A day by the sea

Saturday 19 March 2022 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

It’s been great being back in London and back at work (sort of). London is sooooooo much busier than Auckland and the twice a week commute on the very busy Tube was uncomfortable to start with, but I’m getting used to being so close to so many people again. I’m one of the few wearing a mask on the train and it can be unpleasant when someone unmasked is breathing right into your face as the carriage is rammed tight. Covid numbers are on the rise as all restrictions have now been removed, so I’m taking some responsibility for myself. The Victoria Line train to Oxford Circus this morning was very busy, so it was a bit of a relief to jump lines to the Metropolitan which was much quieter. I love these old carriages on the Metropolitan, so 80s.

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I had a book and my phone to read, though spent most of the journey south from Charing Cross Station with headphones on staring out of the window, bright sun shining in my eyes, enjoying the urban, then country scenery as Eleanor read next to me.

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In the early spring the English deciduous trees are still without leaf giving a longer view over the mostly lovely Kent and East Sussex countryside. The lack of leaves also a reminder that the grimness of winter isn’t long gone, that grimness reflecting what is going in the world outside. I pondered life and England and my hopes and fears for the day as we travelled.

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We moved out of my flat in St Leonards on Friday 26 June 2021, almost nine months ago;  266 days to be precise, I’m not going to count the hours. It seems like yesterday, yet at the same time it feels like forever ago. I could say that I’ve thought about it every single day we’ve been away, but that would be a lie. I have thought about it most days, more so now that we are back in the UK and it’s so close.

I must confess to having had a level of trepidation regarding today’s trip to St Leonards, I was concerned that I may no longer like the place, it’s a small but valid concern. The town has been changing for some time, starting well before I arrived in 2019, though the pace of change has increased over the past year, house prices particularly have sky rocketed. I hope it won’t trip too far over the line and become even more unaffordable for those who were there before gentrification and people like me arrived. I kind of like the balance of roughness, gentrification and the arts the town has, and when it tips too far into gentrification it will be the art that leaves first and that will be a shame. I have the same trepidation about liking the flat, though I don’t get to see inside until April 9, after the tenant has moved out. I very much hope I’m still in love with it when I walk through the front door.

We disembarked at West St Leonards Station strolling up West Hill Rd towards my flat. I’ve seen a number of flats for sale, or sold, for stupidly high prices on this road and was interested to see how things had changed; the answer was not much, but a lot more houses have been painted in the last 9 months. It does look nice, maybe too nice.

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We did a quick walk-by of the flat and it was good to see the old pile looking resplendent in the late morning sun. I liked looking at her, thankfully, and am now very much looking forward to walking in and looking out of the bedroom window to the sea and over to Beachy Head.

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St Leonards feels the same, the residential streets we walked haven’t changed at all, though there seems to be even more scaffold up around the big houses at the top of Pevensey Rd than there was when we left, yet no work seems to have been done over that time. There were a small number of new shops in Kings Rd, no dramatic changes and all the places we liked are still open. It looks like this part of town survived the pandemic well enough.

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I was shocked to see scaffold around the ‘Old England’ pub, what seemed to be the last of the old school boozers boozer. It will be interesting to see what happens to it, it has always been a miserable looking dump, even just a lick of paint will improve that corner of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike a proper pub, even an old school old man’s pub is fine, but the Old England was an eye-sore.

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The day was drifting towards lunch so we walked down to the seafront looking for something to eat. As usual and as expected, Goat Ledge was mega-busy and quite a long queue had formed. We carried on towards Hastings without hanging around, much as I love Goat Ledge, and a fish sandwich would have been great, a 40 minute wait in the wind was not what we were after.

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Bottle Alley is a 480 meter long lower boardwalk along the sea front between St Leonards and Hastings, it was built in the 1930s and the inner wall is concrete inlayed with thousands of fragments of coloured glass, hence the name. Other than the occasional smell of urine and strong cannabis and un-picked-up dog pooh it’s an absolute wonder and I love walking through it; at night it is lit with constant changing coloured lights and I have always felt safe walking home that way.

As we entered I saw some legs with roller skates dangling from the boardwalk above so we stopped to take a few photos. I love a scene like this, they so rarely happen and I was very glad I had brought my camera with me.

