Nanny Goat Island, then and now

Nanny Goat Island - Dungeness

In his book of 200 pages, local author Keith Swallow looks at the mystery and confusion of the history of Dungeness. The name, Nanny Goat Island, dates back to the time when the inhabitants – mainly fishermen – kept goats for their supply of milk, and were referred to as ‘nanny goat islanders’.

Dungeness is part of Romney Marsh – often called the fifth continent – and comprises a vast expanse of shingle, the largest in Europe. Officially a desert, it contains 600 species of plant – a third of all those found in the UK. Many rare species of birds have been spotted as it is the first land many migrating birds will see at the end of their flight.

Today, Dungeness nuclear power station is an integral part of the landscape, but the book also looks back at the way of life of the fishing community, the part Dungeness had in defending England during two world wars, the light house and coastguard with the lifeboat  and how these aid shipping in the Channel.

The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway with its miniature steam engines brings summer visitors to the area – an increasingly popular destination with just a two hour journey from London, although not so well known is a branch line of the main railway, that has been used to transport nuclear flasks from the power station through to Appledore. Many old redundant railway carriages went to Dungeness to be used as homes and some still remain today 120 years after they entered railway service.

For many years the extraction of aggregates has formed part of the local economy and evidence of this is seen in the number of gravel pit lakes, some of which are used for leisure and water sports.

The book is full of fascinating information about Dungeness and the reasons why it is such a unique, magical and special place, Britain’s desert.

It is available, priced £15 including postage, from Keith Swallow: 07759 792867,, Adams of Rye, Romney Marsh Visitor Centre and Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.

Image Credits: Dennis Leeds-George .


  1. I must read this book, I’m especially interested in the 15” gauge branch line that transports nuclear flasks !! #factcheck required


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