The place that’s typically referred to as “England’s solely desert” might be reached by a miniature railway line that runs to a nuclear energy station on one of many largest expanses of shingle seaside in Europe.Throughout the pebbled coastal plain, a tiny, gleaming steam engine chugs bravely and ridiculously previous weather-beaten huts and deserted fishing boats, to deposit its passengers close to the foot of a black lighthouse. The facility station hums inland, too brutally massive to grasp.Forward, the shingle foreshore lilts in the direction of the ocean. Sections of boardwalk lead guests out throughout the stones, previous rusted bits of winching gear and outcrops of sea kale; in summer season, the pebblescape is pink with poppies. Stepping off the picket boards, stones crunch with each step. The shingle consists of flint. Should you carry your boots down laborious, your footsteps would possibly strike sparks.The English desert of Dungeness attracts one million individuals a 12 months, pilgrims to its weirdness. Why go to the Sahara when you may go to Kent? The headland noses out from the south-east coast in the direction of Boulogne-sur-Mer, 30 miles throughout the Channel. It’s out on a limb, on its strategy to nowhere.Sea kale on the seaside at Dungeness. {Photograph}: Tim Graham/AlamyWe didn’t arrive by practice, my accomplice Caroline and I, however by biking eastwards alongside the sand-duned coast from Rye, inland by the city of Lydd, after which again in the direction of the ocean. Regardless of the cloudless, evident sky, what felt like a gale-force wind tore towards us all the way in which, dragging the breath from our lungs if we confronted immediately into it, in order that we progressed like drunks, teetering and gasping.At occasions the wind was so intense that it virtually pressured us to retreat, or into the shelter of obstacles raised towards the ocean, however quickly there was no shelter left. Forward lay solely pebbles. The vacancy appeared immense and we turned extraordinarily small. Distances had been laborious to gauge, proportions misaligned.The panorama’s sheer outlandishness was briefly sufficient to jolt me free from time and place. It made my nation foreignWe stayed for every week in Dungeness in a hut – it belonged to the household of a buddy – and spent our days strolling the foreshore and our evenings watching the solar collapse in a wobbling orange ball, like a shot-down UFO. The sky was not the English sky however the sky of a higher continent, with a clearer high quality of sunshine. Our discoveries obtained stranger. Astonishingly for what appears, at first look, like a desolate place, this headland supplies a habitat for a 3rd of Britain’s plant species, lots of them uncommon; the ceaseless sifting of the ocean types the pebbles into troughs and ridges that lure rainwater, creating small pockets of life.Sculptures of driftwood and scrap steel protrude alongside the shore, the creations of artists drawn right here by the legacy of Derek Jarman, the avant garde movie director who coaxed a backyard from the stones. And in a single unusual spot offshore, hidden pipes discharge scorching water from the nuclear energy station (really two nuclear energy stations, Dungeness A and Dungeness B) into patches dubbed “the boils”, the place the hotter temperature attracts tiny sea creatures that, in flip, appeal to shoals of fish and wheeling seagulls. The wastewater is – apparently – clear, however it’s laborious to beat suspicions of mutant energies.Prospect Cottage, the house and backyard of the film-maker Derek Jarman. {Photograph}: UrbanImages/AlamyOne night at sundown, with crimson gentle pouring over a scene of wind-whipped marram grass and the skeletons of boats, I skilled a second of dislocation; out of the blue I used to be not in England however in a North American wasteland, a while in an imagined future that felt dreamily acquainted, surrounded by the flotsam and jetsam of a collapsed tradition. The sunshine; the rusted steel cables; the crops like disfigured cabbages; the presence of the ability stations with their blinking lights; the panorama’s sheer outlandishness: it was briefly sufficient to jolt me free from time and place. “Outlandish” comes from the Previous English ūtland, which implies international nation, and that was this desert’s uncanny impact. It made my nation international.Dungeness – disappointingly – will not be really a desert. To qualify as a real desert an space should obtain lower than 250 millimetres of precipitation a 12 months. Dungeness will get a good bit greater than that: the ocean kale, sea holly, orchids, vetch, broom, sorrel, sage, bugloss, poppies and 600 different species of plant are proof of that. In 2015 the Met Workplace, formally refuted the parable of the shingle’s desert standing.Nonetheless, for a second there, I discovered myself transported.Seabirds over the seaside. {Photograph}: Ian Kingsnorth/AlamyAfter our week in Dungeness, the expertise stayed with me. It had been like falling into the clear gentle of one other world, a spot that was “altogether elsewhere”, like the road in that Auden poem that had all the time tugged at me. But it surely was not elsewhere, not distant in any respect. What was it in regards to the considered a desert – even a not-really desert – nestled within the south-east nook of England that was so exhilarating?England shouldn’t possess a desert, or something remotely resembling one; the trace of such a factor felt harmful