Sunday, 28 August 2016

Boulogne-sur-Mer...phew, quelle scorcher.

Alors, sacre bleu, what a week. As I already mentioned, it was Grand Daughter week, and Battleaxe and Philosopher bravely agreed to take her on a short visit to France. Readers will already know that she is not quite as other young people are.....
Sunset in Boulogne

    She had never been abroad before, and was very excited... hearing everyone speaking French, the signs, driving on the other side of the road, the food....
    Anyway, we went from Dover to Calais on the ferry. My first fear was that there would be long and frustration-maximising traffic jams to get to the port, but in fact, as we went on a Monday morning, it was quiet. No traffic, straight through security and check-in, so quickly that they put us on an earlier boat. The sea was pretty choppy, so I gave GD a sea-sickness tablet. Crikey, what a wonderfully sedative effect they have.  She sat quietly watching the scene out of the window.

    The ferry was practically empty, which again was a relief - I well remember trips when the kids were young, and having to endure long, fume-ridden, crowded waits on the staircases to get down to the car decks.
     I'd chosen Boulogne largely because it was near Calais and yet not Calais, and also because it is opposite Hastings across the Channel..  It is only 47 miles from where I am sitting - pretty much the same distance as Brighton. I  mentioned in a previous post that one of the principal triangulation points for the original Ordnance Survey in the 1780s was just up the road at Fairlight Head - where we walk in the Country Park. From there, they used bright lights at night to fix points at Boulogne and at Cap Gris Nez. This was part of the exercise to measure the distance between London and Paris. On very clear days you can see France from Fairlight.
      I had never actually been to Boulogne and was pleasantly surprised.  It has one of those enormous north French sandy beaches, an interesting port area with harbour-side walks, an old centre with ramparts and a castle, lots of shops and the Nausicaa - one of the largest sea-life centres in Europe. It also had beautiful floral displays everywhere. It's barely half-an-hour from Calais - what's not to like?

Vast beach
Fishing boat

Luverly flowers..
      The weather was totally, blisteringly scorching - some of the hottest days of the year.
      We had an excellent two-bed apartment right near the beach and the sea-life place - very quiet and exceptionally well-appointed. Battleaxe would totally recommend and would re-visit except sadly the owners are changing it to B and B next year - wouldn't suit our circumstances at all.
       Our vist to the Nausicaa Centre was good, but a bit alarming. My heart sank when I saw crowded dark tunnels, lit by flashing green, blue and purple lights. The music and voice-overs are loud and boomy, and you lose all sense of location - above ground, underground, whatever.  There were disorientating light/virtual reality projections on the walls and on the floor - wading through tropical waves, mangrove swamps, and in one place, the floor moves to give you the sense of being in a ship on a rough sea. I felt sick the entire time and I don't think Philosopher was too keen, but surprisingly GD seemed to love it....  Battleaxe warning - not for those with epileptic or claustrophobic tendencies.
      It was very educational, with lots of bi-lingual displays on ecology, global warming, pollution etc., but the attention span of certain persons in our party was too short for that, so we rattled round in double-quick time.
Jelly fish
      The best thing for me were the sea-lions, who looked very cheerful in their large, mostly outdoor enclosure. We watched their feeding/activity session - they are trained to perform various tasks for  fish rewards. Some things are practical, like lying still for examinations and opening their mouths for tooth-cleaning, but other activities give the animals excerise and something to keep their minds active. Clearly, animal rights persons would have a fit at the idea of a sea-lion show, and I doubt you would see such a thing in the UK, but it looked fine to me. The animals looked healthy and happy.
     No, I'm wrong.  There are lots of sea lion shows in the UK.  Virtually every zoo has one.  Why is this OK when other performing animals are frowned on?

     We ate in a proper French restaurant - again, quite a big thing for GD. I had the obligatory marmite full of about 1,000,000 moules, avec frites  - must be the most filling dish on earth.
     The old fortified town of Boulogne is very attractive - old houses and narrow streets inside wide, tree-lined ramparts. I was trying to think how many ancient ramparts in how many ancient French towns we have promenaded around... many, many. Zut, alors.
      Was thinking that all the French I ever learned I had learned by the time I was 16, and I have remembered enough of it to be relatively functional. It is truly terrible that a language is no longer compulsory to GCSE level. 
Gateway through the ramparts

Sensory garden in the Old Town - we had leisurely drink in that cafe

Notre Dame, in the Old Town

The 'smell' bit of the sensory garden - love the 'nose hair'
     We went to a French supermarket, went for walks along the waterfront and on the huge beach. News was just coming in that five young men had drowned at Camber Sands.  It is hard to believe - we have taken GD there many times, and I have attempted to swim in the sea. Each time I almost had to walk to Boulogne to get the sea up past my middle. They must have been incredibly far out.  Having said that, I read that they might have got their feet stuck in quicksand. One time at Pett Level, I trod in a quicksandy muddy patch, sank above my ankles and it sucked my trainers and socks off - shluck - just like that. I had quite a bit of trouble to extract the trainers and get back onto solid land....
Beach huts...with legs

