Monday, 21 July 2014

The Royal Military Canal

Romney Marsh is mostly below sea level, so drainage has to be carefully managed. The marsh is criss-crossed by artificial ditches, dykes and channels, and it's one of these that Smith has fallen into.

The marsh is girded by one great big almighty ditch, The Royal Military Canal, built in the early 1800s as part of England's defences against a Napoleonic invasion that never happened.

The theory was that Romney Marsh was likely to be the beachhead of any invasion, as it's low lying, sparsely populated, and about 30 miles off the coast of France. Originally, England planned to defend itself by flooding the marsh. This proved impractical, as by the time the marsh was flooded any troops that had landed there would have been long gone. So instead, it was proposed that a big canal would be cut around the marsh. The excavated earth would be used to make an earthwork on the north side, behind which British troops would be stationed - two defensive barrier for the price of one. The canal was also given a strangely kinked route, to allow the British troops a clear shot at any enemy troops that tried to cross it.

It was very much a British Maginot line. If the French had decided to invade, all they had to do was follow the route that worked so well for them in 1066 - land at Pevensey and go around the canal.

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Fifth Continent

Welcome to Romney Marsh, a landscape like no other.

It's flat. Very flat. And almost featureless. Take the landscape of the Llano Estacado in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico, flatten it out a bit more, criss cross it with dykes, fill it with sheep and paint it a fresh shade of green. Now maybe flatten it out one more time. Then you should end up with a view that looks something like this.

Like Texas, the landscape is 80% sky.

Why does it look like this? Well, 750 years ago this was all sea, until the Great Storm of 1287. This altered the coastline of Kent and Sussex in many ways - the ports of Winchelsea and Rye found themselves stranded two miles inland, Hastings lost its harbour, the Isle of Thanet stopped being an island and the seabed started silting up, creating 100 square miles of new land - Romney Marsh. Even now, most of it is still below sea level, and the only things standing higher than hedge height are the few farm buildings, trees and churches.

Driving on the Marsh is great fun - the roads zig and zag unpredictably, crossing ditches at right angles and following the patterns of old field boundaries that have long since vanished. Mists blow in from the sea, atmospherically.

 The great thing about Romney Marsh for a cartoonist is that it's very easy to draw - it's essentially a horizontal line with a few trees added to it.

Find out more about Romney Marsh here… (Warning - site contains Comic Sans)

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Oh, the irony

They've missed their lift so it looks like Smith and Jones are going to be finding their own way home. Stay tuned for Smith and Jones, the Incredible Journey…

Monday, 14 July 2014


'Peng!' just seemed to be the right sound for a wire mesh fence gradually coming apart, wires snapping one by one, but I was sure I'd seen it somewhere before. It turns out it was from a Swiss revolutionary comic from the 1968 student protests, 'The Deadly Finger'. It's the sound of the reader being shot by a revolutionary for being too bourgeois. And the last frame of the comic was also used by Stereolab as the logo for Peng Records, the indie label they released their first few albums on...

Monday, 7 July 2014


Have you noticed that every Prisoner of War movie ever made contains a character called Ginger? Were they actually based on catteries?