Friday, 30 March 2012

Best sea-view cafe in Hastings?

View from Debenhams Cafe

Of course, I am leaving out the Jerwood - excellent if you want a view of the rusty old iron and broken crates on the Fishing Beach, the White Rock Hotel - too near the road, and the Azur.... this is the view from Debenhams cafe, an unexploited potential gem.  If the store were prepared to invest a bit in the cafe, it would be an excellent way of drawing more customers in.  As it is, the windows don't open, and the sun blazes in making the place uncomfortably hot.  The menu is not exactly gastro either.  (This afternoon I had a cup of Earl Grey tea. It came with the bag separate from the pot of hot water, like you get in America or something, and then believe it or not the tea-bag was an American product. Why?)

I don't think Hastings and St Leonard's have enough sea-side cafes and bars - it is partly the geography, with the main road cutting off the shops on the sea-front, but Eastbourne and Brighton have managed it.

 Then of course there is supposed to be the new Lido - I'll believe that when I see it!  I see from this morning's local paper that it will now not be built until summer 2013 because of some water tank underneath the old Bathing Pool site going septic or some such nonsense.  Southern Water are a disgrace - I read that the tank discharges 'septic' matter onto the beach and into the sea.  How long would they have left that without taking any action?  How come it is OK to leave it until Summer 2013 to put it right?

I wish I could have seen the Bathing Pool before it was demolished.  The Philosopher and I love old Lidos.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Hastings Battleaxe in Battle

Two trips to Battle in two days:  quick look through the clothes shops (see earlier post) to see if there were any new Mad Battleaxe spring looks with gold lurex laces, fringy bits hanging off etc.  Needless to say there was loads of choice, garments further enhanced with wild print fabric for this season's look.  Who else shops there apart from me? There must be only a finite number of mad old ladies/witches/over-age goths in East Sussex.

For the second trip, a long walk round Battle Great Wood with picnic for lunch. Nerdy moment coming now - I have just got the OutDoors GB app for my iphone.  You have to pay a bit to download the large-scale OS maps but it is well worth it.  Normally, on a woodland walk like that with loads of paths we would end up thrashing through the undergrowth, hot, sweaty and lost, but with this app - wow, it was brilliant.  Sun was boiling hot.  Lovely celandines, wood anenomies (that does not look right!) and primroses.  However, much of the wood was too coniferous for our liking, a bit samey.

Our route brought us out nicely near Burstow and Hewett - it was the picture sale, which we always like to pop into.  Goodness, you get some strange types at those sales - dealers, I guess, who make undertakers look cheerful.  I always try to look insanely enthusiastic when I bid, in the hope that others will see a mad woman and give up bidding against me.... Mind you, no disrespect to Burstows, but many of the pictures are very dull - wispy Victorian landscape watercolours with sheep walking down a path..... Take it from me, pictures of dogs and ships are the best sellers.

We had done a bit of panic petrol buying already (one does so like to set the trend), but just got home in time to hear advice about filling up one's jerry can which one just happens to have in one's garage.  Only a Tory would be so utterly out of touch with how most people live to think such a thing, let alone say it on telly.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Hastings Half Marathon, Jerwood

Just back from week in sunny Cornwall to even sunnier Hastings.  Half Marathon this morning - they ran down the hill past our house in Harold Road.  Real festival atmosphere, all the neighbours out on their front steps, clapping the runners as they trotted past on mile 10 out of the 13 - or tore past, in the case of the three highly superior looking guys in the lead, who zipped past around 10 minutes before anyone else.  Here they are, zooming past the surgery.
Hastings Half Marathon
I don't know who won, but all respect.  All respect also to all the people who settled down on the edge of the pavements to clap every runner that passed - and there were thousands of them.

Then down to town for our first look at the Jerwood.  Paid our £2 for locals, and in we went.  As I said last week, the Rose Wylie paintings leave me colder than cold.  Literally - despite it being like summer outside, the exhibition room was cold and stark, and I don't like to say it but the paintings look like the graffiti on a windy Birmingham bus shelter....  The rest of the gallery was warmer, and felt more accessible, but we felt it could have had more paintings on show.  The guy at the front desk said there were about 260 works in total in the Jerwood collection, of which 60 were hung.  However, it was quite nice to come from our week in Sennen Cove (Near Newlyn/St Ives), and see the work of the relevant artists - Christopher Wood, Nicholsons etc. Nice too to see a John Bratby - I don't think Hastings makes enough of the fact that he lived in the Cupola house (or House of the Four Winds as it was known in his day) in Harold Road.

