124: Hastings

OS Explorer map 124, Hastings & Bexhill: Battle & Robertsbridge – I do not own this map, but had visited before starting this blog. Visited again for this post 15th April 2022.

Google Maps locaton links: Hastings, St Leonards on Sea, Fairlight

Currently, my working arrangement for my main job is that I work two days per week in the London office – usually Thursday and Friday – and remotely the other three. This week in Aril, I came into London on Thursday, worked for the day, and checked into a cheap hotel as usual. However, it wasn’t a usual week for a couple of reasons: firstly, I’d be staying in London through to the weekend in order to attend a conference was starting on the Friday evening. Secondly, this was the Easter weekend, meaning that the Friday (as well as the Monday) was a bank holiday. I therefore had nothing in particular to do on the Friday during the day, and so hatched a plan: I’d get on a train heading southwards and go for a seaside walk!

Getting on a Javelin at St Pancras

My day started excitingly [1] as I got on a Southeastern “Javelin” high-speed train to Ashford International, in Kent – these being the domestic trains that run on the High Speed 1 route, also used by the Eurostar trains to France, Belgium and the Netherlands. They don’t approach the 200mph top speed of the Eurostar trains, but still, 140mph is faster than any other British domestic rail service! I’d never been on a Javelin before, so that was nice. At Ashford I changed onto the Marshlink line to take me to Hastings, which is rather a sleepy little line compared to the railways all around it, being unelectrified and receiving only an hourly service in each direction.

A fast train!

Initially, my plan had been to get off at Rye, which is meant to be a beautiful little historical town, and have an explore, before getting a bus over to Fairlight Cove, where I’d start a walk that would take me to Hastings along the coast.  However, I didn’t end up doing this, because I hadn’t considered that, being a bank holiday, the buses were running to a Sunday timetable: the 101 Rye-Hastings bus [2] was therefore running only ever 2 hours instead of hourly, which together with the train times ended up meaning I couldn’t comfortably have time to look around Rye, get the bus, and then complete my walk in a suitably leisurely fashion while still getting back to London in time for the start of the conference.

Sheepy Sussex countryside seen from the Marshlink line

I therefore instead stayed on the train through to Hastings, and planned to do a slightly shorter version of my walk in reverse, heading only to Fairlight village instead of the slightly further Fairlight Cove. From there I’d get the bus back to Hastings to travel to London. Fortunately, this would be permissible under my existing train ticket, an “any route permitted” London Terminals to Rye Super Off-Peak Return. The reason for this is that for travelling to Rye from London, travelling either via Ashford on HS1, or via Hastings and the line to Charing Cross are permitted routes. Additionally, it’s permitted to break your journey an unlimited number of times on the return portion of an Off-Peak Return. I therefore travelled to Rye as planned, and then when I stayed on the train at that point, continuing to to Hastings, had immediately started the return leg to London via a different permitted route. At Hastings, I left the station, breaking my journey while I did my exploring and walking, then recommenced it later to travel back to London!

Some typical Hastings seafront cafés

Getting off at Hastings, I walked eastwards along the seafront, which was already very busy at 10am. It was a pretty quintessential English seaside resort town seafront: a pier, arcades, shops selling fridge magnets and little buckets and spades, little seafood stands of the whelks and jellied eels variety, and of course a mind-boggling number of fish and chip shops and independent cheap restaurants and cafés of the laminated-menu variety. I amused myself by skimming every chip shop menu looking at what veggie options were available: in some places it would be just chips, onion rings and mushy peas, but others looked much better: not just veggie burgers and garlic mushrooms, but cheese and onion pies/pasties, spring rolls, and in one case, imitation fish!

View from the top of East Hill, looking westwards across Hastings, with West Hill visible, with its matching funicular to the one I got, and the ruined Hastings Castle on top!

As I neared the town’s seafront, I treated myself to a trip up the East Hill Cliff Railway, one of Hastings’s two funiculars, to take me up to the start of the Hastings Country Park. From here, my walk was in the countryside, following the seafront eastwards for around 4 miles to the village of Fairlight, where I’d get the bus back to Hastings.

Despite my having cut out half of the first hill on the cliff railway, the way was still very hilly: my path would descend into valleys with little beaches at the bottom, then up one or two hundred metres before going down into the next one – it was rather strenuous going, especially since it was a hot and sunny day.

Nevertheless, it was a really nice walk – the sunny day made the views beautiful; the sun and sky being practically the same deep blue such that they’re quite hard to see the boundary between in some of my photos!

I reached Fairlight a couple of hours later, having taken a couple of breaks along the way, and had half an hour or so to wait for my bus, which I did in a sheltered corner of the village’s churchyard. Returning to Hastings, I visited one of the aforementioned multitude of chippies and got myself a spring roll with chips, cheese and curry sauce, which went down most welcomely after my walk. From there, it was back to the station and on my train to London. A great, if somewhat tiring, day out before my conference that evening!

Previous visits

Regular readers may recall that in summer 2018 I went on a trip to the Isle of Harris with my friends Cheremy, Queenie, Vesper, Millicent and Erithacus; this being at that time the latest in a series of trips that group of us made each summer: the Holy Island Trek in 2016, Paris in 2017, Harris in 2018. The following year, in summer 2019, we went to the Netherlands for a couple of weeks.

I came to this map area at the beginning of this trip, when we congregated at Queenie’s family home is in St-Leonards-on-Sea to stay the night, before we’d depart the next morning to get the Eurotunnel over to the Continent.

Cheremy tries out the accommodation at Queenie’s house!

Now, you may notice an oddity here: if I was already writing this blog at the time of the Harris trip in 2018, why did I not post about this map area when I visited it in 2019? The answer: I don’t know! An oversight, clearly. Though we didn’t do very much on that short visit: just chatted in Queenie’s kitchen for a little while, slept, breakfasted and left – so perhaps I just thought it wasn’t worth it.

I make the acquaintance of Queenie’s dog, Noodle

I had visited this map area once before this, though I don’t remember exactly when. My dad’s business is running nursing homes, and one of the homes he managed at one point is in St Leonards. I believe that on one occasion when my dad was going down there, probably while I was still at school, he took me with him, we stayed in a hotel and wandered around the town. However, I didn’t take any photos and don’t remember much of this trip at all. I’ll therefore leave this post here!

[1] In fact, it started excitingly even before that, as I was surprised to find this Travelodge was one of the better-equipped ones, and offered a cooked breakfast in its restaurant. Admittedly the quality wasn’t great, but they did have vegetarian sausages, and I was able to make up for quality with quantity, which served me well for my walking later in the day!

[2] Just a few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see a blog post about this service, and a few related ones, on the service come up in a post on the blog busandtrainuser, which I’ve been enjoying keeping up with over the last few months.

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