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RH & DR


RH & DR, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Inspired by Ian Marchant, I decided to go on a small railway journey to the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. I had a free ticket to Rye, courtesy of Southern, who were celebrating the opening of a fast through route (by diesel) to Ashford, but as it didn't stop at London Road, had to get a train to Lewes and change there. Rye is a delightful little place, I discovered, and smaller than I imagined. I had half an hour to kill before my bus, so I headed west to the Heritage Centre, passing a pub called The Pipes (or, in full, The Pipemakers Arms). There's a collection of coin-operated machines upstairs at the Heritage Centre, but I didn't have time to change a pound coin into 7 old pennies (talk about inflation!) to get them working. Back downstairs I bought a signed copy of 'Captain Pugwash And The Huge Reward' by local illustrator John Ryan for a tenner. Didn't get to the art gallery.

The 711 Stagecoach double-decker bus from outside the station cost me £4.50 for an 'Adult Explorer' - I could have toured the whole of Kent and Sussex with it! My original plan was to go to New Romney and get a return to Dungeness, have a look at the nuclear power station and Derek Jarman's garden, then head back to Rye, so I turned down the offer of a combined bus and RH & DR ticket for £13.50. But as the schlep from the bus stop outside the Ship to New Romney station was so long and boring, I decided to go on to Hythe and catch the bus back from there - and bash (almost) the whole line. The bus route goes through Camber Sands (home to Pontin's holiday camp and 'All Tomorrow's Parties') and Lydd, where those huge front-opening transporter planes used to carry cars over the Channel. There are also lots of caravan parks, Martello towers and enigmatic clusters of what look like military buildings surrounded by high fences, but very little in the way of sea views - there is a huge concrete wall in the way. With its huge stretches of open water, Romney Marsh is a haven for bird life, if I only knew what they were!

I arrived at New Romney and bought a RomneyRover for £10.50 (I should have got that special bus ticket!) and wandered round the station. There were a couple of gorgeous locos in steam (including No 3 Southern Maid) and a couple of others just hanging around (including No 4 The Bug). I popped into the Heywood Buffet to claim my free mince pie and visit to the model railway upstairs, then went out on Platform 1 to get the 14.08 last train to Dungerness. But blow me, it was being pulled by a diesel (No 12 John Southland), one of only two on the RH & DR! I grumpily got in, consoling myself that I'd come to see the steamers, not be pulled by them. But at Romney Sands station, on the opposite platform was a train headed by No 2 Northern Chief (amazingly built in 1926!), so I jumped ship and headed back to New Romney! I never got to Dungeness and their noted fish and chips.

Back at my starting point I was treated to a change of engines and No 7 Typhoon took over to Dymchurch and Hythe. The journey itself was nothing to write home about - saw lots of back gardens and bunnies in the fields - but it was such a joy to see the whisps of smoke, hear the whistles and catch a whiff of sulphur as we went through tunnels. Caught a glimpse of No 5 Hercules coming the other way. At Hythe, took a few snaps then headed to the bus stop, just round the corner. The scenery from the top deck of the bus was a lot more interesting than from the train back through the desolate marshes and strange villages as the sun was setting. In Rye, I popped into The (smokey) Pipes for a half of IPA (80p!!) and then to the station for the hourly train to Lewes then home. Spent NYE, as tradition dictates, with Simeon, Avy and others in the Heart and Hand. A grand day out, must do it again in the summer. More photos on Flickr.

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