Saturday, 21 June 2014

The longest day

Red poppies, deep pink valerian and the blue of vipers bugloss against golden grasses
The sun beats down, relentless. Fisherman’s huts rise up through the haze from a layer of shingle which radiates heat with such intensity you could be excused for wondering if the reactors at Dungeness B are simply here as a backup plan. It is the summer solstice, and there is no shade in this place.

Prospect Cottage
Strange to think that Britain’s only designated desert landscape reputedly contains over six hundred species of plants, frequently claimed to be a third of all the plants found in the UK. Whatever the statistics, the real wonder is that such an apparently inhospitable environment can support such biodiversity at all. That’s what makes Derek Jarman’s garden at Prospect Cottage such a wonder. That singular plot – driftwood sculptures, objets trouvĂ© and stone henges, wind-pruned elders and rings of gorse, embellished by the jewel colours of eschscholzias and marigolds, echiums and valerian – is remarkable for the manner in which it reflects and complements the natural flora of the ness.

Today we don’t even  walk as far as the cottage; parking by the only pub under the shadow of the power station we take the boardwalk to the beach, past the spiralling concrete of the new lighthouse, across the stretch of sea-rounded pebbles, dotted with tough grasses and sea kale Crambe maritima, to find the deep blue-grey sea crashing against the shingle ridges high up the beach. We have yet to experience low tide at Dungeness, or a sunset for that matter, both of which are rumoured to be worth the drive alone. But today is the longest day, the tide is high and sunset is many hours away. We’ll be back another day.

The vivid cornflower blue of Echium vulgare, Vipers Bugloss