We ate on the terrace of the Jerwood Cafe.  Very sunny and pleasant, but not for every day, I fear.... The Philosopher had gravadlax, and I had a burger served on a natty little wooden plank with a wire basket of chips.  Very tasty but not easy to cut the burger on the plank - I ended up eating it with my fingers, gherkins shooting everywhere, which did nothing for one's cool arty cred.....  The view of the fishing beach is amazing - just how many rusty metal bits, old plastic bags, broken crates and old barrels do those guys need?  Still, it is just so authentic dears.... It was also good to hear the miniature railway chugging and hooting along out of sight below the balcony rail, the shrieks of kids in the amusement park, the roar of motorbikes, the thrubbing of the drummers playing for the Marathon runners on Winkle Island.... (lovely new shiny Winkle by the way!), and the squawking of about half a million sea gulls wheeling and diving for some obscure treat by the fishing boats - ah Hastings we love it - what must the London arty types make of us?

Walked back up Harold Road past a few brave limping stragglers still hoping to finish their race -  4 hours after they started.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Hastings Battleaxe sneaks Jerwood preview...

Rose Wylie at the Jerwood

Just walked past the Jerwood... much gathering of media luvvies for the Press Preview.  Saw the featured artist herself - Rose Wylie, standing outside, looking cold,  with a couple of beardy geezers wearing crumpled linen.  I snapped two of her paintings illicitly through the window.  What do I think of these?  Not much at all, to be honest. 

Rose Wylie at the Jerwood
There are many talented, well regarded local artists in Hastings and St Leonard's.  I know I sound like some whinger writing to the 'Observer' but couldn't we have done better than this?  It will do much to confirm the locals' perception that the Jerwood is full of artsy fartsy rubbish that has no relevance for them - particularly as you can see the paintings plainly through the big front window without having to go in and pay.  (I say again that £7.00 admission for people outside Hastings is far too much.)

I understand that the Jerwood permanent collection includes a fine selection of twentieth century British art - I just hope they display it.  So often you go to one of these new flagship galleries and the permanent collection is pushed into a corner in favour of installations made of toilet roll insides and rooms full of hands-on gizmos for school kids.

Battleaxe visits Naturist Beach

Oh no dears, don't get excited - no pictures, no nudity even.  Scorching hot day yesterday, up to the Country Park - coffee at the Coastguards Tearooms - good sticky lemon cake, and a sighting of a green woodpecker in the garden -  then walk. 
     We like the Country Park but it does have some wind-pipe bursting climbs.  We decided to explore and see if we could reach the beach by Fairlight Glen, despite the notices saying access was 'not advised'.

View down from the cliffs....

     We knew it was a semi-official Naturist Beach, so it was no surprise to see quite a few folk enjoying the sun when we eventually scrambled down a very steep path and some rickety steps to the shore.  The beach is a mixture of sand and stones, but it looked lovely - warm, sheltered and peaceful.Access to the sea looked a bit rocky - you'd need swimming shoes. Do naturists wear even those?
      I suggested to the Philosopher that we might strip off and stay for a while.  We were tempted, but we had our walking gear on, no water, and nothing to sit on.  We thought we might return another day with lots of sunblock and a picnic.
     As we dragged ourselves, puffing and panting, back up the precipice we met a bloke carrying his bike down to the beach. We reflected that dedicated Naturists must be very determined. It is a long walk from the road, hard to find the place, and a punishing climb in reverse.  Some of the sunbathers (and it was hard to tell without actually looking, which one doesn't like to do...) did not appear to be young....
    As we puffed up the steep slope past the Dripping Well we thought about how Victorian walkers must have been equally determined.  I read that the place, and the nearby Lovers' Seat, was a favoured Romantic destination.  Imagine those ladies, presumably wearing whalebone stays and leather button boots, dragging yards of long black bombazine skirt through the brambles.   Here they are below. No nice footpaths tended by Park Rangers back then.

     Here is another picture of Lovers' Seat from 1925. I see there are proper steps then. Of course, the whole thing has now disappeared, finally falling into the sea in the 1970s.  I guess this is partly why people are discouraged from visiting the beach - the path disappears at intervals.

     We are off to Cornwall for a week tomorrow.  Shame we will miss the opening of the Jerwood Gallery - I am looking forward to seeing it.  Am not sure about the Admissions Price policy - it is good to have such a reduction for Hastings residents but presumably the whole point of the thing is to attract more visitors from outside the town. Anyway, we will see....

Monday, 12 March 2012

Hastings Battleaxe Granny takes a Zip....

Battleaxe on the zip wire
Still in holiday mood... not surprising, weather in Hastings is as hot as Madeira.  At least it was until about half an hour ago - just looked out of the window and mist is rolling down the valley past the house - unusual - it usually rolls in the other direction. This is me having a go on the Bembrook Road playground zip wire yesterday.  Had walked past it lots of times but it had been always occupied by moody, brooding adolescents.  This time they had lurched off to brood elsewhere, and it was empty.  Zip wire was very good, but not long and scary enough.  Note to Hastings Council - lets have some more - or how about a special Battleaxes playground?  I like the outdoor gym up there as well.

We ate fish and chips for lunch at the Mermaid Cafe at Rockanore. (I wonder if it will go all gastro when the Jerwood opens?)  I guess we have been spoilt by days lounging in the sophisticated cafe bars of Funchal, but really it was like a madhouse.  The service was so slow we nearly died - they continually serve the take-aways before the diners, and we kept on getting gassed by motorcycle exhaust fumes, deafened by barking dogs and shrieking kids.... It is a shame because the fish and chips are really excellent.

