Spotlight on Hythe and Romney Marsh
PUBLISHED: 09:50 09 August 2014 | UPDATED: 09:50 09 August 2014
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Once beneath the sea, Romney Marsh breathes history and folklore and is a perfect place for walkers, cyclists and anyone who likes wildlife and ancient churches. Hythe, the Marsh’s northernmost town, is a quaint old seaside settlement with a fine canal
Romney Marsh is a 100sq mile area that runs from the coastal towns of Dymchurch, Hythe and St Mary’s Bay and extends 10 miles inland, bounded by the M20 at the top and Walland Marsh at the bottom.
Originally under the sea, ‘The Marsh’ first appeared in the 14th century as a low marshy area, the result of man-made drainage and natural silting. Land appeared when the River Rother altered direction.
This ultra-fertile soil was used for sheep and arable farming, villages sprang up and the Marsh became known for smuggling, superstition and folklore.
Hythe is an attractive, fairly hilly town with the longest High Street in Kent and the famous Royal Military Canal. Built before the age of steam, more than 200 years ago, it was dug by hand by an army of engineers and prisoners of war as a defence against invasion.
Created in a time of conflict, the canal is now an oasis of peace and quiet that runs for 28 miles from Seabrook to Cliff End in Sussex and is bordered by fine gardens with rare plants, flowers and wildlife.
Leisure boating has been active on this water since the 1860s and many still enjoy rowing boat hire and private canoeing.
A recent addition is an electric passenger launch service where passengers are ferried along the canal’s tranquil reaches by qualified skippers, allowing you time to relax and enjoy previously hidden views and wildlife in peace and quiet.
La Tienne is silent, gives virtually no wash and is assisted by the sun. Board from The Boat Hut, www.electricboathythe.co.uk.
Walk around Hythe
The High Street is the heart of town, and at one end is The Malthouse Arcade Market (open Fri and Sat), with lots of home and craft shops and the Malthouse Café.
Among the High Street’s memorable buildings is the Old Willow Restaurant, The Swan Hotel, and the Old Town Hall (once the old market place).
St Lawrence’s clifftop church (it’s a steep climb) dates to back to the 11th century and don’t leave without a ride on the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, the world’s smallest public railway, running between Hythe and Dungeness (01797 362353).
Romney Marsh Wander
At Port Lympne Wild Animal and Safari Park (0844 842 4647, CT21 4PD) you can see black rhinos, tigers, lions, elephants and snow leopards.
Brenzett Aeronautical Museum Trust (01797 344747, TN29 0EE) has fascinating displays of wartime equipment.
Large parks include: Brockhill Country Park (CT21 4HL), Romney Warren Country Park, with Romney Marsh Visitor Centre
(01797 369487, TN28 8AY), and the RSPB Nature Reserve at Dungeness (TN29 9PN).
Dymchurch, Greatstone-on-Sea and St Mary’s Bay boast some of Kent’s best beaches. Dymchurch is a seaside town loved for its child-friendly, five-mile stretch of sandy beach complete with donkey rides.
St Mary’s Bay also has a long beach and amusement venues, while Littlestone-on-Sea has a dramatic tall tower and fine sands. And don’t miss Dungeness Lighthouse (01797 321300, TN29 9NB), open dail for visits in the schooll holidays.
Walk around New Romney and you’ll soon spot the contemporary murals created by local artists. They depict jobs from a fisherman and a train driver to an estate agent, plus portraits of people who have lived on the Marsh their whole lives.
Local scenes include Martello Towers and the Littlestone Water Tower.Topical talk
Despite public opposition, a leisure complex, school and homes are to be built on Princes Parade, a former landfill waste site. Shepway District Council recently held a public consultation on the proposed development, attended by 300-plus locals.
Shop then dine
The Mercure Hythe Imperial Hotel and Spa (01303 267441, CT21 6AE) is a luxurious hotel in a beautiful 18th-century building and its excellent restaurant is also open for dinner to non residents. The Ship Inn (01303 872122) in Dymchurch has been associated with smugglers since 1530 and The Royal Oak (01797 344025, TN29 9QR) in Brookland is a historic inn of note. Good pubs include: Star Inn, St Mary in Marsh (01797 362139, TN29 0BX), the Red Lion in Snargate (01797 344648, TN29 9UQ).
Brothers Bill and Rob Laing and Ian Bennett are the directors of Laing Bennett, an independent estate and letting agent with offices in Hythe (01303 264846) and Lyminge (01303 863393). This month it celebrate its fifth birthday of property handling success.
“What we like about the business is being part of the community and dealing with property in the area where we were born and bought up,” says Bill. “Hythe, Sellinge and Folkestone are very up and coming because of the high-speed rail links to London (53 minutes from Folkestone West).
“Hythe has very old houses in the heart of town and seafront, on the outskirts it’s more 1960s and 70s, plus there are modern apartment blocks going up along the coast,” adds Rob. “There are plenty of listed buildings: farmhouses, terraced cottages in the Elham Valley, and around Hythe High Street. Generally flats cost £150,000 to £200,000, while a three-bedroom semi is £230,000 to £250,000 and a four-bedroom house might be in excess of £350,000.
“I like cycling along the North Downs and the Elham Valley,” says Rob. “My children go to excellent local schools, and we all love Port Lympne Zoo. We’re close to Canterbury, the beach, there’s great links to France and London. You can’t beat it.” n