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There were a lot of people around, and a lot of those people had small dogs; there has been a dog explosion over lockdown and everyone in St Leonards has one it seems. I’ve never seen so many people (or dogs) around at this time of year, even on sunny days, I suspect this coming summer it will be crazy busy at the weekends. when we are back I must make better use of work from home days and get down to the seafront and the nearby cafes and bars while there is some semblance of peace.

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I’ve never seen a car in Bottle Alley, it was being driven by a policeman. I wasn’t sure where he was going as the car had gone by the time we got to the end, maybe he did it for a dare? Admittedly we stopped for lunch at a new place in the Alley.

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The food was really nice at ‘Starsky and Hatch’, though quite expensive; gentrification is here to stay I guess, hard to roll back wanting people to spend money. Eleanor’s hair reminded me it was windy (it’s always windy in St Leonards) and quite cool as we waited for lunch.

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We strolled past the closed pier (why is it closed?),

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and past Hasting Beach to the old town. With the aid of some judicious tweaking in Lightroom, the beach almost looks like a 1960s postcard.

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Not a lot seems to have changed in either the old or the new town, George St was absolutely rammed in places and it felt like there were fewer shops and more eating/drink establishments, which is probably a good thing for the local economy. Not that we come here much ourselves, we tend to spend money closer to home. There were a few empty shop fronts though that is not unusual this time of year.

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We stopped for a drink and some chips at a pub in Queens Rd, before taking an even slower walk back to St Leonards, stopping for a further drink at Graze. I’m glad Graze made it through the lockdowns, on a good day it’s one of my favourite places for a quiet glass of usually good wine. We were meeting some friends in their flat in Marine Court, my favourite building in St Leonards, though I wouldn’t want to live there due to the service charges and all the maintenance issues.

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The building still has some of the original 30s fittings and I love the common area interiors, faded as they are. I love this font.

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I took a couple of photos from our friend’s front deck that overlooks the sea, and one from their kitchen over the houses behind. The view from the desk is one of the best in St Leonards.

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Some other friends joined us and we all left to go to a gallery opening of an artist friend of our hosts. Eleanor and I stayed briefly before heading off to catch the train back to London. The train was fine, but there were issues with the Tube at London Bridge so we walked up to Liverpool St (knackered) and I took one final photo for the day as we crossed the Thames.

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Reflecting back on the day, both on the train back to London and over the week since, I think it is fair to say I can barely wait to get back to St Leonards, to the sea, to less crowded streets, significantly less air pollution and to the people and places I was enjoying before we left. I’m still hopeful I will love my flat, two more weeks and I will have the answer to that question too.

The Black Arches

January 30 2021 – Hastings.

The first month of 2021 has come to its natural conclusion, though it seemed like an extension of the last month of 2020, which in itself felt like an extension of November, which felt like…, well you know what I mean. The only real difference between the days of the last three months was how short the day was and whether it was or wasn’t raining. The days have very much blurred into one big long dreary period of not doing much at all.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago Gareth Rees, a local author, tweeted a picture of some small caves on the East Hill in Hastings, so I asked him a question regarding the location of the Black Arches, which are also on East Hill. I had read about the Black Arches in one of his books and have had a couple of attempts at finding them, neither successful. I wrote about one of those attempts here.

Gareth replied with some very good instructions and as the Arches are best found in winter when the scrub on the hillside is well down I decided to attempt to find them today. It was cold and windy with a very fine freezing drizzle, a perfect day for some local exploration.

With eyesight much better than mine the Black Arches can apparently be seen from West Hill, their location near the top of East Hill means they look like a church built into the cliff face. This photo has been taken off the internet and shows the ‘church’ quite clearly, on a sunny day when the council cleared scrub from the hillside, obviously some time ago. They do look very much like church doors.

There are virtually no references regarding the Black Arches on the internet and the single item I found links to a deleted page on a local news website. All there is is a small reference to note that the Black Arches were a deliberate prank, probably created by a local hoaxer, John Coussens’, in the 18th century to fool people into thinking there was a church on the opposing hill. It seems like a lot of work for a prank, maybe he, or someone was robbing those that made the journey over the valley?

I have been intrigued by local mysteries and was hoping today was going to be the day I found the scene of one of them.

