I left Farley Farm on a warm Saturday afternoon and drove along the south coast of England in a general easterly direction. My plan was to stop off at Dymchurch where Paul Nash had painted some well known seascapes in the 1920s and 1930s. He had lived in nearby Rye and, although I know quite a bit has been written about his time in Swanage, I have read very little about his life in Rye. Nash’s house in Rye has a blue plaque on the wall and the small town was home to a thriving modernist community in the interwar years. Dymchurch seems to be an inspiration for Nash who returned to it over again to paint the sea wall and, at times, the crashing waves.
The painting above is owned by Leeds City Art Gallery and was painted in 1923 so I was surprised at how similar the coast seemed as I stood on the modern sea wall staring west over the deserted beach towards Dungeness nuclear power station.
Despite the summer weekend’s warm weather, the sea wall that stretched off into the western distance was devoid of any human activity. I had expected to see cycle paths and joggers or children building castles in the sand but there was no-one playing on the beach or tripping along the concrete wall. Perhaps the fear of radiation keeps them away or perhaps it never was a popular haunt for fun-seekers.
I strolled slowly eastwards along the wall to the village centre, a small agglomeration of 1970s concrete amusement arcades, chip shops, charity shops, 1930s semis and a scattering of older, victorian buildings. From the sea wall you can peer down into the funland below.
I dropped down into the village and found a very nice fish and chip shop where I tried a small cod and chips for £4.50 – it was really quite tasty and the seagulls didn’t bother me too much as I wandered back along the sea defences towards the car, gazing over the deserted edge of this ‘Dym Little Island’. It seemed somehow appropriate to finish my trip at Dymchurch; close to the roots of modernism in Britain and equally near to Folkestone and the channel tunnel that sucks us away into the mainland of Europe. I have already posted the Phantom of Bury Saint Edmunds that was to be my next stop but below you can see the first draft of my Dymchurch Phantom. There is something quite Unit One about the concrete sea wall and something quite barren and minimal about the view out to sea across the expanses of sand, I’m not sure if he has any personality but I can still taste the chips.