October 13 2020 – Shellness, Isle of Sheppey, Kent.
The Isle of Sheppey, yes, I went there. On purpose, and for no other reason than going there to see it. No one made me. I think that is somewhat unusual. I even went to its furthest south-eastern tip, probably as far from anywhere you can get in Kent, a county that rubs up against London on its western flank, so it is hardly remote.
This is day two of my isles of Kent road trip, and Shellness, at the fore mentioned south-eastern tip was the final location to visit before driving back to St Leonards. The attraction, a lone second world war bunker sitting on the beach, the final relic of fortification to see and photograph on this trip, the newest and only one built in the 20th century. Its purpose; to guard the entrance to The Swale, the river that makes the Isle of Sheppey an Isle.
It is an isolated place, people come here to fish, and possibly in these difficult and austere times, to live in campervans and other, less suitable vehicles. Away from people, problems and maybe those who represent the law.
Past the fishing spot, the public car park and the golf lies the settlement of Shellness. It is accessed by a rutted, pot-holed single lane road that could well be below sea level. A high seawall runs along one side and swampy fields the other. At the end of the road, next to the fenced off houses of Shellness lies the Swale National Nature Reserve.
Parking the car I donned my jacket and gumboots, (I am so glad these were in the boot of the car), and walked down towards the beach. It was blowy and not particularly warm, though the sky was bright and the light savage. I wasn’t here for birding or dog walking like the few others I saw early on this Wednesday afternoon. I wanted to see the old bunker which sat small, alone and forlorn in the distance.
This is a strange place, swampy, marshland, odd coloured foliage that I have not seen before, a long ditch dug, to protect the wall.
On the other side sit a few houses, old and new; gated, fenced and warning-signed away from you and I. Strange and unwelcoming.
I liked the old bunker, perhaps because unlike most of places I attempted to get to over the past two days I could actually get to it; or perhaps because it is just there, all alone, with nothing much around it. Brutalist in a completely different way to what is a beautiful, but possibly quite brutal environment. I would not want to be out here on a stormy night.
Walking around to the front I was pleasantly surprised to be confronted by a painting by the street artist ATM. I faintly recalled that he had painted this, possibly around 2013/14 when I stopped being interested in street art. It suited this environment perfectly.
More so than the rest of the spray painting.
As you would expect the interior of the bunker was a complete mess; smashed bottles, dozens of empty drink cans, an old mattress and signs of a long history of camp fires and parties. It was not out of place and sort of added to its alien and alienated beauty. The view out of the bunker over The Swale to Whitstable.
I did not stay long, I walked around took some photos of the bunker and with spirits lifted after a frustrating couple of days walked back to the car. I was looking forward to going home.