Eleanor and I set off late morning under a thick grey sky and into the face of a windblown icy cold drizzle. Eleanor wasn’t joining me on the walk and I left her at the bulk foods shop in St Leonards as I carried on to Hastings, I had a book to collect from one of the local independent book shops and some fresh cod to get for dinner tomorrow. The fish shop is very close to the bottom of the steps up East Hill.

As this was a photo mission I had packed the big camera, which in hindsight was wise as it is weather sealed and while it wasn’t properly raining the air was very wet and I was pretty thoroughly soaked by the time I got home.

East Hill has a few memorial benches, the instructions from Gareth had me look for a path after the final bench, this one is by the side of the steps on the way up (or down) the hill. I was intrigued enough by the ‘9 TOES’ reference to take a photo.

There are hardly any people about, on a non-rainy winter day the Hastings seafront will still be busy, particularly in these Covid times when people are allowed to travel for exercise. I am sure some take the travel to extremes and drive the fifty miles from London down to the coast. On my way up the hill and on the top I didn’t see anybody.

I stopped at the top of the stairs to take a photo over the roofs of the old town and towards the houses that crowd the West Hill slope.

I also took a few photos from the top of East Hill, it looked like there was only one lone person on West Hill as well, I wonder if they had a camera and took a photo of me? I love the look of the old town and came very close to buying a flat there, though suspect it would be quite noisy at night. Unlike my flat which is dead quiet, or it is now that we have moved back into the big bedroom.

As per instructions, just passed the last bench on the hill, there was a small path heading down the cliff edge, so far so good.

I came across the back of a large rock and got quite excited thinking I had found what I was looking for, but no, when I made it around to the front it was just a large rock, with a mystery carving and Wolf in yellow spray paint.

I scrambled down a path through some brambles and dead fern, almost going over once on a slippery patch, tearing my leg through my trousers on a stubborn bit of bramble. Fortunately only raising a tiny scratch when I got home to inspect it. There was nothing there. Turning back I took another path and BOOM, there it was, the Black Arches. Found!

Yes, I know they are not very exciting. Still, it is quite amazing that anyone would go to the effort to carve those three arches into a rock face, then paint the inside black, just to fool the good people of Hastings. I appreciated his effort, less so the efforts of the graffiti folks.

I had a look for detail, trying to find the oldest legible carving, and the best I found was 1847. This face is very much straight into the prevailing wind so I imagine carvings get blunted quite quickly.

I was very happy to have finally found the Black Arches.

I walked back up to the top and then back down the steps towards Hastings, stopping to take a photo over the very quiet fishing beach. Not really a day for tourists.

Walking back through the old town I heard The Only Ones absolutely fabulous ‘Another girl, another planet’ blasting out of this pub, I stopped and listened for a moment, taking a quick photo before carrying on. 

There had been a bunch of photos pasted on this hoarding at the end of George St, but they have all come down apart from one, I had not had a chance to see the rest unfortunately. I should have taken the opportunity when we walked near here last weekend.  

I chose to extend the walk a little and head up and over West Hill again. I really like Croft Rd, one of my favourite streets in Hastings old town. I particularly like these gates and doors in the walls opening on to staircases that head up to the gardens of the houses above. I am guessing they are not regularly used anymore.  From West Hill, I walked back to the sea front and home, to warmth and dry clothes.  It was a small adventure, and very enjoyable.

Checking out my new(ish) neighbourhood.

September 05 2019 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

One of the unexpected joys in this inter-departmental civil service transfer that I am doing has been getting an extra week holiday, albeit in this case an unpaid week. Things are never simple in the civil service and one of the things that is more complex than it needs to be is moving to another department. This is especially so with all the Brexit changes going on, with staff being seconded and loaned all over the place. Nailing down a start date has not been easy in this transfer from the Cabinet Office to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. However, it is happening and I am starting my new role on Monday 9th, not the 2nd. The extra week off has been good.

I spent last week back in Walthamstow, getting a few things organised; buying some clothes for the office, attacking the mega ironing pile, all the little tasks that need to be done before starting a new job. I also went back to the office for the final time and handed in my laptop and security passes, it wasn’t time for a final farewell; that is happening over drinks next week.

