Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Eastbourne and Sussex, 3-5 June 2019

Join us for a few days break centered around Eastbourne and visiting nearby towns and places of interest.

Each place of interest is shown on its own separate article, reached by clicking/tapping the six photos below. A link on each page will bring you back here.

Brighton and Eastbourne

Wednesday, 5 June 2019. Having left Anne of Cleves (see previous entry) we headed towards Brighton where after swooning at the cost of parking, we went in search of some lunch.

We found a tiny sandwich shop that had a few tables for diners up a small arcade and had lunch there. Then we set about exploring the area known as The Lanes.

It was cold and breezy and somewhat overcast after the fine morning that we had had.

We had a stroll up the pier and had a coffee, sitting on an open air table with benches, huddled against the wind. After the parking rip-off I'm not going to remember this visit with a great deal of affection I'm afraid...

It was the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. When we got back to Eastbourne we saw massive crowds on the seafront. Expecting the event to happen tomorrow on the actual anniversary we all but missed out on the sight of several DC3 Dakotas with fighter escort flying in formation over the town (but not over the seafront). We heard the drone of engines and caught a glimpse of formations from the hotel window. My camera was in the car boot two streets away and by the time we got out with Fran's small camera I managed a very brief, i.e. one second, video of a single straggler...

That night directly opposite the hotel there was a Proms concert in the bandstand. Whilst we couldn't see, we heard bits of the music from the hotel's conservatory. As the time came for the advertised fireworks display we put on jackets and crossed the road for a closer look.

I'm sure Eastbourne had much more to show us than we allowed it to. We had spent all our time simply using it as a base to go elsewhere. But who knows, some time we may come back and do it a bit more justice!

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Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Anne of Cleves House in Lewes

Wednesday, 5 June 2019. We've been to Beachy Head and the Long Man of Wilmington and our third stop this morning includes toilets - ah at last! I parked in a car park with only one space left. Unfortunately some rich twerp had parked over the line in a Porsche 911 even though his space was the end one with loads of room on the other side if he wanted to overhang. I paused to let Miss Franny out and then reversed in using my wing mirrors, leaving just a bare inch between us. Sadly it wasn't his driver's side to make him wonder how to get in, but in the event it was still there when I left anyway. What a twonk!

This was what we had come to see. This house was given to Anne of Cleves by Henry VIII as part of the gifts given for her agreement to divorce him as his 4th wife. It was, after all said and done, better than the alternative... Once we were in we found that although she owned it, there is no record of her ever having visited it. She lived at Hever Castle - which had been the childhood home of a certain Anne Boleyn. Henry had found her too ugly for his tastes. When they married in 1540 he was 48 and she was 24. I'm sure she didn't exactly think of him as her ideal choice of husband...

The house is somewhat altered since the 16th century, but despite the lack of a carved "Anne was here" it contains much of interest, housing a few museum type collections as well as the period furniture. The main bedroom. It did originally have a ceiling as attested to by the beam sockets in the main beams. It's also worth noting that although the oak wood is very dark with age, it is so only because of its age. When new it would have been a golden honey colour.

I hold my hands up, I'm not really sure what this is as I didn't read the card at the side. What I think it could be is a draught excluder. A screen placed behind the door to a room to divert any draughts from blowing directly into the room.

The room below was set out so that meetings or classes or even meals could take place. I don't think Anne would have recognised the red tables and chairs somehow...

The kitchen. Spits for roasting and a crane for holding and swinging cauldrons and pans over the open fire. Houses in the 16th century were sparsely furnished. A stool or two, chairs if you were rich and a single table were the lot for most folk. In terms of cost to income ratios a simple hand cart would set you back the same as a new car would to us today.

In another wing were the little museum collections. One to ironwork which included lots of examples of firebacks and a display about cannon making. Another had a range of items from an old hand-drawn fire engine to case clocks to a plaster cast of the footprint of an iguanodon dinosaur found locally.

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Monday, 17 June 2019

The Long Man of Wilmington

Wednesday 5 June 2019. We left Beachy Head to find another of England's ancient wonders. The Long Man of Wilmington chalk figure. We've visited several of England's chalk figures before, the horses in Wiltshire, the rather naughty giant at Cerne Abbas and now it was just by chance that I saw that the local map for Eastbourne, where we were staying, included the village of Wilmington.

These days the chalk figure is more a white-painted breeze block figure with touches of white mortar. Modern folk are probably less likely to be enthusiastic about going up the hill every year to pull weeds out to keep the outline. There's no real agreement about how old it is. The earliest record of it seems to be from 1710 and it could be only 300 years old but it could be equally likely that it is 3000 years old.

