A walk to Hastings Country Park

From our house, we can walk up to, and through, the Hastings Country Park. You can see that it was a perfect walking morning, so we went for a five mile circuit, planning to break our journey for coffee and cake at the Coastguards Tea Rooms. When the weather is like this, who would want to be anywhere else but right here?

Sunny morning in the Country Park – this view is within easy walking distance for us….

     We are so lucky to have the Country Park – it is owned and maintained by Hastings Council – a colossal task for quite a small, and poor, local authority.
     The walk starts with the steepest bit – a climb up the side of the East Hill, from the unmade bit of Harold Road via the steps through Pinder’s Shaw wood.

The path up to the East Hill
Just a few of the steps – have never counted the total…

     This is an old, old footpath, pre-dating most of the roads.  Pinder’s Shaw was once the site of a famous temperance tea-garden – see the extract below, from a web-site piece on the temperance movement in Hastings:

political dimension emerged in 1884 with the foundation of the National
Temperance Federation, associated with the Liberal Party. Brewers and
publicans were generally Conservative. From the 1860s the town had
several temperance hotels, restaurants and coffee houses. There were
Temperance Hotels in St Leonards, Silverhill, Old Town, Clive Vale and
the town centre. The biggest was the Harold Hotel, Harold Gardens in
Pinders Shaw. It had an attached temperance tea garden where very
successful fêtes were attended by thousands with facilities for ‘dancing
for several hundred’. However, its proprietor William Rogers (formerly a
Good Templar) changed his mind about temperance in 1879 and applied for
a licence and again in 1880, which was refused. The magistrates were
puzzled: ‘How can a temperance man apply for a licence? they asked.
‘I’ve changed my diet,’ he replied.

The magistrates were further confused when
another former Good Templar built a public house (to be called the
Foresters Arms) in nearby Pindars Road in 1878. His licence applications
were also turned down until in 1881 the Foresters Arms was granted an
Off Licence. The area, formerly Clive Vale Farm, had been purchased by
the National Freehold Land Company, divided into plots for ‘forty
shilling freeholds’ enabling freeholders to get the vote. The land
company was founded by two Liberal MPs Cobden and Bright, who were
temperance campaigners. There might be a connection between the company
and the granting of licences in Clive Vale’.

     The old Forester’s Arms, now a house, is still standing, but I can find no trace of the Harold Hotel  or the tea garden. I don’t even know where it would have stood. It must have been a big place, to have dancing space for hundreds of people…. Presumably it must have been on a patch of flat land, but where?  It is strange that something that was around relatively recently can totally vanish. Does anyone reading this know?
      Battleaxe and Philosopher have a fine time puffing up and down these steps and round the nearby new houses delivering Labour Party leaflets. The two houses near the top must be among the most difficult to reach in Hastings, and that is saying something. Maybe the ‘entryists’, Trots, Blairites, Corbynistas, Momentum persons, revolutionaries, PLP plotters and so on would like to try a bit of footslogging round Hastings instead of spouting meaningless hot air.  Why should the likes of  us, who just want a government that attends to the needs of the people, be bothered with any of them any more?
      At the top of the hill, we walk through the Shearbarn Camp site. It would be a grand place to camp – very spacious and open, and looks very clean and civilised. We saw this great retro camper van.

      Then, the way is flat, along Barley Lane, past Fishponds Farm, and across the upper part of the Park.  We imagined ourselves as Holman Hunt and Millais, leaving Clive Vale Farm for a painting day on the cliffs. (see previous post). They were tough, those Victorians. Imagine lugging heavy wooden easels, boxes of paints etc. up that hill.
      We saw Exmoor ponies grazing near the path and Belted Galloway cattle in the distance.  Both do the job of keeping the vegetation under control.

There were many lovely wild flowers in the meadows. I am assuming that such farming that takes place is pesticide free….

Tower of Fairlight Church in the distance

      We crossed the old disused sandstone quarry. What was the stone used for?  The man in the Visitor Centre said it was mostly used for glass. Is that right? Many of the walls etc. in Hastings are built of local sandstone…. I’d like to know more about the quarry.

The old quarry

      The Coastguards Tearoom is excellent for a walking break. It’s a bit twee, but does an excellent range of cake, and good lunches as well.  Once, we saw a green woodpecker there….

The Coastguards

       After, we walked down to the cliff path via the Coastguard’s look-out, and took a circular route back to our original path. I have posted about the views before, but this time you could see clearly all the way from Beachy Head on one side, past Dungeness to Folkestone on the other.

Looking across to Folkestone
Dungeness Power Station in the distance
Looking the other way, to Beachy Head

       On the way home, we took a different route up a field path which leads to the bottom of Tile Kiln Lane and then onto Fairlight Road. A few years ago this path was alive with Painted Lady butterflies. Not one to be seen this year, very few in fact, except for this rather ragged Red Admiral.

       A lovely morning’s walk.
       However, the final pictures this time are different – a sparrowhawk on our lawn, eating, no surprise, a sparrow. We get many sparrows and their babies coming to our feeders, and our place must be the ideal fast food joint for the hawk. We have seen it on several occasions, but this time he was so busy tackling his unfortunate prey that Phiosopher had plenty of time to take photographs.



1 Comment

  1. Sophie harris
    October 8, 2022 / 6:56 pm

    Love your blog. I’m staying at Shear barn, and came across the steps and Ponders Shaw and found it very intriguing!

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