Today we went for posh coffee at the Winchelsea Farm Shop (home made Battenburg cake), followed by a fabulous walk at Rye Harbour.  Lots of birds to be seen.  We pestered some poor guy who was presumably hoping to have a peaceful twitch in one of the hides, and he very kindly helped us identify terns, a redshank, avocets, plovers.  Walking along we saw male lapwings doing their weird bat-like display flight.  Who needs Madeira?

Sunday, 11 March 2012

From Funchal to Hastings.....Madeira holiday

Mosaic paving in Funchal
Just returned from a fantastic week in Madeira.  Funchal is not unlike Hastings - perched on hills dropping down to the sea - and in fact the view of Hastings Old Town from the West Hill is better than Madeira...  No litter, and no dog poo in Funchal!  Here is an idea for Hastings, to liven up that Stade open space I was moaning about a couple of weeks ago.  In Funchal all the pavements and open spaces are paved with mosaic-like black and white chippings - the white is marble I presume.  There is a variety of striking patterns and pictures - see photo.  A design like this would look really good in Hastings - you could even make a picture of the Net Huts in black on white.
   Madeira is very beautiful - fabulous gardens. Here are some flowers:

Friday, 2 March 2012

Come on Hastings - ditch that crazy Link Road!

Excuse this presumption from a Hastings newcomer, but I just thought I'd write this little rant about the proposed new Hastings-Bexhill Link Road before going on holiday.

Today we were trundling along the Ridge at 25 mph behind a queue of traffic with a learner at the head of it.  What on earth can anyone be thinking of if they are imagining diverting more traffic onto the Ridge, from the proposed new Link Road, to join up with the Rye Road at Ore?  The Ridge is a poor road, and at maximum capacity now.  Many residential roads join it, plus the Conquest Hospital, the Fire Station, at least 3 schools, the Crematorium, the Industrial Estate... crrazy...

Then don't get me started on that idiotic junction where the Ridge and A21 cross - presumably, in the planners' brave new world, people would want to go whirling off there for the A21. Massive works would need to be done there to enable traffic to run smoothly.  And when they get onto the A21 - wow - what a cracking fast road that is!

Who is actually going to use the Link Road?  Sure, the road between Hastings and Bexhill is congested, but I guess most of the travellers are making short local journeys.  They are not going to want to go out of their way round the new road.  I really can't see how the Link Road will make the slightest difference to that congestion.

Cynically, one assumes that the real thinking behind the new road is solely about opening up new land for development, and that the pot of money available is from a fund earmarked for this purpose.  Increased amenities for local people are of no real significance, and I fear that those who try and sell us these supposed benefits are not telling the whole truth.....

It would seem to make clear sense that in order to realistically attract more development to Hastings, the first job must be to radically improve the A21.  The town will remain a deprived backwater until/unless this is done. (Don't get me wrong - we chose Hastings because it is a backwater! We love it!)

In Birmingham, we were friends with Professor Alan Wenban-Smith, who coincidentally was commissioned to report on the viability of the new Link Road, and who came out firmly against it.   He tells me that moves are still very much afoot to put the Link Road funding to better use.  Let us hope that the local authority/government or whoever has to make the final decision has the vision to come up with these better uses.....

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Sun and fossils at Pett Level

What a glorious sunny day today! 

We went down to Pett Level - it was low tide, so we walked along the beach.  I had read somewhere that it is possible to walk all along the beach from Pett to Hastings - about 4 miles, looking at the interesting bird life, rock formations, dinosaur footprints, naturists etc.  We weren't planning to do the walk today, just explore how rocky it was.  We walked at least a mile along, past Fairlight.  It was totally quiet.  We met one man and his funny little dog on our way out - a fossil hunter, and another on our way back, but didn't see a living soul for most of the time.

Does the picture show a fossilised fish?  It looks very like it.  We also saw what looked like a skeleton of something large, maybe some dinosaur poo, and possibly a footprint but we could have imagined them.

The rocks are great - many layered in brown, black, grey red and beige like liquorice allsorts. It seems a little sad that there is no access to the beach from Fairlight - there is one place where the cliffs dips right down to the sea, but is says 'Private Property' very firmly.  Anyway, we'll do the walk one day.

After several hours of tramping and scrambling, the Smugglers pub at Pett Level was far too seductive.  Ended up blowing the diet on pint of Harveys, crisps (this Walkers guess the flavours business - what the hell is that about?  You'd never win the 50 grand - I thought my packet was Hoi Sin sauce, but even if you guessed that right you'd just be entered in a 'prize draw'.  And it means they won't sell you a proper packet of crisps.)  Then calamari and chips.....The pub is a bit basic, but irresistable after a cold walk.

Anyway, first thing on Saturday morning we are off to Madeira for a week.  Knowing our luck it will probably be the coldest spring they have had for 50 years or something, while it is scorching here....