Rediscovering the charm of Greatstone beach

by | Sep 6, 2015

A couple of months ago I went home to Greatstone, a little village in Kent on the south east coast that I grew up in for the first 18 years of my life, and rediscovered how much funĀ it was to explore the sand dunes. I was amazed at the alien plantlife and how the sand dunes had changed shape and height so much over time. How had I not been so fascinated by this as a child and as a teenager when I lived back home with my parents?

As Jamie and I get older, we’re appreciating more and more the things we took for granted as kids. We go for walks in the countryside when we visit Jamie’s parents in Wiltshire, and we get a totally different scenery to explore when we visit Greatstone on the coast. My mum asked us if we wanted to go for a walk at the beach and see it through her eyes. She is a brilliant photographer and I’m trying to talk her into using Instagram, or starting a Facebook page of her own to showcase her beautiful photos. Living just 5 minutes from Greatstone beach, she captures its many different faces throughout the year. You’d be amazed at how many times she can pop over the road with her DSLR and come back with original photographs taken of found objects, pretty shells, different sunsets, varying tides… You get the picture. So, with Mum armed with her camera, me armed with my iPhone 5 (!) and Jamie armed with his sense of wandering, we began our amateur photography session!

Early sunset at Greatstone beach

Early sunset. The bay stretches for miles. The sandy part starts in Greatstone and goes as far as Dungeness.

Taking photos at Greatstone beach

Mum getting the perfect angle for a close up with some netting! Jamie supervising, of course.

Broken shells in the sand.

The sand at Greatstone beach is never just sand. Broken shells litter bay and when they’re wet, they’re vibrant colours of pink, orange and yellow become much more obvious.

This beach endures a fair few gales throughout the year, being completely exposed to strong winds that travel up the bay and from across the Channel. In the aftermath, local people will go to the beach and litter-pick, removing rubbish blown onto the sand from people’s bins through the village. It seems that on one occasion, however, someone found a glove or four, and started a local artistic trend. A few plastic gloves positioned on fence posts is now a rather pleasing, accidental art installation! ‘The Glove Fence’ as we like to call it, receives a new glove probably every few weeks!

The Glove Fence, Greatstone Beach.

The Glove Fence.

The Glove Fence, Greatstone Beach.

Getting creative with my iPhone photography skills at The Glove Fence!

The Glove Fence, Greatstone Beach.

The Glove Fence, with some green netting for an added bonus.

Here’s a shot looking out to sea. Our tide can go out up to half a mile! It’s lovely when the tide is in and you can go paddling. But to walk out to the sea when the tide is out means walking through a load of sludge and sinking to just above your ankles. Some people I know like the feeling of the sludge squeezing between their toes. I certainly do not!

Low tide at Greatstone beach.

Low tide.

I mentioned earlier that my mum has a knack for totally original photos even though she visits the same beach to play with her camera. First of all, she is extremely fond about our little beach on the south east coast of Kent. It can’t be hard to take great photos of something you really love. But secondly, a helping hand comes in the form of an ever-changing landscape, partly due to the multitude of found objects that can differ on a day-to-day basis. Here’s my crack at a shot of some netting and driftwood.

Driftwood and netting on Greatstone beach.

I’m pretty sure Mum got a much better angle and made hers look artistic. Mine is a bit more like, ‘here, I took a photo of a log and a net’… Might need some practice. It’s not even in focus! Need a proper camera.

This post is entitled ‘Rediscovering the sand dunes…’ and I haven’t mentioned the sand dunes yet. So here begins the virtual tour!

Sand dunes and horizon at Greatstone beach.

A shot of the horizon and the sand dunes.

Houses backing on to sand dunes at Greatstone beach.

Looking away from the beach toward the houses that overlook the dunes. It would be amazing to have a lounge room with windows as large as that, looking out at what I think is a rather alien landscape! The sand dunes are essentially these people’s back gardens.

Jamie and I were particularly taken by the vast array of plantlife that the sand dunes is home to. Not only are there tonnes of species that are thriving in such a dry and sandy environment, those species are types of plants we have NEVER seen before anywhere else! Shame on me for not being interested as a child! When I was posting the following few photos on our Facebook page, I still hadn’t done any research into what the names of the plant were actually called. Luckily my aunt Alison, a nature lover, was on hand to comment and tell me the names! There are a couple that she admitted she wasn’t 100% sure on, but we’ll go with it for now!

Yellow beach flower, Greatstone

OK so this one I don’t think I posted online, therefore I will name it ‘Yellow Beach Flower’ until I find out what it’s really called!

Evening primrose flower, Greatstone beach.

Evening primrose.

Gaillardia flower, Greatstone beach


Cottongrass, Greatstone beach


Ragweed, Greatstone beach


Sea holly, Greatstone beach

Sea holly

Cow parsley flower, Greatstone beach

Cow parsely

Sea cabbage, Greatstone beach

My favourite, sea cabbage. Look at the amazing colours!

Greatstone plantlife

I don’t know what this one is called and I don’t think I posted this on our Facebook page so Alison has not come up trumps with this one! But let’s call it ‘the grapey one’…

Thanks Alison!

The next couple of photos show you just how maze-like the sand dunes are. The paths change over time, particularly due to strong winds shifting the sand around, and much of the fencing that is there to vaguely control the shifting dunes becomes totally buried.

Sand dunes pathways Greatstone beach

Sand dunes pathways

Sand dunes fencing, Greatstone beach

Sand dunes fencing

I like patterns and decided I’d try a close-up of the fence. I quite like it!

Greatstone sand dunes fence

Sand dunes fence pattern

Lastly, if there’s one photo that sums up just how volatile the winds can be in Greatstone, it’s this:

Buried sign at Greatstone beach

Buried sign!!!

This sign is normally about 5 feet tall. Enough said.