Romney Marsh – a glimpse into a mysterious corner of england

Romney Marsh is a mysterious and enchanting region of Kent, rich in history, story and legend. A place where the sun casts glorious colours across wide-open skies as mists swirl above slow moving rivers and still, dark, dykes.

The Marshes, and nearby Dungeness, are a place of outstanding natural beauty and famous for the diversity of its habitats, geomorphology, flora, fauna and wildlife and is recognised as being of international scientific importance having received numerous designations including: Internationally important wetland (RAMSAR), National Nature Reserve, Special Protection Area (SPA)Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a national Earth Heritage site.

Natural History of the Marshes

The Romney Marshes are situated in the South East corner of England, covering an area of approximately 100 square miles and includes the third largest coast wetland in Europe.


Thomas a Becket Church Fairfield

The Marshes include the Walland Marsh, Denge Marsh and Romney Marsh itself; the Pett Levels, East Guldeford and Brede make up the Eastern edge of the Marshes.

The Marshes are bordered by the English Channel to the South while ancient sea-cliffs – providing a visible backdrop to much of the Marshes – mark a northern border with the rest of England and show the original coast line at the end of the last Ice Age, approx. 10,000 years ago. Then, rivers flowed off the Weald into a marine bay. Over time islands and shingle banks formed in the bay, followed by silt and sand deposits. About 5,000 years ago, sea-level stabilized and the area changed to a series of lagoons, sand pits and salt plains. Subsequent reclamation of this land, for agricultural use, and occasional storms have combined to render the Marsh in its current world important geomorphological, geographical and geological formation, natural habitats populated with rare flora, fauna and fauna.Read about natural history of Romney Marsh

Man and the Marshes – archaeology, wars, smuggling & H. G. Wells

Along with world-important geomorphology, the Marshes have a rich human history, dating back thousands of years and with activity in the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman periods.


Disused railway line, one of several that run across the wide open spaces of Romney Marsh

These were followed by considerable growth in the Saxon and Norman periods.  Survival on the marsh required a particular type of character and its inhabitants had a reputation for self-sufficiency, wild, felonious deeds and lawlessness and smuggling (many of South East England’s most feared smuggling gangs operated from the area) but were quick to offer a warm welcome to passing travelers while its remote atmosphere made it popular with many of England’s greatest writers.

The villages of the Marshes have also played a key role in England’s defenses over the Centuries and marsh villages, particularly the Cinque Ports, have been at the forefront of England’s development as a military, economic and political world power and played a key role in the defense of the county in the Napoleonic and 1st World Wars.

For a fascinating insight and inteviews with Mash residents prio to 1960 see past life on the Marsh.


Marsh Villages – New Romney, Lydd, Rye.

With the changing geography of the Marsh, their unique position in relation to the Channel and on the frontier between England and Europe villages of Romney Marsh have ancient and unique history, often predating the Doomsday book, during which time they earned themselves a special place in the history.

Brookland Village Romney Marsh

Pretty villages with dark pasts and tales of smuggling

Today, the villages of Romney Marsh are small, quiet, pretty English villages which have retained the look and character of past Centuries and with many of the buildings that were once home to smuggling still present.


This article was originally written for a local blog news website I founded.
One of the most popular articles was this one, Magical Romney Marsh.
It’s reproduced here for posterity.

(c) Words and pictures, Andy Leaning.


  1. This site is a treasure of information about Lydd and the surrounding area – thankyou.

  2. Beautifully laid out and topics well discussed. A real pleasure to read. Thankyou.

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