Romney Marsh

At Hythe, you can board the world’s smallest narrow-gauge public railway, the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Line, which runs across the flat and fertile grazing lands of Romney Marsh as far as the shingle bank of Dungeness. The fishermen’s cottages here are overshadowed by a gigantic nuclear power station, open for visits.

Running parallel to the railway, the A259 leads across the marshes through New Romney, with its Norman parish church of St. Nicholas (12th century) and to the curiosity of St. Augustine’s Church (12th-14th centuries) in Brookland. This church’s three-story wooden bell-tower stands at a little distance from the main building, presumably because of the instability of the ground. Another interesting feature is the Norman baptismal font made of lead.

Shortly after the Sussex border, you can see the splendid town of Rye rising above the horizon on its sandstone bluff. With its fortifications, ancient gateway (14th century) and narrow, hilly cobbled streets with antique shops and pubs, the place is indisputably a delight. The halftimbered houses in Mermaid Street and High Street are especially worth seeing, while the parish church of St. Mary houses the last church window that Burne-Jones and William Morris designed together. The tower holds one of the oldest clocks in England.

Also on a hilltop, Winchelsea is a medieval town preserved in aspic. When Old Winchelsea was drowned by the sea at the end of the 13th century, King Edward I ordered the building of a new port town on higher ground, laying out the streets in a grid or checkerboard pattern to enclose 40 fields. Alas, the harbor soon silted up again and building was stopped. Only three town gates and a few dead-straight streets remain of the original plan, while many of today’s authentically restored Georgian houses have the original cellars below ground. The incomplete church of St. Thomas, built in the Decorated Style around 1300, is also worth seeing.

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