Hastings – a lovely walk on a rare sunny day

Well, what a difference a day made…..
      Here’s the sea on Saturday – I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it very hard to get good pictures of waves. No sooner is the camera primed and ready than it shakes in the wind, spray blows in my eyes, then the waves subside and reappear further down the beach. Yesterday a stinging hail shower finally put paid to my efforts.

Huge waves – St Leonard’s

      Sunday though, was gorgeous – sunny, mercifully wind free, and mild. We decided to go for a long walk – and I mean long, 5.73 miles, to be precise. We set off from our house and walked across Clive Vale to the West Hill via Bembrook Road. As soon as you clear the houses, the lovely view across the valley appears, down to sea the past the East Hill lift.

View from Bembrook Road

     Then, along Collier Road to the West Hill. For us, the view from the West Hill has a special significance. We first rented a little house in Plynlimmon Road, just by Emmanuel Church,  back in 2009 when we first thought of moving from Birmingham. Walking on the West Hill always lifted our spirits after closed-in city life, and fixed our hearts on Hastings. We still never tire of the views – out to sea, down across the Old Town, and watching all the dogs eagerly tearing about after balls.
     Had a coffee, sitting outside in the warm sun, at the West Hill Cafe, before retracing our steps and striking off along St Mary’s Terrace.

Views from the West Hill Cafe
St Mary’s Terrace

     This road must have some of the prettiest old houses in Hastings, and much gentrification has taken place since we first visited. As ever, we noted the plaques on the houses where Whistler’s mother lived, and Grey Owl. One of Robert Tressell’s homes is nearby, at the end of Plynlimmon Road.
     Then, down across the railway via Grey Owl’s Reach – or Dog Poo Retch… it always smells even if there aren’t actually any turds waiting for unwary feet on the bridge.  There is an attractive little jumble of trees, old Victorian steps and tall houses before you turn down St James’s Road. Another Grey Owl plaque here – where he was born.

Top of  St James’s Road

     Again, this little street is getting very gentrified. We looked at a house here at some transitional stage a few years ago. It was very pretty, but tiny and dark, with only two bedrooms and a little garden backing onto the railway embankment. The agent was very angry because the house was rented out to a young woman who had left the place strewn with dirty crockery, underwear etc. Apparently messes like that put some people off – we had a hard job convincing the guy that if we had liked the house we would not have been deterred by the odd bra on the floor.
     So, across the road past the railway bridge. When we first came to Hastings we enjoyed seeing how many times we could photograph the tower of Emmanuel Church from different places – this is one of them. Philosopher even sent the vicar an anonymous envelope of photos.
     We read that the Germans used this church as a landmark in the war when they flew across to bomb London – not surprising, it is so prominent.

Railway bridge with Emmanuel Church on left.

     Into Alexandra Park. It was muddy, with pools of standing water on the grass, but the grass was very green, and some trees were already coming into leaf. It was great to see so many people out in the sun enjoying themselves. Both Philosopher and I love the park – it is exceptionally attractive, and one of the unsung beauties of Hastings. Initially we were much taken with the Alexandra and Clive Vale Bowling Club, and walked along making up stories about Alexandra and Clive and family life in the Vale household….

Sunny park….

     We thought of making another pit-stop at the Eat Cafe, but it was packed, so we pressed on into the upper park. There are some amazing houses in Lower Park Road – some Victorian, and some Art Deco.
      On up by Harmer’s pool to the bottom of Shornden Reservoir.

Harmer’s Pool

A sharp little climb out onto what we call the ‘Blow-up Lawn’ so called because it is reminiscent of the park in the film. This is near the Garlic Wood which we visit each spring, and the Spooky Tree – a huge misshapen old thing that is like a fairy-tale witches home.

The ‘Blow-up’ lawn
Arriving in Bohemia

     Then, we were in Bohemia. We stopped at the North Star Inn on the corner of Clarence Road and New South Road for a restorative beer and a packet of crisps. This is a lovely old pub, run by the same people as the General Havelock down in town, but suffers from a lack of food provision. Apparently they now do a Wednesday curry night, but that does not help people hungry for a Sunday lunch!

The North Star

     Dragged ourselves out of the pub and along Horntye Road. This area needs a bit of gentrification – it is a bit run-down and grubby-looking.
     Down into Summerfields Woods. We always have trouble here because things never seem to be in the same places twice running. We know we pass the old Walled Garden, and often we pass the mysterious folly bath spring, but often we end up blundering through the trees and ending up either higher or lower than we want to be. For some reason, I also find the wood a bit spooky – it feels threatening. Today, was no exception – and of course it was very muddy and slippery. We were heading for the Museum, but ended up scrambling out of the wood much higher up, at the back of the Travelodge.

Spooky Summerfields Wood

They had a nice exhibition of flower and plant paintings at the Museum, and also some lovely paintings illustrating the four seasons from the permanent collection, but I think we were a bit too tired to do it justice. That Art Gallery and Museum is another hidden Hastings gem – see previous blog.

A lovely summery scene: The Flower Market, Violet Vicat Cole, Hastings Museum

Then, down Bohemia Road, down Cambridge Road into town. We ate our lunch at Ada, the Turkish place on Robertson Street. We enjoy practising our Turkish on the poor staff – often they can’t understand us – we hope it is because they have a regional, probably Turkish Cypriot, accent, and not because we are hopeless.
    Caught the bus home. Hastings was absolutely packed – the seafront looked like a summer day, the crazy golf was thronged – people obviously desperate to get out and enjoy the good weather.
    This is a long blog post for a long walk!

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