I did go out and buy a new camera. I own three other cameras, none of them work properly;

  • The Panasonic GX1 I took travelling all those years ago, which no longer works, but does have three lenses.
  • The Canon 5d Mk1 that I dropped and broke the battery cover and is so old I cannot get a new one. It is also starting to be unreliable and I have been thinking of replacing it for ages.
  • The Canon G16 compact. Three scratches on the lens, one right in the middle which does effect image quality.

I have been thinking about new cameras for ages, the 5d is 12 years old, but I have lenses and other things that I could transfer to a newer version, a Mk4 or 5, but those camera bodies are over £2000. It is a magnificent camera, but it is really heavy and impractical for travelling or hiking. I looked at the Fuji and Sony systems, smaller and great quality, but I would end up spending similar amounts by the time I got lenses to go with the cheaper body from a different brand.

In the end I decided on going for another Panasonic Lumix – probably two of them in fact, one small and ‘pocket’ sized and a second, more professional version; though I can share lenses between them both, and having some already helps.

I bought a Lumix GX800 to start with, the cheaper ‘pocket’ sized camera. I like it because I can change the lens, which is unusual for a compact.

This week was going to be test week. My post from the gig on Tuesday night showed that its low light capabilities were excellent, way better than any of my previous cameras, which is a good sign. 

Which takes me back to the rest of the week. With another week off and El working I chose to come back down to the flat, with no tasks to do it was just going to be a relaxing time. Walking, reading, typing, photography was all I had planned, and pretty much all I achieved.

My first activity was to head back to Bexhill, and then walk to St Leonards. I wanted to see how long it would take. The answer is only 90 minutes, so it was closer than I thought. It is a great walk, mostly dead flat, but there are loads of small things to look at along the way. I may have to do a series of photos of the shelters along the Hastings, St Leonards and Bexhill sea fronts. I like them.

The following day I wanted to do a longer walk and get a few hills into the legs. When I was looking at the map of East Hill the other week I saw Ecclesbourne Glen Cave, and given my surface interest in caves and in the weird history of Hastings I decide that I would endeavour to find that on this walk. The cave can be found in Hastings Country Park, which I discovered today is bigger than it looks on the map.

It was pointed out during last summer’s drought that when flying over fields of drying and dying grass you could the outlines of things that had been buried or marked in the grass. Sites of ancient interest, some previously unknown became clear through the way the grass grew on top. While this is no ancient site, I have never seen football pitch markings on East Hill before, but this Google Maps image clearly shows ghost football pitches coming out of the grass. Love it.

I walked along the seafront, it was a busy day, I had thought the kids were back at school, but discovered it was a ‘teacher only’ day so there were a lot more families out than I expected. I took the steps next to the funicular up East Hill.

I particularly liked this shadow on the wall as the steps made a turn to run perpendicular to the very bright sun.

Back on East Hill I had a quick look for any sign of the Black Arches from above and was not disappointed to not find them, I had no luck when I was properly looking. The park is narrowish, so I headed off in the general direction of the cave. I was sort of hoping to find a sign, but if not I would use a map on my phone. The first sign I came across was not helpful.

As I was wondering what to do two teenagers walking a dog came down and just crossed the fence, they told me there had been landslides but it was safe and passable. I too crossed the fence; they went down a path heading towards the beach and I went along a path traversing the hillside. Looking at the map again with more knowledge and I could clearly see the landslip, it happened two or three years ago and the path was fine. Though vague in parts it was obviously well used.

I ploughed along for a while, finding different paths to follow, vaguely heading in the right direction, before finding a sign pointing to Ecclesbourne Glen, immediately followed by another saying the path was closed. Ignoring it the same as I did the last I started down the hill, seaward, eventually stumbling across the cave by good fortune rather than by good luck.

I do not know when the cave was first dug out of the small sandstone bank but I do know that in the late 19th century there were cottages nearby and gardens up near the cave. In 1893 John Hancox came to Hastings after his business had been bankrupted in London. He was given permission by one of the landowners to live in the cave, which a door was added to.

John lived in the cave until his death in 1918. He was found in the cave, which contained almost nothing. He slept on the ground and had a small fire for cooking. Though no one officially, or otherwise lives in the cave now, it is well used, and there have been numerous small fires lit in and out the front, along with the sad but not unexpected piles of empty drink bottles and food containers.