and subversive. Deserts absolutely belong in locations which are distant and much away from this inexperienced and nice land, or from this over-civilised time. There needs to be no place for them right here. And but right here one (virtually) is.Between Covid-19 and local weather change, the practicalities – and ethics – of journey are extra fraught than ever earlier than.As a journey author more and more conscious of the injury that journey can do – primarily, in fact, the chemical violence carried out to the stratosphere by flying – I used to be in search of transformative journeys that lay nearer to dwelling. This was in 2019, and since then the pandemic has solely drawn the horizons nearer. Over the previous 12 months many people have been in search of extraordinary issues within the on a regular basis, not from selection however necessity, and whilst borders open once more, this enforced concentrate on the native could change the way in which we journey for a very long time to return. As lockdowns ease in some elements of the world, an infection and loss of life charges soar in others; between Covid-19 and local weather change, the practicalities – and ethics – of journey are extra fraught than ever earlier than.My earlier books had been about strolling and Europe, and in each I had skilled states of outlandishness. Usually these states had not occurred in distant wildernesses however in shut proximity to cities, roads and agriculture. This proximity someway elevated, fairly than diminished, their magic. It appeared a model of the Celtic conception of the otherworld, which exists alongside our personal, and might be accessed in sure areas, or in sure frames of thoughts. Because the Welsh mystic Arthur Machen wrote of early-Twentieth-century London: “He who can not discover marvel, thriller, awe, the sense of a brand new world and an undiscovered realm within the locations by the Grey’s Inn Street won’t ever discover these secrets and techniques elsewhere, not within the coronary heart of Africa, not within the fabled hidden cities of Tibet.”Poppies rising at Dungeness amongst outdated boats and equipment. {Photograph}: AlamyWhile I needed to enterprise additional than the Grey’s Inn Street, the concept marvel, thriller, awe, new worlds and undiscovered realms would possibly lie a practice trip away, fairly than on a carbon-intensive flight to the far aspect of the globe, opened up prospects for a unique sort of journey. What different unlikely landscapes is likely to be lurking on the market, prepared to grab the unwary traveller into the outlandish?In fading gentle, we walked to the place the stony plain met the waves, previous hunched fishers and the cannibalised wrecks of boats. The lighthouse beam probed the sky with the ability of 100,000 candles. As night time got here on, the almost-desert merged with the greying sea.We discovered ourselves in an open house that expanded on and on, populated by the blinking lights of trawlers floating off the coast and the right-angled monoliths of Dungeness A and Dungeness B shimmering inland. Beneath our boots the shingle shifted like a mattress of atoms. Hundreds of thousands of years stretched between the flints whose hanging as soon as sparked hearth and the nuclear energy station whose waste will final for one million extra, a monument to eternity and to excessive fragility. For a second at the hours of darkness we stood between the previous and the longer term; between what lay beneath our toes and what looms on the horizon.Discovering marvel on our shores – extra unlikely UK landscapesTemperate rainforestWistman’s Wooden, Dartmoor, in January 2020. {Photograph}: Will Tudor/Getty Pictures/iStockphotoA dwarf jungle of contorted inexperienced limbs clustered with mosses, lichens and ferns, Wistman’s Wooden on Dartmoor is amongst Britain’s best-known examples of temperate rainforest. The clue is the presence of epiphytes – crops that develop on different crops. Patches of temperate rainforest will also be present in Wales, on the Atlantic coast of Scotland, and in Cornwall and Cumbria. Rainforests appear to belong to someplace distant, however their existence ought to hardly be stunning in a spot the place it rains on a regular basis.Arctic tundraCairngorm mountains. {Photograph}: Murdo MacLeod/The GuardianThe Cairngorm plateau, the very best and coldest upland space in Britain, is outlined as “arctic-alpine tundra”, that means it’s climatologically and ecologically nearer to Scandinavia, Siberia or Alaska than it’s to the neighbouring Highlands. Formed by glaciers within the final ice age, the tundra’s weave of mosses and lichens assist Arctic species akin to Lapland bunting, snow bunting and dotterel, in addition to Britain’s solely free-roaming herd of reindeer.FjordWalker above Carlingford Lough. {Photograph}: Gareth McCormack/AlamyFjords – slim, steep-sided inlets carved out of the rock by glaciers – are indelibly related to the shoreline of Norway, however a fjord additionally kinds a part of a UK border: the 10-mile-long Carlingford Lough, which separates County Down in Northern Eire from County Lough within the Irish Republic. It might not have the cliff-sided drama of the Norwegian fjords however it’s a reminder of the good glaciers that lined a lot of the area within the final ice age, and as soon as fashioned a frozen bridge to Scandinavia and Eurasia.That is an edited extract from the introduction of Nick Hunt’s new guide Outlandish, (John Murray, £16.99) printed on 27 Could