Friday, May 29, 2009

Good Train Guide

'Be sure to catch the bar coach when you go on the railway,' advised the woman who claimed she'd lived 'on the marsh' for twenty years. I guessed many evenings had been spent in the Rose and Crown at Old Romney.

She must have noticed that one of my companions was very fond of his beer. In fact, he'd picked the pub out in his bible, the Good Beer Guide, as a suitable place to wait for the rest of our party to join us on Friday night, the start of the Bank Holiday weekend.

I'd booked the caravan holiday expecting we could take two of the grandchildren, without bothering to check first. They were off visiting relatives in the north. Still, six people are more than enough to fill a caravan.

I'd had my doubts about the Friday meet-up venue, as the Rose and Crown was well off the main road - we'd driven right past in daylight, so not much chance the others would spot it in the dark.

The marsh lady's recommendation about the railway was right, although there was no sign of onboard alchohol at Romney Sands, the caravan site stop. 'The bar coach is at Hythe', said the man who sold us all-day 'rover' tickets.

Maybe it was just as well. We'd have had our work cut out to get off at all the stops between Dymchurch and Dungeness as well as drink on the train. As it was, we didn't see Dymchurch at all, because we set off in the northerly direction.

The scenery was flat, but this must be the best time of year for the flora and fauna. I'd already heard a cuckoo and seen swans on a lake near the caravan. Although the plant life was scrubby there were plenty of purple and blue flowers in the fields. Strange, for an area that's officially desigated as 'arid' and described as the UK's only desert.

Hythe was a lovely town, but as it was Sunday when we went so all the shops were closed. We'll have to go back, but next time we'll stay at the Rose and Crown, where the landlord said he could do double bed and breakfast for £50 a night. We had a fish lunch in one of the High Street pubs and a walk in a park with shady trees by a river. That must be the one that suddenly changed course in medieval times, in a sudden tempest. The consequential silting up caused a couple of the ports to become landlocked.

We didn't get to St Mary's Bay either, but enjoyed the miniature railway exhibition and tea shop at New Romney. Fortunately R and I had trawled the charity shops ( books and DVDs at non-London prices) the day before, but the town has an eleventh century church called St Nicholas's with barnacled gravestones in the churchyard.

The Pilot Inn at Dungeness is a atmospheric, too, set at the end of a long beach perfect for flying kites. It's where filmmaker Derek Jarman built his stone garden. It's a shame it closes at 9pm on Sundays. Fortunately, it was disco night at the The Romney Tavern, the caravan site pub, and we could sit in the relative quiet of the bar while the racket went on in the adjoining room. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy dancing the Hokey Cokey.

Sure enough, the rest of our party had whizzed past the Rose and Crown on Friday evening - which gave the perfect excuse to meet up at the Cinque Port Arms, further along the road. I think the grandchildren would have liked that too.

The Dymchurch Hythe and Romney railway:

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