Spotlight on: Hythe & New Romney
PUBLISHED: 19:53 16 May 2015 | UPDATED: 19:53 16 May 2015
Explore this extraordinary part of Kent, made up of rolling fields, marshes and broad beaches, all under the wide open skies that have influenced creatives for centuries
1 Ride the rails
Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (TN28 8PL) has its HQ in New Romney and from here you can explore all the area has to offer by hopping on board one of the one third full-size steam or diesel locomotives. Heading out across the Romney Marsh, there are stops at the Cinque Port of Hythe, where you can get off and potter along the beach, and at the National Nature Reserve at Dymchurch, www.rhdr.org.uk
2 Go trekking with alpacas
A unique way to see the landscape, alpaca trekking is a popular attraction at New Romney’s Alpaca Annie at Haguelands Farm (TN29 0JR). Bred here for their wool, which is turned into a range of wonderful products for sale in the onsite shop, and as pets, the gentle animals love a stroll with new human friends. Ideal as a special gift, treks for small groups run throughout the year on the farm, www.alpacaannie.com
3 Explore the canal Stretching 28 miles from Seabrook near Folkestone to Cliff End near Hastings and skirting the edge of the Romney Marsh, the Royal Military Canal is a man-made marvel.
Begun in 1804 as a barrier to ensure the French couldn’t use the marsh to invade, the waterways are now used by the Environment Agency to manage water levels on the marshes. Find walks and cycle routes at www.royalmilitarycanal.com. This summer sees the Hythe Venetian Fête (19 August) held on the Hythe stretch of the canal. Visit www.venetian-fete.com
4 Eat, drink and be merry
For those out walking or exploring the area by car, there are plenty of quality pubs and cafés to stop at along the way, many of which try to stock locally sourced products. The best known is tender Romney Marsh lamb, which has grazed on the naturally salty grass and samphire of the marshes. Great places to sample local food include Aboyne House restaurant (TN28 8AT, 01797 367113) and Deblyns Teashop (TN28 8BZ, 01797 369020) in New Romney; in Hythe, try Ginger’s Kitchen (CT21 5AN, 01303 230593) and seafood restaurant Griggs of Hythe (CT21 8HG, 01303 266410). Good pubs include the Cinque Ports Arms (TN28 8BU, 01797 361894) and The Warren Inn (TN28 8UF, 01797 362090) in New Romney. The Pilot Inn (TN29 9NJ, 01797 320314) in Dungeness is renowned for its fish and chips. Hamper specialist Spicers of Hythe is based here too, www.spicersofhythe.com.
5 Go wild on a safari
A hill near Hythe is the setting for the 600-acre Port Lympne Reserve (CT21 4PD), founded in 1973 by John Aspinall. It’s less of a zoo, more a wild animal reserve, where zebra, giraffe and black rhino can be seen roaming freely in the Africa Experience area, accessed by safari vehicles. With a range of on-site accommodation, including new glamping huts and, coming soon, a luxurious treehouse hotel, you can stay overnight, www.aspinallfoundation.org
6 Explore a special museum
Just across the Channel from France, it’s important to remember the pivotal role this area played during the war. Located at what is locally known as the Ivychurch airstrip, a wartime site that was once used by Spitfire squadrons, the Romney Marsh Wartime Collection in Brenzett (TN29 0EE) is a unique display of wartime equipment, remains recovered from aircraft crash sites and donated memorabilia. The exhibition is set up in the buildings used as a hostel by the Women’s Land Army during the war, www.brenzettaero.co.uk
7 Learn about the landscape
Romney Marsh visitor centre is one of the Kent Wildlife Trust’s finest. Located in the Romney Warren country park it has exhibitions and displays about the history and wildlife of the area and offers a shop and café. The centre is an award-winning eco building and there is a separate building called the Art Shack where local artists display their work in the summer. There are gentle walks and picnic areas around the grounds with a boardwalk over the seasonal ponds to the reconstructed Lookers Hut, and views across the Marsh, www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk
8 Experience a creepy crypt
One of only two ossuaries, or bone houses, in the UK, the crypt at St Leonard’s Church in Hythe (CT21 5DN) holds more than 1,000 skulls arranged neatly along the walls and thousands of bones stored in a great stack. The collection represents the remains of some 2,000 people and while it is not known when or why the bones were stored in the crypt, the earliest references to the ossuary were made in 1678, www.stleonardschurchhythekent.org
9 Enjoy a picnic in the park
Brockhill Country Park in Hythe (CT21 4HL) has it all; a lake, woods, meadows, picnic and play areas – plus an excellent café. Once part of an estate of a Norman manor, the park is rich in wildlife and is a Site of Nature Conservation Interest. Split into three areas – the deer paddock, the lake and the valley – the stream that runs through it leads down to the Royal Military Canal and it’s popular with walkers, with two sign posted trails around the park.
10 Relax on a sandy beach
Greatstone-on-Sea (TN28 8ST) near New Romney has an unspoilt gem of a sandy beach (although there are large stones here too, hence the name). Running for more than two miles and frequently ‘washed’ by the tide of the Channel, it’s popular with sunbathers and swimmers. With such an expanse of flat beach, the difference between high and low tide can be almost half a mile, so if you arrive at low tide you can expect quite a walk to the sea. nw