Dungeness and the Romney Marsh which lies behind it jut out from the South Coast of England into the English Channel near the Dover Straits.
Dungeness and the Romney Marsh have always been somewhat remote, dykes drain the marsh but hinder access and the shingle bank of The Ness, pounded by surf, has no harbour. In Medieval times the landowners became very wealthy and built some fine examples of early churches on the Marsh while out on the Ness smuggling was well organised. Outsiders were warned to stay away when a "run" was on, which gave rise to a perception that this was a closed community in an inhospitable place.
It can be very bleak in certain weather but also very beautiful, especially when the low winter light has the clarity and warmth of the day when I shot this panorama. It is close to where I was brought up and I have frequently visited it over the years, drawn by the slightly surreal beauty of one of the few relatively wild places still left in South East England.
In 1999, while shooting a commission on the Historic Churches of the Marsh for Country Living magazine I visited St Clement's at Old Romney and discovered the grave of Derek Jarman, the film maker, artist and writer who is buried here. He was one of the more interesting independant directors, and I had greatly admired his films which were always visually stunning, but knew little of his life at Dungeness until I read Smiling in Slow Motion, the diaries of the last three years of his life prior to his death in 1994 from AIDS-related illness.
His diaries reveal the pleasure that he took from creating the garden at Prospect Cottage and from its surroundings and are also a moving account of his failing health. His eyesight failed but he continued to work, creating his final fim Blue in 1993. The screen remains a single tone of blue with voiceovers and music which reference his experience with AIDS and his thoughts on art, poetry and life, a truly remarkable piece of work.
Prospect Cottage is at the tip of Dungeness, almost in the shadow of the nuclear power station but surrounded by the wildlife reserve and sanctuary.
Behind the scene ▼