Leaving the cave I climbed back up to the main path and carried on walking through the Country Park, it is very nice up here, cool under the trees and fairly quiet, only dog walkers seem to come this way.

I walked as far as Ecclesbourne Reservoir before deciding to turn back towards Hastings. I was hungry and had no food on me. My normal careful planning, :), though I did have water, I am not completely stupid 🙂

I didn’t do a lot else with the week, took a few photos, learning how the new camera works so I don’t have to keep stopping, digging through a bag or pocket for glasses so I work out what button I pressed. I am very much liking the new camera.

Back to St Leonards

Saturday 01 September 2018 – St Leonards-on-Sea and Hastings.

I am a bit drunk as I let myself in through the front door of the airbnb I am staying in tonight. The house is Tudor, according to my host, it is the second oldest building in Hastings. I struggle with the lock, it turns 180 degrees to home. My (wine, gin, whisky) addled brain eventually works it out and I am in. Creaking quietly up to my first floor room, every board of this ancient staircase creaks. My door squeaks open and bangs closed, the latch doesn’t work. I then realise no one else is home, and the floors and doors can make whatever noise they want.

Barefoot I feel every dip and rise in the wooden floor, it’s not just the old walls that are uneven. In the morning I discover the floor has quite a slope, perhaps I was less drunk than I thought.

The room is lovely, white and wooden, noisy from the street. Headphones on I try Eno’s ambient Descreet Music as a means to sleep, whisky helping. Though morning may have regrets. Much like today almost did.

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This is my third visit to Hastings and St Leonards in recent weeks. I have offered on a flat in St Leonards. Two bedrooms, the top floor of a building built by the admiralty in 1884 to house retired senior naval officers, it is red brick and I really, really like it.  The flat is in the roof, pretty much  under the word ‘flat’ at the start of the sentence, in the picture below!

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However…….

I fell in love with the first flat I saw online when I started looking for flats in this area a few weeks ago. It is not this flat in St Leonards, but one in Hastings old town. It disappeared off the market almost immediately, before I could get down to see it. Last week it was online again.

The vendor of the St Leonards flat had yet to get back to me on my offer, it had been rather cheeky. In case if fell through I decided to come down and have a look at this Old Town flat as a plan B. El and I came down last weekend, and it is really, really nice. Just off the high street, out of the way up a steep path and view over the roofs of the old town and out to sea is magnificent. I decided I would offer on it as well and see how things worked out.

As this place is so close to the centre of old town nightlife I thought it wise to come down for a Friday night, find an AirBnB nearby and see, and hear, what it is like of evening. IS it really noisy? Is there closing time trouble? Junkies and drunks sleeping in doorways etc.

After booking an old town AirBnB the St Leonards vendor accepted my offer, I gave the Hastings old Town vendor a chance to do the same, but they didn’t so St Leonards here I come. My first property purchase in the UK. Assuming all goes through of course.

Even though staying in the old town is not relevant I went ahead anyway. St Leonards does not have a lot of night life so the old town, a 30 minute walk away is where we would likely go anyway.

I caught the train from London after work, sneaking off slightly early and getting a train from Victoria Station just before 4:00. The Victoria to Hastings line is the slowest of the three from central London, taking just under two hours. It is a direct train, but it stops in a lot of places. I like trains so was not unhappy with the trip and I should get used to it.

However….

Walking alone out of Hastings station into the early evening sunlight I was overcome with a wave of despondency. Why was I buying here? Not wanting to come across sounding like a complete middle class snob, but it was all so chav. Street drinkers, bad tattoos, run down cars, smokers in doorways. I know everywhere is like this, but I want it to feel like I am perpetually on holiday when I come here. I had a moment of regretting buying here, even though the weather is nice, it just feels a bit grim in this part of Hastings. My steps were heavy as I made my way down from the station to the sea front.

As soon as I hit the sea, my mood lightened. Walking along the promenade towards the old town and watching the skates and bmxers, the dog walkers and the families strolling I knew that I had made the right call. The brief flash of regret was regretted and disposed of.

I dumped my bag in my room in the creaky old AirBnB, after a quick chat with the owners I made my way out the door again. They have lived here for five years and are now looking to move to St Leonards themselves, somewhere quieter.

