Thursday July 5th 2007
Bexhill-on-Sea to Hastings
We decided to celebrate Jen’s birthday with a walk by the sea so set off again on the 8.08 to Gatwick and on to Bexhill, arriving on the seafront at 11 o’clock. The weather was rather uncertain as this summer has been very wet and cold so far, but a dry day was forecast for this area. We set off at once as we wanted to have time to explore Hastings when we arrived there.
The walk initially was along the prom at Bexhill where we admired some very stately five-storied Victorian houses now either flats or small hotels. We could see Hastings Pier in the distance almost as soon as we set off and it was good to see it growing ever nearer. Bexhill Prom is very like any other with steps down to the beach, the occasional shelter and statue; nothing to make it stand out really. The road is lined with fairly modern blocks of flats all with names like Belgrave Court and Cavendish House which may be holiday apartments or possibly retirement retreats. Whatever they are, all have wide balconies and fabulous sea views.
The prom ends, as most seem to, with a car park and from there we climbed down onto shingle under a cliff called Galley Hill. There had been a path once but it had been covered at some point with stones and only appeared in short bursts. We admired the abundant flowers here, particularly some bright yellow poppies growing between the pebbles.
At the end of the cliff we joined a tarmac path running alongside the railway line as far as Glyne Gap, where we discovered a beach café. We had already commented on the lack of people around and how difficult life must be for the locals who rely on tourists for their living in the summer, so we decided to help the cause by buying an ice cream. For some reason this request seemed to baffle the young man behind the counter. Maybe he had not been asked for many of them this year. Finally, one Cornetto later, we tackled the next cliff and were rewarded by views back to Bexhill, forward to Hastings and inland across the railway line to a retail park and the A259!
At the far side of this hill the cliff edge had broken away and the path was closed so we were diverted down a flight of steps to a good gravel path at the bottom. This path widened out a little and ran between the railway line and the sea. Literally – to our left was a high chain link fence and to our right enormous boulders keeping the sea at bay.
The path ran on for quite a while with no landmarks apart from a footbridge over the railway. We heard a train coming, so stopped and were very surprised to see that it was blue and white with yellow trims, instead of green. Now being railway buffs, we knew this was odd until we realised that we had finally reached a new train company’s territory and from now on would be travelling with South-Eastern trains.
We plodded on towards Hastings, finally reaching a path between rows of beach huts at the beginning of St Leonard’s. The beach huts were rather strange as they were all different, rather than the uniform size and colours we are used to seeing. Only one of them showed any sign of life, however, with the bad weather presumably discouraging people. There was plenty of parking space and grass outside each one as well as a beach close at hand, so on a nice day, it would probably have looked very different.
Soon after that we found ourselves on the beginning of the prom which would take us through St Leonard’s and into Hastings. We decided to stop for lunch and soon found a shelter to get out of the wind which was very strong. We enjoyed the antics of a lone windsurfer who tacked in and out picking up the wind to reach incredible speeds. Apart from him, there was no-one on the beach and, as there were red flags flying, no-one in the sea.
The way through St Leonard’s was straightforward, past palm trees and a fountain and a war memorial (no Luffs). We chuckled at the fountain, which had a sign saying “Do not Drink,” which was full of seagulls doing just that. The path was a bit dazzling though, being paved in bright pink. Further on were small car parks and flower beds and discreet blocks of underground loos with seats on the roof. On the other side of the main road were hotels and more blocks of flats and some surprisingly ordinary shops; a charity shop, a carpet shop and a little supermarket. Further along, a bookshop, an estate agent and a furniture emporium.
As we moved on into Hastings, things became much more traditional as we passed a grand square with gardens and statues and several rather majestic hotels before arriving at the pier, which has been closed for a while as it had been decreed dangerous. Banners proclaiming the grand re-opening of the bingo hall on the pier on July 6th were everywhere, but the builders looked far from ready for an imminent opening
Soon after the pier, we decided to halt for the day as we had reached Pelham Crescent and the church of Saint Mary in the Castle, directly beneath the cliff on which the castle is perched. As planned, we had arrived with a couple of hours to spare to ride the cliff railway, support another café and explore the castle before heading for home.
Running Total 178.1 miles