A cheer goes up when we cross the River Wantsum. Admittedly, we wouldn’t know we had done so, if it weren’t for the sign: these days, the river is little more than a drainage ditch. Once, it formed part of the Wantsum Channel that separated the Isle of Thanet from the rest of Kent. For those of us whose holiday destination is Ramsgate, it is a landmark.
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But the landscape changes. Richborough, at the west end of the channel, is thought to have been the site of the Roman invasion in AD43. A fort was built here, then a supply depot, followed by a prosperous town, provided with a gigantic triumphal arch to impress upon anyone crossing the English Channel that they were emphatically still inside the Empire. Nothing of this can be seen above ground. Instead, Richborough came to be associated with another great work of engineering: a power station, opened in 1962.
When it stopped generating in the mid 1990s, the three cooling towers survived as a sculptural presence in the view to Pegwell Bay. Not everyone thought them beautiful, but they formed a point
of interest. They were blown up earlier this year. Our eyes are still adjusting to the gap.
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