Location Hunting on the Romney Marches

The other day I took a trip along the coastal road from Worthing in West Sussex where I live to the boarder between Kent and Sussex. Just to the east of a beautiful little town called Rye, a place that is virtually locked in time, are the Romney Marshes. Its often described by those that have passed through as a spooky place. It is unusual. I found it most inspirational.

The Marshes are really reclaimed land. The coast has changed shape over the last thousand years quite considerably and this incredibly desolate and vast flat landscape was at one time under water. It turned into a boggy marsh which was pretty useless for anything as the as the water receded until, like the Fens in East Anglia, it was drained. Ditches crisscross the lush fertile flat land keeping the soil dry and suitable for growing commercial crops. Narrow, single track lanes meander adjacent to the field systems allowing traffic to flow to the isolated villages and hamlets which inhabit this considerably large chunk of Kent.

I was here to seek locations for the next Bald Explorer episode. I am aiming to investigate the tale of the Smugglers of the South Coast of Britain in the 18th and 19th Century and although the Free Trader activities were rife all across the British Isles I am concentrating my programme around the area of the Cinque Ports. Here a huge amount of Smuggling took place mainly because of it’s unique proximity with France and the rest of Europe.

I do believe when location hunting you have to go to the places you wish to film in, even if you think you are familiar with it. There is quite a bit of preparation you can do by using the online resources like Google Street View and the wonderful satellite images all freely available, which I am sure we all take for granted these days, but there is no better homework for video production than actually being on site to soak up the atmosphere.

For one thing, it isn’t always obviously how busy the place will be from a map or whether you will be trying to film and record sound under a flight path. Knowing where the nearest toilets are or pub is absolutely essential. Also getting an indication of the kind go light, position of the sun and what the average weather conditions is like for a film maker is extremely useful.

I moved on from the Romney Marshes to explore the bleak coast line at Dungeness to ascertain where the old smugglers would have landed their boats in the dead of the night after a jaunt across the English Channel, full of contraband.

I found no smugglers. These days there are fisherman with rods standing on the shore waiting for a different catch or birdwatchers with binoculars and long lens cameras stalking quietly in camouflage gear. The various fisherman’s huts, some abandoned and others that look like they’re abandoned are scattered randomly all over the shingled beach and reminded me of the isolation and remoteness of the place.

So I am excited to be taking the bald Explorer here to film in the forthcoming weeks.

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