Also unknown is who or what the figure represents. Was he infirm and having to walk with the aid of the staffs? In which case why are they quite so long? Was he some sort of martial arts wizard? Just an ordinary run-of-the-mill wizard who liked to cast spells with both hands? Yes alright, I'm getting silly! But one theory I've read is that it depicts a man divining the path of ley lines, those mysterious lines of energy that pass through many old stone circles, churches and henges. One name for such people was dodman - the old name for a snail.

Of more pressing interest to me on this fine morning is that the car park had a large sign saying that the toilets were closed. Consequently, this will be a swift visit... Admittedly there was a sign that said that the Alfriston car park toilets were open, but it did not include any helpful hints as to which direction these were or how far away... It was more of a taunt than a public service, really.

The wall of the car park was leaning so much that brick buttresses had been placed to stop it falling. Unfortunately the car park was busy enough to make nipping behind a buttress for a few minutes just a bit too risky...

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Sunday, 16 June 2019

We Drop In To Beachy Head

Wednesday, 5 June 2019. We had tried to visit Beachy Head the previous night as it was literally about five minutes' drive away from the hotel. However it was shrouded in cloud and was so foggy that I turned round in a farm entrance and we came back down the hill.

So, a new day and a fresh start! A ferry is emerging from somewhere behind the white cliffs which are the famous Seven Sisters. We pass a few car parks and find the closest one to the spot. It may only be a pit of gravel at the side of the road but it does, but of course, have a ticket machine. We pay for an hour's stay and climb a small hill to find this view.

Beachy Head itself is easily identified by the crowd of people perched on top. I was surprised that on the approach and on top of the headland itself there is no fencing at all. The place, you have to admit, is very lemming friendly...

The lighthouse is far below. If you want to visit there is only the one obvious route from here - off the cliff edge which is a vertical drop of around 350 feet. It is, apparently, the third most popular spot for suicides in the world after the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Aokigahara Forest on the flanks of Mount Fuji, Japan.

Judging from some of the antics we saw, there must be quite a few accidents as well occurring to people who think it wise to be photographed on the very brink. The name Beachy Head has nothing to do with the word "beach" as it was recorded as "Beauchef" in 1274, "beau chef" being "beautiful headland" in French. Corrupted by stages, it became consistently "Beachy Head" by 1724.

We are only parked for an hour so we take a last look westwards along the coast and set off back towards the car. It will be a day of bits and pieces. Next stop is a rather tall chap wielding two large sticks...

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Friday, 14 June 2019

Rain in Rye

Tuesday, 4 June 2019. After a wonderful day in Hastings the previous day we set off in the car from Eastbourne to Rye.

It was one of the Cinque Ports, standing almost surrounded by the sea where three rivers; the Brede, Rother and Tillingham all converge together. Now the sea has receded somewhat, leaving an ancient seaside town clinging to the river channel for access for its fishing fleet.

The weather was not so kind to us today. It fact it was downright nasty... All the photos were taken in rain and once these featured here were taken it became heavy enough to drench us through and the camera went into its camera bag and stayed there sulking. There are some old buildings to be found here and they make Rye a popular tourist destination, notwithstanding the absence of sea and beaches.

Mermaid Street is one of the main draws for tourist attention. A narrow cobbled street set on a steep hill and with quaintly-named buildings along its length.

The Mermaid Inn dates from 1156 and was one of the meeting places for the notorious Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers in the 1730s-40s. They were so sure of their power that they would sit openly with pistols on the table, defying the authorities to move against them. We are not talking about a small group of men here. They regularly seized goods from ships and warehouses with 30-40 armed men riding in the raid. Some extreme violence was used with one victim, an elderly revenue officer, William Galley, being buried alive in a fox den after being beaten. Another, Daniel Chater, was thrown down a well and killed by dropping rocks on him. By the end of the 1740s the authorities had rounded up most of the gang which ceased to exist. At least 75 gang members were hung or deported and of those hung, 14 were gibbeted - their bodies wrapped in chains and left to hang until they had fallen to pieces. Ah, the good old days...

The building opposite the Mermaid Inn is called "The House Opposite"... Another house is called "The House With The Seat". As we reached the foot of the hill the rain took on the challenge of drenching us properly. On a previous visit we had found a museum of music boxes and automata and we decided to try to find it again, but it defeated us, despite some help given in the local Tourist Information, which had a nice little museum of its own upstairs devoted to penny slot arcade machines. These were mostly the animated scene machines such as The Haunted Churchyard, The Hanging, Reading Of The Will etc. Finally we staggered into a small café, flooded the floor with our run-off and had a bit of lunch before heading back to the car and to Eastbourne.

