Stunning Seaside: Dungeness, Kent

DungenessDungeness, a bent elbow of land that juts out from the Kent coast is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating and uniquely beautiful spots in the country. The scenery is by turns stark and industrial, windswept and coastal, natural and man-made. It is quite unlike anywhere else.

Which is why we headed down recently - with two friends and the silver, expedition-ready Kingsley for company. We travelled in pursuit of stories, atmosphere, architecture and nature. We found all four.

We started out, on foot, from beside Dungeness' famous nuclear power station. You would be forgiven for thinking that no power station could be beautiful, nor memorable. But Dungeness' power stations - there are two, in fact; one operational, one now shuttered - are somehow both.

They are, in a brutal and utilitarian way, works of architectural significance. Bleak and wind-battered and epic in scale, they are somehow both out of place and right at home on the wide-open coastline. Both lie, in fact, with a designated wildlife sanctuary and wildlife teems around them, as the natural world simultaneously competes and co-exists with the constructed world.

What's more, waste water pumped out from the operational plant into the sea is said to actually enrich the sea bed and warm the water, attracting all manner of wild and sea life to the area. More than anything else, we see birds: dozens and dozens, swooping with and struggling into the breeze, and press on ourselves.

Our next stop is Dungeness' famous lighthouse - the fifth to have stood on this outcrop of the English south-eastern coast since 1615. In fact, both the fourth and fifth are still standing - like the power stations, one is operational, the other is not. One remains functional, the other as an increasingly organic part of the scenery. So it is, here. Both are stunning sights. But then again, we're firm believers that anyone who disagrees that lighthouses are, by their very essence beautiful is, well, just wrong.

The final stop on Dungeness trek takes us to a simple little cottage, with jet black walls and a garden made of shingle and rocks, driftwood and scrap metal and salt-thirsty plants. The cottage was once home to Derek Jarman, the pioneering film director, who died in 1994.

And just as everything else here, the house is both beautiful and strangely brutal in its simplicity. Obviously man-made, it nevertheless feels as though it has sprung up through the soil, like the hardy plants in its famous garden, and become a living part of the landscape.

As the wind picks up we turn and head for home. A picture-postcard seaside spot it is not: but for rugged beauty, there are few more interesting destinations than Dungeness. Explore it soon.