14 haunting images that show the emptiness of Britain's only desert

Somewhat desolate landscape that is home to two nuclear power stations

Dryness and lack of surface vegetation
Many people will be surprised to hear that England has a desert. Located on the southeastern coast of Kent, Dungeness is a somewhat desolate landscape that is home to two nuclear power stations and a small estate.

The United Kingdom's national weather service, the Met Office, classified Dungeness as Britain's only desert due to its dryness and lack of surface vegetation. Other than power plant workers, occasional tourists, and the few residents who live in homes on the estate, it's rare to see any signs of human life, and it's unclear just how many people live there.

Photographer Robert Walker first visited Dungeness in 2011 and decided to document what he saw. "I am struck by the emptiness, the exhaustion, and the excess of weather," Walker told Business Insider. "The area feels out of sync, self-contained, and beyond conventions, all of which I find surprisingly liberating." Over the course of four years, he visited the desert multiple times to create a series he called "The Fifth Continent". Below, see the emptiness of Dungeness, Britain's only desert.

Dungeness is about 77 miles southeast of London and covers an area of only 12 square miles.

Dungeness is located on the southeastern coast of England, where the English Channel separates the UK from France and the rest of Europe.

The desert is so isolated that it is only accessible by two roads: one from New Romney to the north, and another from Lydd to the northwest.

Dungeness is a privately owned area of land that was recently purchased by EDF Energy, a French energy company that runs the two nuclear power stations.

Walker was immediately struck by the landscape, which he says is "unlike anywhere else in the country."

Other than the power stations, Dungeness is relatively empty — there are two lighthouses, a small estate, old fishing huts, and a miniature steam railway along the coast.

One of the two lighthouses.

The Dungeness estate includes 29 homes, most of which are converted railway cottages.

The nuclear power station dubbed "Dungeness B power station" began generating electricity in 1983, and is the only nuclear power
station of the two that is still operating. It was originally going to be deactivated in 2018, but is now scheduled to remain open until 2028.

About 40 years ago, fishing was the main industry in this isolated area.

"What makes the place photographically interesting [to me] are the clusters of buildings that sit on either side of the single-track road and the constantly changing, extreme weather," Walker told Business Insider.

Famous English filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman lived in Dungeness until his death in 1994. Jarman is credited in 55 films, including "Jubilee", "Caravaggio", and "Blue".

While insect species are rare in Britain, Dungeness is host to many. It is one of the best places in Britain to find insects such as moths, bees, beetles, and spiders.

Surprisingly, Dungeness is home to 600 species of plants, a third of all plants found in the UK.

Throughout the four years Walker worked on this project, he noticed that some of the buildings had either been destroyed by weather or were completely abandoned.

"I didn't feel the need to document every detail [of Dungeness], or include any of the residents," Walker said. "Instead I wanted to capture the essence, the emotion that I felt on my first visit."


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