A break away? Really? Yes indeed, this Christmas Battleaxe and Philosopher joined friends Jan and Tom at Bannatynes Hotel in Hastings for the festive period. We went on Christmas Eve and came back Boxing Day. It was absolutely excellent. Do you realise, Battleaxe has cooked some form of Christmas dinner every year, with only two exceptions, since her first marriage in 1974. That is nearly 50 years…
First thing, let me apologise for the lack of photos. I kept on forgetting to take any, which probably shows we enjoyed ourselves, and the only ones I took of us four were supremely unflattering, despite the fact we had dressed ourselves up brilliantly. Nearly 50 years? Yes. One time we went to my first husband’s parents when my daughter was a baby, and one time to my sister. That’s it. All those dinners… One husband, then a period of ‘waifs and strays’ Christmas dinners, then another husband, lots of family Christmases and now on our own. Will I ever cook all that stuff again? Who knows…
Bannatynes is literally just up the road from us – along the Ridge. We got a good deal because Tom is a member there. Of course, I’ve been before, for lunches and just recently, for friend Shirley’s 80th birthday tea. I belonged to the Health Club for a year, but never liked it – that’s another story. On Christmas Eve it felt strange, unsettling, as if we were going nowhere real, with the result that we forgot things and Philosopher had to go back home again. It felt really very odd indeed. I left my phone in the car and thought I’d lost it, then locked myself out of our room when I went to find Jan to ask her to call Philosopher… then remembered I could use ‘Find My’ to locate the phone on the Ipad, and sure enough there was the phone, trundling along the Ridge in the car… oh what jolly japes. At first, I think all of us wondered if we were doing the right thing.
Our room was very warm and comfortable, with a view of the garden. In fact the whole hotel was warm – too warm for us fuel-economising pensioners! But it was very cosy and welcoming. I’d really like to commend the staff – without exception they were unfailingly cheerful, friendly and efficient without being over-intrusive. There were also enough of them around – rare for these days. It was all especially good when you consider all of them were working over Christmas. I hope they got paid well for it.
On our first evening we had carol singing round the tree – with an actual choir, which was unexpected. We were told they were from Opera South-East. Anyway, they were good. It also gave us our first sight of our fellow guests. They turned out to be a total mixture – of ages, income brackets and ethnic origins. They looked OK but we didn’t have anything to do with them – we four were happy on our own. Jan and Tom are good company. We had cocktails and canapes, then scoffed our way through a three-course meal. Even though we had ordered the meal early – at 6.30, it knackered us all up. I find that one of the worst things about getting older is no longer appreciating large evening meals with alcoholic accompaniment… at least, I still enjoy them, but not the after-effects. None of us slept well, even though the beds were wonderfully comfy.
On Christmas morning Philosopher and I opened our Christmas stockings, which we had brought from home. The hotel also gave us a stocking! Then, quelle surprise, a big hotel breakfast. The whole experience was a bit like being on a mini-cruise… a total break from reality and food, food and more food!
After, we two went out for an explore round Beauport Park. It was a dark, damp and misty morning… It’s a strange place. Formerly all part of one big estate – containing all sorts of Roman remains, it now includes a residential caravan park and a golf course as well as the Bannatyne Hotel and its health club complex. But there is still plenty of wooded area to explore. We found it difficult to find suitable paths – the map was misleading. First, we stumbled across the Golf Club. The course itself seemed OK, but the buildings looked semi-derelict. Then we ended up wandering down a private road into what advertised itself as a riding school. There was a derelict building with what looked like the remains of a swimming-pool, a massive muddy cleared area full of broken-down horse boxes and rusty old tractors, like a breakers yard, and a huge building partly hidden by the trees. We heard loud barking from what sounded like large dogs, and beat a hasty retreat to the safety of the hotel garden.
The whole area felt a bit spooky. On Googling it up, the big building we saw is apparently one of the biggest indoor riding arenas in the South-East. But the riding school does not advertise itself, and the website tells you nothing. The whole estate has an interesting and chequered history. See this. There is a well-preserved Roman Bath house somewhere by the golf course, now reburied because nobody was willing to take it on and open it to the public. The original C18 Beauport House was burnt to the ground and rebuilt as a hotel in the 1920s. In WW2 the Canadian Army built a ‘citadel’ under the hotel, intended to house a Resistance Army that would have fought the Germans in the event of a successful invasion. We are not told if any of it remains…
I also read that the earliest escapade of the ‘Piltdown Man’ forger was the acquisition of a bogus Roman statuette, supposedly from Beauport Park. I can’t find that reference again. (Update, Philosopher has just found another reference to the Piltdown Forger, Charles Dawson. Turns out he was a founder of the Hastings and St Leonards Museum Association. Who knew.) I also read a macabre piece (see here) about a lonely child, born in 1816, who had a stone castle built for his colony of guinea-pigs in the gardens of the house.
Then, after coffee and shortbread biscuits, we joined Jan and Tom in their room for more present opening and a bottle of champagne. Then it was time to go down for lunch… usual Christmas food, very good too and masses of it, leading us all to retire to our beds for the rest of the afternoon!
Christmas evening they laid on a buffet supper. Plenty of cheese, salads and cold stuff, but also soup and beef stew and dumplings! No chance of that! We all slept better, ready for our final hotel breakfast!
Battleaxe and Philosopher took a last turn round the garden, looking for the remains of the guinea-pig castle, which were supposedly still visible. Needless to say we found nothing. The hotel itself was like an oasis of comfort, warmth and sanity in the middle of slightly mysterious surroundings.
All in all, it was a lovely Christmas experience. I can’t fault it, and readers will know that Battleaxe is fussy. So, let’s recommend Chistmas at Bannatynes, Hastings.
Goodness me, it’s New Year’s Eve! Time to stay in, watch a movie and get on with my Christmas jigsaw…
A very Happy New Year to everyone from Hastings Battleaxe!