Tonight is the opening of Coastal Currents, a month long annual art event in Hastings and St Lenoards. The opening party is free and is being held in the big waterfront bar where I spent my first evening last time I came down. It is early evening am hungry, I checked out the pier, but didn’t fancy eating here. I did stop for a glass of wine and to take a few photos up the beach.

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I was warned by the BnB hosts that I might find it hard getting a table in any of the eating places. It is the last weekend of the holidays, the weather it lovely and the art festival opening is on. They were right. By the time I had walked to St Leonards, taken a walk by my flat to see what the street was like on a Friday night (dead) there were no table at any of the cafes. I made my way back to the sea front and stopped in to the Goat Ledge cafe for another glass of wine and an excellent fish burger and fries. It was pretty packed, but it was nice sitting on the beach listening to the dark sea behind me.

As I was leaving a load of people on brightly lit bikes riding from Hastings pier to the opening party stopped in at the cafe. I took a few photos.

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I was lured in to the opening party by the wonderful sounds of Velvet Underground on the sound system, though discovered this was just a trap, once I had bought a gin and tonic the music had turned to some terrible house music. Not knowing anyone here I didn’t hang around for long before walking back to Hastings. There are some lovely Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian buildings along here, slowly being repainted and during the day it is quite nice, the evening equally so.

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As I arrived in the Hastings new town I heard The Ruts, ‘Babylons Burning’ being played loudly by a cover band from the local ‘biker’ bar, crossing the road I stopped in for a look, just as the band finished. The pub is not my cup of tea, but I could see myself in there for a punk rock covers band on the odd and right occasion. I put a tick in the positive box and walked on. Two doors up from my BnB there was another pub, there are a lot of pubs here, all open and doing business, another good sign. This pub had a blues band going, knowing I would not be able to sleep and as it was close to throwing out time I ordered a Jamesons and sat at the back and enjoyed their last couple of songs. At last orders I had one more drink and basically waited till the place shut before heading to my room, and then not sleeping for a while.

I was up early on Saturday and off before 9:00, stopping for an excellent coffee on the pier and an OK fry-up in a greasy spoon cafe. 

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I walked back to St Leonards, past the flat for another look, it is just as quiet today. I would have expected nothing else. The flat is in Helena Court, at the top of Pevensey Road, a ten minute walk up a hill from St Leonards station and the main shopping streets. It is not somewhere you would go unless you needed to. There are a lot of hills here.  Once I have settled and the flat is mine, I will post some photos of the interior.

There is a lot happening in St Leonards, it is another glorious day, loads of people about, there is street market in Kings Rd, the cafes are bursting, there is chatter and smiles. I stopped at a specialist photography gallery which had an exhibition of photos of David Bowie and talked to the owner for a while. Everyone I have met here has been nice.

I think I will be happy here !

Flat Hunting, St Leonards version

Wednesday 25 July 2018 – St Leonards and Hastings.

Oh I do want to be by the seaside.

I know I have banged on about it often enough over the past couple of years, but I have finally done it. I have found a flat I want to buy!

After months of procrastination, mind-changing (and laziness) I took three days off work this week to use up the last of my annual leave allocation. I spent the time in St Leonards and Hastings looking at flats. I eliminated Hastings during the week and decided to focus on one area and not two. I did the consult the font of all knowledge on things local; the ‘Down From London (DFL)’ BookFace group before making that decision. Though both places have their social issues; this is quite a deprived part of Britain, St Leonards just seems quieter, and that is important to me.

I arranged four flat viewings through various agents for Tuesday and took the train down on Monday morning, planning to spend those days looking round the area, doing some writing, photo editing and generally catching up. I didn’t too much of the writing and editing and catching up, but I did read most of a book.

I booked myself in to a lovely Victorian B and B on Pevensey St as two of the flats I wanted to view were in the street, so it made sense to stay in the area. The other two were on Warrior Square, which I think will just be too noisy. Though one of those Warrior Square flats was lovely. The B and B was brilliant, full or Victoriana, Russian and English religious icons and symbols from China and the far east. The owners were very well travelled and I was a bit jealous of all the things they have accumulated on their travels, though the house is very busy.

As it is a Victorian B and B there is no TV (thankfully there is wi-fi J ) and no shower. I was forced to lie in a bath each night and read my book, something I very much enjoyed.

