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SPOTLIGHT ON: Hythe & Romney Marsh

PUBLISHED: 19:19 21 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:31 20 February 2013

Explore the historic Cinque Port of Hythe and the wonderfully atmospheric Romney Marsh - 100 square miles of unspoilt countryside rolling down from wooded hills to meet broad sands and shingle beaches

SPOTLIGHT ON HYTHE AND ROMNEY MARSH


The towns Hythe, Dymchurch and St Marys Bay are on Romney Marshs eastern coastline, and The Marsh extends about 10 miles inland and is sandwiched above and below by the M20 and Walland Marsh respectively.
This low-lying marshland began to emerge from the sea in the 14th century due to natural silting and man-made drainage, then the full land mass appeared when the River Rother changed direction. The soil was fabulously fertile and soon thrived as a place for sheep and arable farming, where interesting villages sprang into life. It also became a haven for smugglers and is rich in romantic folklore.
The peaceful and un-commercialised seaside town of Hythe lives up to its motto youll like Hythe and has two miles of uninterrupted shingle beach, popular for all seaside sports (including sailing and windsurfing), the longest High Street in Kent, and the scenic parkland of the Royal Military Canal. To the north of town is the historic (privately owned) Saltwood Castle; and Dymchurch, with its famous sandy beach, is a few miles down the coast.


SATURDAY WALKABOUT


Hotspots of Hythe
The Royal Military Canal is flanked by wonderful gardens and parkland, and you can see laughing frogs, kingfisher and swans, while the towns long flat High Street has splendid, mostly independent, shops (old-fashioned butchers, gift shops, jewellers, etc) and dont miss the yellow-painted town hall, with its colonnaded porch and undercroft.
Malthouse Arcade (01303 260103) is a fascinating complex of lively, upmarket businesses in a charismatic ex-Mackeson brewery building, where youll find antiques, gifts, fancy goods, clocks, ceramics and the splendid Malthouse Caf.
Youll need to be a hardy walker to see the historic buildings on the upper levels of town and quaint St Leonards church is at the highest point on Hythes escarpment, but worth the climb for its wonderful stained glass, great views and the ossuary a crypt packed with 2,000 ancient skulls.
You can be an animal keeper for a day and see conservation in action at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park (0844 842 4647), which has wild endangered animals, including rhinos, tigers, lions, small cats and pandas, plus the worlds largest gorilla encampment. Adults and children can also experience special animal encounter sessions, or take part in a VIP safari. Brenzett Aeronautical Museum Trust (01797 320077) has a unique collection of wartime items, memorabilia and items retrieved from crashed aircraft sites.


Where to eat and drink
The Royal Oak (01797 344215) in Brookland is a historic four-star inn, its excellent dishes all prepared using locally sourced ingredients, one speciality being Marsh lamb. The Ship Inn (01303 872122) in Dymchurch has been associated with smugglers since 1530, and offers fine traditional home-cooked food and real ales. For great fish and chips (daytime only) go to Torbay Sea Foods (01303 269531).


SUNDAY SAUNTER


Travel in style
Green Goddess, Northern Chief and Southern Maid are the names of some of the steam and diesel locomotives at Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (01797 362353), running 15 miles along coast across the marsh, between Hythe and Dungeness via Dymchurch, St Marys Bay, New Romney and Romney Sands. There are attractions at the stations: a gift shop at Hythe, and a model railway exhibition at New Romney.


Willow scrub and wildlife
Romney Marsh Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, has unspoiled dune grassland, willow scrub and ponds, and you can see Great Crested Newts, diving beetles, damselfly and tree sparrows. The Visitor Centre (01797 369487) has displays about the Marsh, a gift shop and refreshments.
Brockhill Country Park (01303 266327) is divided into three distinct sections with a childrens play area, central lake, refreshments, wildlife, including green woodpeckers, unusual marbled white butterflies, snowdrops, common spotted orchids and dragonflies. It is designated a site of Nature Conservation Interest.


Syn in Dymchurch
This lovely little seaside town has a Tidy Britain Group seaside award, an amusement park and is famous for its sandy beach with donkey rides, attracting swimmers, jet skiers, windsurfers and kite surfers.
On August bank holiday (26/7) there are Days of Syn pageants, in which villagers dress in period costumes to re-enact tales from the Dr Syn novels about a smuggler-cum-vicar character, set in Dymchurch.


Hythe Festival
This runs from 23 June to 8 July and offers musical events, jazz night, a big parade, Thomas-the-Tank-Engine day, fun dog show, regatta, art show, wine tasting, teddy bears picnic, poetry recital, swimming gala and a festival ball.


Where to stay


Waterside Guest House
The Waterside Guest House (01303 872253) in Dymchurch has been run by Ray and Rose Campbell for six years and has been awarded four stars by Enjoy England. All five bedrooms are en suite with TVs, wi fi and facilities for children, in an ideal location with ample guest parking.
Our guests enjoy our breakfasts with home-made jams and marmalades and local eggs, and also the beautiful views from our rear terrace across the marshes, especially of the ducks and other wildfowl children are especially welcome, says Ray. Dymchurch is small and not too commercial with a marvellous sandy beach, and theres a great funfair for younger children.


Mercure Hythe Imperial Hotel
The Mercure Hythe Imperial Hotel and Spa (013034 267441) is a luxurious four-star hotel in a beautiful 18th-century building, with more than 100 rooms, restaurant, bars, leisure club, spa, golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts and beach.
Guests really like the traditional and individually decorated rooms, some with views of the golf course and the sea, plus were just a stones throw from the beach, says marketing manager Emma Betteridge. Every Friday of the year theres live music by various jazz style bands and solo artists here. Hythe itself has a very relaxed feel, a high street full of individual tea shop and boutiques.


Getting there
The Romney Marsh area is in south-eastern Kent, and Hythe is about four miles south-west of Folkestone, just off junction 11 of the M20, that links the M25 with the coast. Nearest stations are at Sandling and Folkestone central.
Satnav postcode (Hythe): CT21 5AD

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