Prospect Cottage

Driving through the windswept landscape of Dungeness, it’s easy to miss Prospect Cottage as it sits, modestly, in a line of fishermens’ cottages. With a facade of tarred boards and yellow paintwork, Derek Jarman, film maker, artist and gay activist, bought the Cottage in 1987. Diagnosed with HIV the year before, Jarman saw it as a place to escape. His friend Howard Sooley photographed the garden and recounted how Jarman ‘for a time…cheated death hiding amongst the flowers and dancing with the bees’.

There are no boundaries here – the Dungeness Estate doesn’t allow them – but that is part of the garden’s magic. With a collection of driftwood and other flotsam made into sculptures, and plants that can survive the harsh weather, the garden becomes part of the landscape. From the shingle floor, flowers including sea holly, yellow rocket, poppies, sea kale, viper’s bugloss and teasels pop up. But not all is as it seems, for underneath the pebbles lies a large quantity of well-rotted manure! Jarman spoke lovingly about his garden: ‘Every flower is a triumph. I’ve had more fun from this place than I’ve had with anything else in my life. I should have been a gardener.’

Jarman described how ‘Paradise haunts gardens, and some gardens are paradises. Mine is one of them.’ A successful £3.5 million crowdfunding campaign led by the Art Fund – to which I contributed a miniscule amount – has saved Prospect Cottage. I’m looking forward to my next visit to paradise.


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Address: Romney Marsh, Kent, TN29 9NE View map Length of visit: 1-2 hours
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