West Hythe Lighthouse
West Hythe, Kent July 21st-September 30th 2021. Part of Folkestone Fringe Open
West Hythe Lighthouse sat on the possible future shoreline, 1.5 miles inland from the popular seaside resort of Dymchurch. It invited viewers to reflect on the impermanence of land we take for granted, and to consider how we might adapt to our shrinking landscape.
The Lighthouse linked via the Global Sea Level Observing System to a tidal buoy near Chittagong, Bangladesh, and flashed when the land there is threatened by the rising tide, thus signalling a stark warning of what is already happening in many places in the world and what may come here in the future. Land in the Bay of Bengal, particularly the fragile ecosystem of the Sundarbans, is being encroached on by the sea at a rapid rate, despite attempts to build sea defences. Here in the UK we are already experiencing the loss of homes and even entire villages to sea level rise and coastal erosion. Is the solution to build bigger walls, how long will they keep the sea out, and at what cost to natural sea defences? What can we learn from our friends on the other side of the world? How can we begin to think creatively about the adaptations we may need to make to how and where we live in the future?
A walk was marked from the lighthouse to the current coastline at Dymchurch Redoubt, and visitors invited to participate by taking this journey back in time from the future to the present and experiencing in their own body the scale of land, habitat, eco-system, and community that exists in this space. The Lighthouse is now gone, but you can still take the walk if you wish, following the directions below and the map in the image gallery.
PRACTICAL GUIDANCE FOR WALKERS: The walk takes approximately 1 hour in each direction and follows public footpaths through a varied landscape of marsh, fields and woods. It starts at Unit 1, West Hythe, where you’ll find food and drink to fuel your adventure, as well as space to park a car or a bike. There are 3 road crossings on the route, so please take care of traffic and use the pedestrian island to cross the A259 to reach Dymchurch seawall. You will also encounter two stiles, a small footbridge with 4 steps on each side, and uneven ground. It can be wet underfoot so please wear appropriate footwear and be prepared for the weather, rain or shine! Go slowly, enjoy the journey and be open to what being in this place may offer you. At Dymchurch Redoubt you’ll find benches and a fine view of the sea, as well as the chance to continue your walk along the sea wall into Dymchurch village. You can walk back the way you came, or take a bus into the centre of Hythe or Folkestone. Please do not be tempted to walk back via the road – there is sadly too much fast traffic for this to be a safe option. It’s recommended that you carry OS Explorer Map 138 to be sure of the route, and you can also find a copy of the route map in the gallery below.
West Hythe Lighthouse is a prototype – it could be the first of many lighthouses in similar communities. The intention is to start a conversation; to connect people to think creatively about how we adapt to the future, and how we respond to the changes we must navigate as the impacts of climate crisis are felt here and abroad. You may be interested in some of the development work that has taken place in Wales.
This installation was funded by Folkestone & Hythe District Councillors through the Ward Grant scheme, and made possible by the kind support of Unit 1 and Ivor Record, and the team at Folkestone Fringe. The structure was built by Cosmic Constructions using locally sourced reclaimed materials. Bespoke technology created by Steve Symons.