Beach huts
Beach at sunset

      Came back on the ferry on Wednesday - not much to add, except it was a boiling hot day. We tried to have our picnic at Dover Castle, but the woman in the ticket office said we'd have to pay £18 for a ticket to stop there. Wickedly, we stopped anyway, out of her sight. Actually, the Castle looked very interesting - Philosopher and I have never 'done' Dover, so will go one day. I don't think there is much of interest in the town - it looked largely dug up by road works.
      The French trip was altogether successful, and we will happily do it again another time.
Back again on the ferry....
       On  Thursday we drove up to Birmingham, and delivered GD to her Dad. Traffic was terrible. Stayed with friends Sue and Alex, saw other friends and came back yesterday afternoon. Traffic was terrible...

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Clive Vale Temperance Tea Gardens - update

The last post, about our walk to the Country Park, proved to be extraordinarily popular - in less than one week it has rocketed to be one of the most viewed Battleaxe posts ever.  I don't really know why.  However, that being so, I thought I'd do a very quick up-date about the whereabouts of the mysterious Clive Vale Temperance Tea and Pleasure Gardens in the 1870s. 

Was the Tea Garden near the footpath?
     How could an area big enough to enable several hundred people to enjoy dances have been in Pinder's Shaw, a steep and inaccessible area of woodland on the side of the East Hill?  Here's the relevant extract from the Hastings Chronicle (that date must be wrong, too).

'1880 May – The new Harold Tea and Pleasure Gardens opened. They were at Pinders Shaw, on the east side of the upper Clive Vale valley. They were built by Mr W Rogers, who had a large temperance hotel. There was a big dancing area at the west end of the gardens, capable of holding several hundred people. The nearest pub was a mile away.'

     People on Facebook wondered if the Garden could have been near the old house at the top of the step-steeped footpath leading from Harold Road to what is now the Shearbarn camp site. However, the house does not appear until the 1899 map below.... too late for our gardens.
     However, a visit to the History House in Courthouse Street threw light on the mystery. The Temperance Tea and Pleasure Gardens were at the bottom of what is now the unmade section of Harold Road, running down to the Bourne Stream beside what is now New Road. The ground is still sloping here, but not as steep, and presumably, the gardens must have been terraced.
     Now, houses cover the front part of what were the old Pleasure Gardens, and the side adjoining New Road is protected by a thick hedge - it is hard to see the lie of the land.
     This map, from the 1870, does not show the gardens marked as such, but we now know that Mr W R Rogers ran Pleasure Gardens at the site marked Home Cottage. It is clear to see how they must have been laid out, with blocked areas of grass surrounded by shrubbery.

     Pleasure Gardens like this were immensely popular during Georgian and Victorian times.  They were popular by day - attended by the genteel (and in the case of Clive Vale), the sober, for tea, dancing, musical entertainment and masquerades  At night they were magical and romantic places, lit by coloured lamps, but often attracted more dubious customers. We know nothing about Clive Vale, but here are a couple of images of the most famous Pleasure Gardens, Vauxhall Gardens in London, which acted as the model for many of the others.

    However, it is likely that the Harold Tea and Pleasure Gardens did not last long. This map, from 1899, shows no trace of the former tree-bounded grid pattern - it appears to be just blank land. What happened?  We do know that in 1879 and in 1880 Mr Rogers applied for a license for the gardens, which was refused.
    Maybe there were not enough sober-minded people in Hastings to keep the gardens going?  Things don't change much...

    That's all for now - this coming week is Grand Daughter week. We have exciting adventures planned.....



Tuesday, 16 August 2016

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:
'A 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 fĂȘtes 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.


Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Circus on the Pier - Battleaxe's birthday!

Very quick post - it was my birthday yesterday - have got more excitements tonight, so for a low-key treat, we decided to go to the Circus on Hastings Pier.  I got some great birthday presents...

Waiting to go in
It was a blustery evening with big seas- it was strange to sit in a circus tent and see and hear the waves rushing in beneath your feet, and the shingle rattling back and forth.  We went for a walk along the sea-front beforehand, and up to the end of the Pier.

     Now, what I would say is this, if you are expecting a full-size all bells and whistles circus, this isn't it.  It is a smallish tent, with a smallish company, and only lasts 50 minutes.  It is a little circus, on a pier. Battleaxe loves a circus - bring on the horses and dogs, say I. See previous post
     However, although it was little we could see kids loving it, and it suited our desire for low-key entertainment.
     The audience was smallish - they do three shows a day, which seemed a bit many for a Monday. If I were them, I'd keep it to afternoon and evening.  Because of the small audience, I kept my eyes firmly averted from the clowns. Such persons do tend to pick on me, and I've never liked clowns. I'm not afraid of them or anything, I just don't find them funny. Never did, even when I was little.
     Most of the performers seemed to be Mongolian - there were some amazing contortionists, various acrobats and a human slinky...
     My photos aren't very good. The camera wouldn't focus in the light with no flash.