What’s going for it? It takes a certain someone to love Romney Marsh. That someone happens to be me. Many will gaze at its landscape of squelchy flat fields, sluice gates and forlorn, atmospheric villages, and run for the hills, as they did for centuries. Some, though, will find them all impossibly romantic and fabulously attractive. The neighbourhood did seem to attract those certain someones: Noel Coward, for instance, or Edith Nesbit, seeking escape in a spot lifted above the day-to-day in its own existential universe. It’s hard to fathom exactly where Romney Marsh gets its particular character from. Its history of malarial marshes and smugglers’ haunts hangs about like a miasma. The blank landscape is peppered with remote medieval villages, astonishing churches, such as at Fairfield, built on the riches of the wool trade, and flat-faced postwar bungalows, staring out to sea. Or perhaps it’s this landscape’s own peculiar geographical history that is so attractive, its sense of temporariness, of the mastery of nature. The fortunes of Romney Marsh and its inhabitants have risen and fallen with the tides, and the accumulation of silt and shingle. These flatlands, just north of Dungeness, were once the English Channel, the now redundant cliffs arcing miles from the sea, from Hythe to Rye. This patch of land has only been lent to Britain by the waves, and the waves might want it back some day.
The case against Bleak. Roads that turn and twist violently, dangerously, with the ditches.
Well connected? Trains: surprisingly, yes. Hourly from Appledore to Rye (10 mins), Hastings (30 mins) and Eastbourne (an hour) in one direction, Ashford International (15 mins) the other. Driving: 20 mins to Rye from New Romney, 25 to Ashford and the M20, 30 mins to Folkestone.
Hang out at… Smugglers’ pubs. With its marble-topped bar and ancient decor, the Red Lion at Snargate, still known locally as Doris’s after its magnificent late landlady, is a gem. Or try the pretty Woolpack in Brookland.
Where to buy Choose between small, remote-seeming villages such as Newchurch, St Mary in the Marsh, Ivychurch, often with homes dating back to medieval or Tudor times; the mostly postwar seaside small towns of Dymchurch and St Mary’s Bay, much of them bungalows (the ominous sounding Sea Wall has some fine period and Victorians, though); or the small historic town of New Romney, not new at all these days and packed with period property. Large detacheds and townhouses, £400,000-£850,000. Detacheds and smaller townhouses, £275,000-£400,000. Semis, £200,000-£450,000. Terraces and cottages, £175,000-£375,000. Rentals: not much; a three-bedroom house, £825-£1,125pcm.
Bargain of the week Three-bedroom postwar semi in St Mary’s Bay, in need of refurbishment, but close to the beach, £190,000 with wardsofkent.co.uk.
From the streets
Laura Jacobs ‘I swim in the sea from May to October, breathe air like champagne and know all my neighbours.’
Debbie Ward ‘ Fredi’s Grill and Taverna in Old Romney has superb food. It’s easy to forget it’s a storage container on an industrial estate.’
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