Tuesday, 3 August 2010

to the lighthouse(s)...

... making the seamless link from Virginia Woolf in my last post to the two lighthouses of the strangely beautiful Dungeness headland. I visited this weird place principally to see Derek Jarman's garden at Prospect Cottage.

There is no information on the web about how to actually find the garden, although from what I'd read about the place I was sure that it would become obvious once you were there... which it did. There are no boundaries. This garden comes from the surrounding landscape and disappears into it again with no obvious point at which one stops and the other begins.

I spotted the bright yellow window frames, stark against black wood, from quite a distance away. This 'cottage' (old fisherman's hut) stands out from the other scruffy ones along the road to the light house, partly because of the yellow paint work but also because of the beautiful informal garden that surrounds it. I say informal but this garden is a curious mixture of order and disorder. As he was dying from AIDS, Derek collected flints and bits of flotsom and jetsom from the beach and arranged them in amongst a very restricted group of plants that would grow in this harsh landscape (shingle, dry, windy, salty... nuclear?!) in a way that resulted in a garden that is highly respected by the gardening world and as a work of art.

The colours are harsh yet sit within the natural colour palette of the surroundings: greys, yellows, glaucous greens. Spikey and knobbly objects and plants come together in a surprisingly serene collection.

On past Prospect Cottage you reach the odd jumble of buildings at the end of the peninsular: two lighthouses; a nuclear power station; old railway carriages turned into tiny houses; fishermen's huts and boats strewn about the shingle. All of this sits surrounded by expanses of shingle punctuated by the strange mounds of sea kale.

No wonder this place has been used in numerous music videos and films.

What started as a fairly dull day was transformed by the breaking of the clouds and the sun sparkled off the sea, taking the edge off the constant wind.

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