On Monday night I had dinner and a glass of wine at Azur, a beach side restaurant and bar, it was OK, but it did have a great view though!

After breakfast on Tuesday I stopped for a great coffee at Graze. Key for me in enjoying this as a place to buy is to find one or two places that I can stop for coffee or a glass of wine, as well as having the option for a more traditional pint-of-beer style boozer pub. I have to have places that cater for me. Graze had a very good wine menu and I went there later in the evening for dinner, and again for more wine on Wednesday. One box ticked.

Tuesday I was meeting an ex-work colleague for lunch about three miles out of town, along the very long seafront, towards Bexhill. It was a glorious day and perfect for a walk. I took pictures as you would expect.

A lot of photos…

I even took some images that may (or not turn up in the exhibition I have in October. I have decided to print some really large (A1) prints of close-ups of plants with huge amounts of blurred backgrounds. I brought the big old Canon 5d with me so I would be forced to actually take photos seeing as I was lugging such a weight around.

I was knackered after a very hot walk so caught the bus back to Hastings after lunch. With some food and water inside and the lunch time and bus ride sit down I was re-energised and took a walk around The Stade. The Stade means ‘landing place’ in the ancient Saxon language and contains the largest beach launched fishing fleet in the Europe. It is a pretty cool place, full of old and new fishing boats, ancient and not so ancient tractors and bulldozers used to move the boats into and out of the water. Photographically it is a great spot, and another reason I have chosen this as a place to live, even if it is just part time.

Wednesday was flat viewing day, I didn’t have a lot of time for much else, I visited a couple of local shops to chat to the owners. There are a number of small independent shops around St Leonards and Hastings, lots of antique shops, second hand places, a great wine / beer shop and I even discovered a good record shop. It is all looking up. Everyone I spoke to was positive about the place, it is on the up. Though incomers like me are not 100% welcome, or so I understand. I saw no negativity.

The good news is I really liked one of the flats, it pushed all my buttons and I loved it when i walked in the door. Pending a visit at the weekend with Eleanor I will offer, I really value her opinion and she will see the things I miss and view it with head and not heart!

I did not do too much after the viewings, it is tiring looking at flats. After a rest I walked down to the waterfront for lunch at one of the beach cafes. I tried Goat Ledge and had the best fish-finger sandwich ever, another bonus find! After lunch (and a respectable gap, I was a boy scout and know you cannot go swimming immediately after eating) I took to the sea. It was not too bad. It is a pebble beach, and stretches for miles in each direction. It never gets crowded!

In the evening I met up with some of the Bookface group I am a member of and went to see a local light jazz singer perform at an album launch in one of the pubs in Hastings Old Town. The music was tiresome, but it was good to meet and chat to others who have made the move down from London, and see that there is some nightlife as well. The pub was packed, as were some of the others.

Thursday, I was back in the car and back to London. Mission accomplished. Successfully. I liked St Leonards and Hastings.

PS

El and I came back down the following Saturday, she loved the place as much as me, though pointed out it needed a lick of paint, and a bit of love. I never noticed the paint. I have offered, it has been accepted and I am now in the process of purchasing.

PPS

I seem to have lost interest in the blog in the last few weeks, I have huge backlog of things I would blog if I had the time and the motivation, but it is waning. This wont be the final post. I am thinking of just doing some photo posts for a bit until I catch up with myself. I also want to write better, and that takes time and I have to be in the right headspace, somewhere I do not find myself in very often these days.

There will be more, maybe once I have moved.

Thanks to those who read me. xxx

South Coast Road Trip-Part 2

Wednesday 12 – Thursday 13 July 2017 – Hampshire and East Sussex, England.

We asked for a slightly later breakfast this morning, we had a much shorter day of driving than on day one.  The better news was the weather was much improved on yesterday.

I wanted to show Eleanor one of my favourite parts of the south coast, a place I was surprised she had never been to before. Durdle Dor. I even like the driving around here, some nice villages and lovely countryside; even if a large part of southern Dorset is a series of large army bases.

We were shocked (sadly, not really) at the price of the car park at Durdle Dor, but it is such a lovely place, that it is was worth the cost. I will come back here for sunrise again one day.

Almost, but not quite as nice is Man O’ War Bay, the beach next to Durdle Dor.