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Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Hasting to Hastings

Monday 3 June 2019. We had motored down to Eastbourne on the previous day and booked into a hotel for a few days. Today after the 300 mile drive we were to take it easy and we caught a local bus to Hastings.

Hastings wasn't the bus's final destination so once we recognised Hastings seafront we hopped off the bus and walked the rest of the way to the far end of town. It was glorious weather. In fact we got more suntanned than we had done on the Mediterranean last month!

Above this cliff is William the Conqueror's castle. Below it a large unit boarded up and spoiling the effect of the classical feel to the buildings behind. William of Normandy actually landed a few miles west of here in Pevensey, but the town has come to be synonymous with the famous battle - which also wasn't fought here... A funicular railway affords a less strenuous way up the cliff to the castle, but we left that for another visit.

By the time you reach the eastern side of Hastings you are approaching the old town and the Georgian rows of hotels and guest houses make way to less uniform and somewhat more varied and interesting buildings. Weatherboarding covers many of them and it is here that you will find pubs, restaurants and fish and chip shops with the odd seafood stall thrown in for good measure.

There's a bit of competition amongst the buildings to be the oldest of some type or trade. One is labelled "Britain's Oldest Brewer". This turned out to be more the boast of the brewery supplying the pub than the pub itself. Shepherd Neame Brewery was founded way back in 1698, owns more than 320 pubs and exports beer to more than 35 countries. But here I must point out that I'm not talking about The Dolphin pub pictured here, which is a Free House and just looked nice!

Standing on the shingle beach at the eastern end of Hastings are these fishermens' net drying huts. Tall enough to allow nets to be hung up and dried they can also be used for mending nets.

Not to be outdone by the cliff towards the west, this end of Hastings also has a cliff which has its own East Hill Lift funicular railway. I do love a good funicular. They are rare enough to not have become too familiar and any railway that has "fun" as part of its descriptive name can't be bad!

Talking of railways... Amongst the grounded fishing boats and drying nets on the borderline between beach and concrete we found preparations ongoing to ready the miniature train along a stretch of the seafront. Another steam locomotive was poking its nose out of a nearby shed and a diesel locomotive was partnering this one, which must be a visiting engine as it is not included on the firm's website.

Amongst the net drying sheds are the equipment and vessels, current and past, of Hastings' fishing fleet. Stacks of crab and lobster pots are lined up amidst tangles of old fraying ropes. Boats and shells of boats lie on chocks or leaning on the beach with sun-faded paintwork. Bits of marine engines lie waiting for someone to need a spare part.

Two ladies were sitting, sketching in books. They were together but were sitting so far apart to get different viewpoints that I wasn't sure until I asked. They had driven out for the day from home around 20 miles away. "I hate doing boats..." one confided. I generally feel the same. They are very hard shapes to get right.

We said goodbye to the artists and, with my own sketchbook still tucked under my arm, moved away from the possibilities of the object-rich beach and towards the shop-rich streets of the old town...

Before the advent of national housing regulations, architects and builders, most towns were a delightful hotch-potch of different building design and appearance. You can still see this along older streets, such as the main routes into and out of towns, as building styles change every or every few houses. Now most of us live on estates with just three or four designs to share between the scores or even hundreds of homes.

Ye Olde Pumphouse still has its old pump. It is mounted on the external wall just behind the swinging pub sign. I can think of three reasons why this might be the case: (1) it was thought it would be easier to water the hanging flower baskets; (2) it was sometimes necessary to douse the more drunken customers in order to sober them sufficiently to walk home; or (3) it was originally somewhere much more sensible and was only put up in its lofty position when the landlord woke up to a tap on the door. "Very nice, but can it go over the sink instead?"

This street (George Street) is full of antiques and artisan shops, old timbered pubs and buildings and the odd emporium catering to some dwindling specialist function, trade or habit.

Speaking of which, we followed a sign for cream teas only to find that the small pot of clotted cream that I received with some misgivings, once opened had more empty space than clotted cream... And two tiny individual breakfast jam portions for two whopping big scones? Pah! Head much further west and get a decent cream tea would be my advice.

We spent a bit of time on a bench whilst I do a spot of sketching myself. The little railway runs behind me as I'm doing this. At intervals I jump out of my skin at the horn blast of the diesel loco or cough and choke in the smoke of the steam loco...

Then we re-trace our steps along George Street for a second look and head towards the railway station where we can catch our return bus.

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Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Mediterranean Medley Cruise on Marella Dream, 14-21 May 2019

Join us for a week's cruise on the Marella Dream, starting and ending at Palma, Majorca and sailing to and fro across the Western Mediterranean to ports in Monaco, Italy, France and Spain.

Each day is shown on its own separate entry, reached by clicking/tapping the six photos below. A link on each page will bring you back here.