What to do in Hythe and New Romney
- Credit: Archant
Hythe and New Romney, with their peaceful marshes, abundant wildlife and beautiful coastline, are the perfect places to explore when we’re allowed to travel again
With New Romney set in the heart of the Romney Marsh and Hythe at the marsh’s northern tip, these towns were two of the original Cinque Ports, long ago given the right to self-govern in return for the use of their ships as naval defence.
During the 15th century, New Romney was considered the central port in the confederation and was used as the place of assembly for the Cinque Port Courts.
However, New Romney is conspicuously inland these days for a town once noted for its harbour. More than a mile from the sea, the topography of the town changed dramatically during a storm in 1287, which washed so much silt ashore that some of its oldest buildings still have steps down to their doors from street level.
St Nicholas Church, in New Romney, dates from the early Norman period and was once adjacent to the harbour. In fact, a mooring ring can still be seen outside and there are flood mark levels on the columns within the building. Other important historic buildings are the former almshouses in West Street, founded in 1610, Plantagenet House and No 3 Old Stone Cottage, built around 1300.
Hythe was another key port, its name derived from the Old English for ‘landing place.’ It was protected by Lympne and Saltwood castles, built in the 13th and 14th centuries and during the Napoleonic wars a chain of defensive Martello Towers was built overlooking the sea.
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The area boasts two natural wonders; the stunning coast and Romney Marsh. While visiting them for a day out may seem far off yet, when we’re past the current coronavirus crisis there will be plenty of reasons to add Hythe and the Romney Marsh to your list of places to visit.
Hythe’s seafront and pebble beach is stunning in the summer and is rarely busy. At the far end you’ll find the fishermen’s landing beach where boats are pulled up with their daily catch.
Hythe also offers access to the Royal Military Canal. Stretching 28 miles, the man-made 19th-century military defence effectively cuts the marsh off from the rest of the county and is today much enjoyed by walkers and cyclists.
Other attractions to seek out in Hythe include the ancient church of St Leonard’s, famed for the collection of human bones in its crypt, and the nearby Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch heritage railway.
Meanwhile, New Romney is the unofficial ‘capital’ of the Romney Marsh, and is surrounded by marsh villages such as Lydd – the most southerly village in Kent – Old Romney, Brenzett, St Mary in the Marsh and Burmarsh. Famous for its Romney Marsh lamb, which is a delicacy thanks to the salty grasses the animals feed on, the marsh is considered one of the most important habitats for wildlife in Kent. There are plenty of stories about its mysterious past to explore too – from smuggling and plague to the important role it played in the Second World War.
Nearby is one of Kent’s most unusual places. Often called Britain’s only desert, Dungeness is a three-mile stretch of land jutting out into the sea. Barren and striking, set in the shadow of a power station, it has inspired artists and photographers for many years.
Planning ahead to a time when we can start exploring these special places again, a good place to start is the Romney Marsh visitor centre in New Romney. Explaining the fascinating natural and social history of the area, it’s set within a nature reserve and is run by Kent Wildlife Trust.
At the time of writing there was still a question mark over the local council’s planned Princes Parade development in Hythe. Built around a new leisure centre, the ‘seaside community’ would include 150 news homes, retail space and parkland, but it’s been met with strong opposition from residents.
Meanwhile, the opening of a new cinema on Romney Marsh has been delayed due to the lockdown. Cinemarsh was due to open in the Marsh Academy’s leisure centre in New Romney in April but plans have been put on hold. The independent cinema will have 46 seats and state-of-the-art equipment.
As with everything, there is much uncertainty about the future of the property market. At the time of writing, prices started at around £150,000 for a one-bedroom flat, with three-bed semi-detached homes priced between £275,000 and £435,000. New Romney is the more affordable of the two. Large detached houses in Hythe are on the market for up to £1.4 million.
Hythe is on the coast, close to Folkestone, with New Romney a short drive away. They can be accessed via the M20 or the A2070. The nearest station is at Folkestone.
Celebrating coronavirus local heroes
Three new community hubs have opened across the Folkestone district to support the vulnerable during the pandemic. The new networks, funded by Folkestone and Hythe District Council, are being run by hundreds of volunteers and community groups based in Folkestone, Hythe and Romney Marsh.
Support includes emergency food and meal deliveries, help with prescriptions, help with pets or just someone on the end of a phone to talk to. The hubs can be found at Three Hills Sports Centre in Folkestone – supported by Citizens Advice and Kent Coast Volunteering – Age UK in Hythe and the Romney Marsh Day Centre in New Romney. Hythe Community Hub: 01303 269602, Romney Marsh Community Hub: 01797 208590.
Hythe Salvation Army Church and Community Centre has been one of the organisations supporting the hub and are running a foodbank. Search for them on Facebook.
New Romney Counselling Service, a local charity, is offering telephone support to anyone in distress, and are only asking for a donation – however small – in return. Call 01797 367809.