For me however, the main event is that wonderful arch of Durdle Dor, just lovely. The steps down to the beach were gone last times I was there, washed away in a storm. It looks like at least one other set of steps had been partly washed away since as well, though there are more there now. I walked down to take a couple of photos, though El stayed at the half way  point as it was very muddy and wet,  and very slippery after the heavy rain yesterday.

Walking back up to the car park whetted our appetite so we stopped in nearby Swanage for a Dorset cream tea. With coffee, in my case. I sort of like Swanage, it was really busy today, which was a good sign, but with no rail connection it would never be on our list of places to buy.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, we crossed Poole Harbour on the small ferry, from very very expensive Studlands to very very expensive Sandbanks, and then took a slow crawl through Bournemouth.

We stopped for a leg stretch and a walk at Mudeford, 

Before driving the last few miles to Milford-on-Sea where we had a room in a B & B booked for the night.

We arrived quite early so stopped for a drink in a very modern wine bar, before taking the two minutes to enjoy the sights of the town. It is not big, but it is quite nice.

After checking in and taking a wee rest we walked down to the cliff tops, with their amazing views up the Dorset coast and over to the Isle of Wight. Though I have no photo of the island.

The sea front was quite extensively damaged last winter and had recently been rebuilt and reopened. We later understood, not that this was not entirely popular with all. Even though the beach is pebble I still quite like it.

Our B & B hosts had forgotten we were coming and had bought tickets to see Coldplay in London. Coldplay of all people. Luckily they had remembered at the last minute and had arranged for a nearby friend to look after us, whew! We really liked Milford-on-Sea, and our ‘host’ advised us of a few places to try for an evening meal. In the end we went back to ‘The Cave’, where we had our afternoon glass of wine. They serve tapas in the evening, which suited us just fine. They were very nice too, though London prices. It was a good evening though.

Thursday was another big driving day, but we did take a lie in before eating a slightly smaller than normal B & B breakfast. We were offered the full works, but a whole week of full English breakfasts would be too much! On the way we stopped in nearby Lymington for a look around, it is three miles from Milford-on-Sea and has a mainline station to London, it is not a bad looking town, lots of shops, and a very nice looking deli, that served what was possibly the worst coffee of the trip. This was my third bad coffee since leaving London. Maybe it is time to review the leaving London plan! It was so bad I threw it away.

We spent the next three or so hours in the car, bypassing Southampton and Portsmouth. I wanted to stop at Bognor Regis, just because of the name, I am sure I went there as a child, something I will check with mum when she is here. We didn’t stop, nor did we stop in Worthing, Brighton or Hove. We drove past them all. We planned to stop in Eastbourne, as we have heard it is quite nice, however the traffic was bad and I could not find anywhere to park and, well I was getting sick of driving.

We did stop in Bexhill for a leg stretch, I wanted to see the famous De La Warr Pavilion, which was totally underwhelming from the road, so we drove on past. The pavilion was built in 1935 and is considered Britain’s first modernist building. I know it from the first book in the late Spike Milligan’s war memoirs – ‘Adolf Hitler, my part in is downfall’, one of the funniest books I have ever read.

We carried on up the coast to Hastings. The coastal area from Bexhill up, is slowly being renovated, tidied up and gentrified. I like it, it is a nice bit of coast. Though with slow train routes in to London, and a still slightly ‘chavy’ reputation, it is not quite us, yet. We stopped in Hastings for a walk, primarily as I found somewhere to park with very little faffing and stress. The area around the old town is quite nice, we particularly liked the old fishing net stores on the seafront. A place to come back to.

Our final stop for the day was the B & B, on the edge of another no shop village, Fairlight, a few miles north of Hastings. Another lovely old building, the most expensive room of the trip, and by far the best. A magnificent shower and a big old claw foot bath. 

There was nowhere in walking distance for dinner so we drove to one of the local and recommended pubs for some food.  We took a detour on the way to buy some wine from the closest shop in Winchelsea-on-Sea. Our first choice pub, over the road from the shop was not serving food so we turned to choice too in nearby Pett.  We did on the massive sea walls near Winchelsea, for a view out over the sea.

After dinner we retired back to the room, had a glass of wine and went to bed early, and knackered.