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Visit Romney Marsh: town guides to Hythe and New Romney

PUBLISHED: 12:32 10 June 2019

Hythe lies on the northern tip of Romney Marsh (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Hythe lies on the northern tip of Romney Marsh (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

With its unique landscape, rich history and strong cultural identity, we take a look at the Romney Marsh and the towns of Hythe and New Romney

The Romney Marsh is a distinctive part of Kent's landscape. Famous for its flat wetlands, its unspoilt coastline and its diverse wildlife, the area is dotted with medieval churches and tiny villages. Known as 'the fifth continent', it covers 100 square miles and is a fascinating place to explore.

The main towns of Hythe and New Romney were two of the original Cinque Ports, given privileges by the Crown in return for the use of their ships as naval defence. At the height of their powers during the 15th century, New Romney was considered the central port in the confederation, and the place of assembly for the Cinque Port Courts.

Now the town is more than a mile from the sea and its harbour is long gone - the entrance having blocked up during the Great Storm of 1287, which almost destroyed the town.

The silt that came ashore during the storm raised the level of the town so much there are steps down from the pavement to some of its oldest buildings.

The Old Lighthouse in Dungeness survived two world wars before decommission in 1960 (photo: Manu Palomeque)The Old Lighthouse in Dungeness survived two world wars before decommission in 1960 (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Some of the buildings worth looking out for in New Romney are the Norman St Nicholas Church, as well as the ruins of St John's Priory and the former almshouses in West Street.

Regarded by many as the unofficial 'capital' of Romney Marsh, there are plenty of local shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants to explore. Nearby, marsh villages include Lydd, the most southerly village in Kent, along with Old Romney, Brenzett, St Mary in the Marsh and Burmarsh.

It's on the northern tip of the marsh that we find the seaside town of Hythe. An old English word meaning haven or landing place, Hythe was another bustling centre for trade until silting changed its fortunes.

The Royal Military Canal stretches 28 miles and was dug by hand in the early 1800s (photo: Manu Palomeque)The Royal Military Canal stretches 28 miles and was dug by hand in the early 1800s (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Famed now for its pebble beach, long Victorian promenade and its canal, it was once considered so important that not one but two ancient castles were built to defend it - Lympne and Saltwood.

Later, as Kent's coast was considered vulnerable during the Napoleonic wars, a chain of sturdy Martello Towers was built. Between Hythe and St Mary's Bay alone nine Martello Towers and one Redoubt were built.

Hythe's structure is still visible, although much has collapsed, on the beach to the east of Hythe Army Ranges. For a better view of these small defensive forts, head to Dymchurch, where several of the towers have survived.

In Hythe, browse through the antiques stalls at The Malthouse arcade (photo: Manu Palomeque)In Hythe, browse through the antiques stalls at The Malthouse arcade (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Hythe is the best place to access the Royal Military Canal. Stretching 28 miles from Seabrook almost to Hastings, it borders the Romney Marsh and was dug by hand in the early 1800s. The marsh would have been difficult to defend from the threat of French invasion, so it was effectively cut off from the rest of the county with a man-made water barrier.

Never called into action, a public path now runs its length so it can be enjoyed by walkers, cyclists and anglers.

The canal goes through the centre of Hythe and electric boat trips and rowing boat hire are both available.

That Little Plant Shop (photo: Manu Palomeque)That Little Plant Shop (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Known for its independent shops and eateries, pretty Hythe attracts many visitors in the summer months. Its beach is relatively quiet at the busiest of times and is popular with families, swimmers and water sports enthusiasts.

The town offers a slower pace of life, and a small, friendly community. It's not, however, beyond the reaches of modern development. Plans have been approved to create a new £29m seaside community called Princes Park. Built around a new swimming pool and leisure centre, around half the site will be parkland and open space, while 150 new homes and some retail space will also be provided.

Shopping and eating

In Hythe, browse through the antiques stalls at The Malthouse arcade, visit Owlets vintage jewellery, Obidosh! gift shop, Elysian Treasures, Temptations boutique, The Book Den and many more.

In New Romney, look out for La Petite Boutique, W&E Rolfe & Son traditional hardwear store, and more. The towns boast local butchers, bakers, greengrocers and convenience stores. The area is known for its farming and fishing, so it's little surprise that plenty of locally sourced, seasonal produce features on the menus of Hythe and New Romney's eateries. Romney Marsh lamb is famous across the world.

There's a good range of local seafood on offer too, and it doesn't come any fresher than brunch on the beach outside fishmonger Griggs of Hythe, in sight of the fisherman's landing beach, or at the Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant along the beach.

Other places to seek out in Hythe include The Red Lion, Hythe Brasserie, Torbay of Hythe, Ginger's Kitchen, Sunshine BBQ & Wine Bar and Everest Inn. The impressive Hythe Imperial Hotel offers a number of drinking and dining options, including fine dining at its Coast restaurant and its in-house Indian fusion restaurant, The Holy Pundit. Chocolate shop and coffee house Hendricks of Hythe features regularly in our Kent Life Food & Drink Awards, and has now opened a sister restaurant called Hendrick's at 152 Wine Bar & Steakhouse.

In New Romney, try out Taste, Romney Spice, Elsie's Café, The Coach House Coffee Shop, Santa Fe, La Vinci and more.

Postcard from Hythe

My name is Christine Bartlett and I'm the shop manager of That Little Plant Shop. We used to be called Hythe Garden Shop but we have rebranded the shop and started selling houseplants, pots, baskets, books and accessories.

I love coming into the shop each morning - it's like a green oasis of calm. Houseplants are really on trend again now, and they help to improve our living environment by purifying the air in our homes. We sell the widest range of exotic houseplants to be found in this area and you will be amazed at the choice of unusual plants. At the back of the shop you will find The Tea Garden, seving locally sourced teas, tisanes and coffees along with locally baked cakes and cheese scones. They also sell tea and coffee products and accessories so you can try your favourites at home.

I love Hythe because it has a charm rarely found in modern towns. As I walk along the High Street I always admire the mix of antiques shops, boutiques and gift shops, intermingled with cafés, restaurants and convenience stores.

Life in Hythe is taken at a more relaxing pace and people are happy to stop and chat. The seafront is an excellent place to walk and enjoy the sea breeze and sunshine.

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