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Smugglers and Dr Syn
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Smugglers and Dr Syn

Our smugglers and Dr Syn area covers most of the seaward side of the Romney Marshes , the great flat expanse of land filling the hills between Hythe in the east and Winchelsea in the west.

The area is famous for its sheep , the Cinque Ports and of course smuggling. smuggling became an important source of income for the folk of the marshes, as the area is very remote, and had a number of major sea ports. The book Dr Syn by Russell Thorndike helps to give the feel of the marshes. Also smuggling was made famous by Rudyard Kipling from Burwash with the poem

A smugglers Song.

If You wake at midnight, and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Five-and-twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark - Brandy for the Parson,
'Baccy for the Clerk;
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Running round the woodlump if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine;
Don't you shout to come and look, nor take 'em for your play;
Put the brushwood back again, - and they'll be gone next day!

If you see the stable-door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside;
If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining's wet and warm - don't you ask no more!

If you meet King George's men, dressed in blue and red,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you 'pretty maid,' and chuck you 'neath the chin,
Don't you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one's been!

Knocks and footsteps round the house - whistles after dark -
You've no call for running out till the house-dogs bark.
Trusty's here, and Pincher's here, and see how dumb they lie -
They don't fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by!

If you do as you've been told, likely there's a chance
You'll be give a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood -
A present from the Gentlemen, along o' being good!

Five-and-twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson,
'Baccy for the Clerk.
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie -
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

The majority of the land on the marshes has now been drained and secured behind flood defenses, for further details see our history page Romney Marsh .

The coastline varies from sandy beaches in the west at Camber to the pebbles from Dungeness towards Hythe , although at low tide a vast expanse of sand is uncovered. Inland it seems that the sky is very large , due to the flat land which gives the impression of enormous space ( see the above photo taken near Lydd . The area is rich in wildlife, and a nature reserve at Rye Harbour and at Dungeness provide a stable environment for these creatures and plants.

The coastal area has many fishermen, especially at Dungeness , which also has two lighthouses and the impressive Dungeness nuclear power station. Camber is a holiday centre as is St Mary's Bay and Dymchurch with many camps and much entertainment. The southern coast Dungeness , Lydd on Sea , Greatstone and Littlestone provide relaxing seaside views and sand yachting .

Inland there are many ancient churches and old villages. The old villages of Fairfield , Broomhill and Old Winchelsea have all vanished due to sea erosion or just desertion.

Finally the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch (RHDR) narrow gauge railway runs a steam train service along the coast from Dungeness to Hythe which is a must for visitors.


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