Chinese Anglers and a Concrete Corpse


The buildings down Dengemarsh Road I most frequently see from the facing hide, when they serve as useful Dungeness landmarks (“…ruined shed, chicken sheds, silos, white bungalow…”) to indicate birds in the space between, but on Wednesday morning they were largely swallowed up in fog.


We arrived at Springfield Bridge to find just Roger Norman in the company of a bunch of Yellow Wagtails as a procession of herb-crawling birders’ vehicles trundled into the mist from which echoed the calls of invisible Coots and Crows. A pair of Peregrines launched out of a ghostly pylon and were lost to view.


As we followed the pot-holed track towards the sea, on the look-out for interesting migrant dragonflies and birds (no dice on either account) we were passed by further vehicles, all of whose occupants appeared to be Chinese. Which was indeed the case for the remote beach was lined with men in Panama–type hats swishing lines out for mackerel.


It’s a few years since I’ve been there. Before, it was in winter, inhospitable, with masses of wind-blown plastic festooning the range fences. This time it was warm and beautiful apart from the same quantity, but different origin, of plastic waste. The sign might plead, but without success. Worse, I’m told that the RSPB is responsible for this part of the beach. Can this be true when, on the central parts of the reserve, every scrap is so assiduously gathered up?


Not far away lie the remains of Pen Bars, a small, isolated fishing settlement occupied till…when? 


A search on Google wasn’t much help since it came up with You Tube restricted this Pattaya Thai girl dancing video at the Naklua Pen Bar as inappropriate for some viewers and not fit for children.” Not Dungeness then….

With its scatter of bricks, glittering bottle dump and floors open to the sky, it reminded me of abandoned gold towns in Australia.


There’s a memorial to Len Prebble, the last fisherman to live there. During the 19th century, Prebble was a pretty localised surname as you can see on this map from the fascinating Public Profiler website.


Sadly, someone has seen fit to obliterate most of the inscription but you can read some of Len’s wartime reminiscences here.


A little beyond the ruins, Tim W introduced us to the Concrete Man, who has lain, face-down in the pebbles for many years yet no-one seems to know whence he came.


He must be an artwork, lonely and tragic, inescapably reminiscent of Vesuvius victims from Pompeii. I was reminded too of a photo I’d seen of some unfortunate person who’d fallen from an airship, but I couldn’t find it.


I did discover, though, that there are men who fall to earth, with a thud as their frozen bodies hit suburban streets, poor young stowaway would-be immigrants dumped from the opening undercarriage of incoming airliners. One terrible story is here and another here.



You can guess from the lack of references to birds or dragonflies that we found nothing out of the usual. Strange life-forms abound however in the shingle wastes, like rabbit topiary resembling spiky sea anemones or characters out of a Japanese cartoon.


Much discussion centred on the identity of biting flies with kaleidoscope eyes: were they Splay-winged or Lobe-winged Deer Flies? I favoured Chrysops caecutiens but found myself in the minority and i have to admit I’d been more interested in swatting than scrutinising them.


Tired but happy etc etc we repaired to the Pilot and thence to the Patch to do what bird-watchers do, that is look at Black Terns, an Arctic Tern and a Little Gull and comment on how Well they were Showing.





4 Responses to “Chinese Anglers and a Concrete Corpse”

  1. Litter: I emailed Martin Randall, Site Manager at RSPB Dungeness, to point out the situation at Pen Bars. He replied:

    Dear Cliff

    This is indeed our land and can on occasion cause problems. The area is regularly checked and cleared of litter, both by ourselves and by the Romney Marsh Countryside Project, who I believe were there this weekend clearing litter.

    I am sorry to hear that it has become bad, but as I say it is checked regularly and if there is an influx of angles the condition can become bad more quickly than we can collect it. Generally we don’t provide provision for collecting litter as we have to pay commercial rates to have it taken away, which the RSPB see as an inefficient use of our memberships funding.

    I will raise this with our wardening team to make sure it is on the radar as currently, as you have pointed out, the area is being well used.

    Many thanks for bringing it to my attention.


  2. […] The Mystery of the Concrete Corpse remains […]

  3. […] towards Pen Bars and the Concrete Corpse we found Linnets & Goldfinches and heard a Kingfisher in the ditch while Ravens croaked over […]

  4. […] with this and the nearby Concrete Corpse, a narrative is […]

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