overhead and acres of pebble-strewn wilderness are dotted with gorse bushes. Dungeness is per

Shingle crunches constantly beneath your feet, crashing waves send spray and spume far inland on wind that brings tears bursting from blurry eyes, gulls scream overhead and acres of pebble-strewn wilderness are dotted with gorse bushes.

Dungeness is perfect for conspiracy theorists who insist The Eagle never really landed at Tranquility Base but was instead filmed on a US desert set just like this.

Yet the lunar landscape at Dungeness has two power stations, two lighthouses and a railway station, a bird observatory, a fishing industry and a thriving community of writers and artists based in an assortment of huts. TV producers love it and "Dunge" has appeared in many programmes (I saw one where the villain actually "lived" in one of the huts). Dungeness, on the edge of Romney Marshes, is also a prime wildlife sites. As one of the world's largest shingle landscapes it is classified a desert by Natural England and its flora and fauna make it a magnet for botanists and birdwatchers.

Some of the delights to be found are included in a new coffee-table book - Where to go Wild in Britain - of top British wildlife sites which highlights a different venue each month.

The June choice is Dungeness, said to be home for more than 60 bird species and 600 plant types. Specialities like medicinal leech, great crested newt, wild carrot, viper's bugloss, the Nottingham catchfly and sea kale are pictured while the brown carder bee and Sussex emerald moth can also be found. However, text is scanty in this picture-led book and little space is devoted to unusual migrant birds who first make landfall on the Dungeness promontory.

Small maps are next to useless but textual advice on reaching these hotspots is fairly comprehensive. A more complete list of species to be found at each site would have been useful but if, for example, you are seeking a red squirrel hotspot, the book comes up trumps with six different venues. Magnificent photographs also make this a must-have.

Where to go Wild in Britain, published jointly by Dorling Kindersley and the RSPB, costs £25.

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