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Dungeness: Walking in ‘Britain’s only desert’


his area is very bleak: flat shingle, a few patches of dead gorse in mine craters exploded at the end of the war. A row of pylons that stretch to the horizon crackle with electricity: under them, to the east of the power station, a road constructed of railway sleepers is slowly rotting.”

In Modern Mature, Derek Jarman’s diary where he documented his time living in Dungeness in Kent between 1989 and 1990, the multi-disciplinary artist often wrote about his surroundings. Following his HIV diagnosis in 1986, Jarman was encouraged to move to the desolate landscape, in which he famously tended to an intricate garden before sadly passing away in 1994.

I was born in 1991, and while I wouldn’t discover Jarman until much later, it wasn’t too long after that I became aware of Dungeness. Some of my earliest memories as a kid involved playing on Sandgate beach, looking out to the nuclear power station on the opposite side of the coast, which my granddad had helped to build from 1965. I remember seeing its strange, rectangular shape on the horizon, appearing to float alone in the middle of the English Channel.

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