Travels in Our Motorhome – RV66 ORG – Autotrail Imala 736G- occupants - two adults of a certain age
Hastings Tuesday July 19 2022
We decided to visit Hastings – somewhere we have never been but also a place we discussed from time to time as a potential destination. I have a photograph of my great grandfather which was taken at Hastings on the beach. He is one of a group of bathers. This is interesting as he was apparently noted for his prowess as a swimmer. The photograph was taken by A M Breach who it seems was well known back in the day as a portrait and beach photographer in Hastings.
Visiting Hastings, the plan was to find the spot on the beach where the picture was taken. Sadly, I forgot to take the photo for reference!!
We travelled on July 19 with the previous few days having been the hottest on record for the UK with temperatures well in excess of 30 in some places. Fortunately, the motorhome has good air conditioning. Once we left the motorway, travelling on the local roads towards Hastings, several lay-bys were occupied with stalls selling local fruit. I tend to be a bit sceptical these days about the local provenance of the products on some of these wayside stalls, but we needed to stop so we pulled over. Stepping out of the van was like walking into a thick cushion of hot air; enclosed within the cool climate of the motorhome we hadn’t realised how hot and stifling the day had become. After chatting to the stall holder I was confident the fruit was genuinely local and stocked up with delicious strawberries and scrumptious cherries.
The lay-by also accommodated a small wayside catering van – bacon butties and hot tea. By the time I had finished buying our fruit he was packing up, slowly and with a very dejected expression. It was obviously not the day for tea and toast and the fruit seller was doing a roaring trade.
Our chosen campsite was Fairlight Wood, a Caravan and Motorhome Club site about four miles from Hastings. A short walk from the campsite through the woods and across a field with a well-worn track was the Two Sawyers public house. We had a drink there our first evening and decide we would give a go for an evening meal before we went home.
At the moment we are, I guess, at the back end of what might be called Covid times. One manifestation of Covid times has been busier campsites, with many sites nearly full even at the normally quieter times of the year. With restrictions on flying abroad for holidays more people have obviously been taking holidays at home with some returning to caravan and camping holidays and others trying out for the first time. We have certainly noticed an increase in older motorhomes on the road, possibly neglected old friends taken out of storage or investment in a cheap vehicle to try out the lifestyle. One consequence of this has been numbers of people of who don’t know or who have forgotten the etiquette for behaviour on campsites.
We have encountered several instances of increasingly poor and ill-mannered behaviour on campsites. In the shower block at Fairlight Wood Rod was aware of someone leaving having had a shower; he had not bothered to dry himself but simply walked out leaving a trail of wet foot prints Man Friday style. Wet floors are slippery floors. He had also not bothered to clean and sweep down his cubicle.
More examples of observed bad behaviour over the past two years – walking across occupied pitches, emptying grey waste water into the hedge behind the pitch, emptying the greasy residue from a frying pan onto the grass between pitches, allowing dogs to foul on pitches (other people’s although this at least was not on a Caravan and Motorhome Club site).
Biking into Hastings
On Wednesday July 20, we rode into Hastings. Inland from Hastings are the South Downs and as with Brighton the town nestles at sea level with cliffs rising away inland in all directions to the North, the East and the West. We knew that like Brighton the route would be hilly but it was far more hilly than we had realised. It was constant uphill and down dale all the way, almost like a switchback ride. The uphill sections were very uphill! We encountered some of the steepest and longest stretches of hill riding, even more gruelling than we have met in Wales, Scotland and Devon.
As was to be expected the ride back was even more exhausting. Probably because of the hills there does not seem to be a cycling culture in Hastings, unlike Brighton. So as well as contending with the hills, traffic was difficult at times as drivers are not very bike aware. We were shattered and we could not have achieved the ride without our electric bikes but was well worth the effort as Hastings is a real treat.
The town is very old in parts and very interesting with much more to offer than we had realised. There are magnificent views from the high points.
The Two Sawyers Pub
We decide to give the Two Sawyers a try as it is only a short walk from the campsite. The front of the building is old and quaint, typical of the buildings in this part of the south coast, with a profusion of hanging baskets and flower beds in bloom. These included crocosmia; clearly the climate much milder here than in our windswept garden further north. There are modern extensions to the side and rear providing large dining areas off the main bar which is old and full of character. Outside was a large, grassy dining area and a couple of small enclosed flower filled courtyards. All very charming and pleasant
The menu included cod and chips, a variety of beefburger options in buns and a few other items. We had the cod and chips, which, as you would expect by the coast, was very good. The staff were excellent.
The two meals and a bottle of wine came to £50 – par for the course I guess. We had not eaten out for two years since Covid and enjoyed it but probably won’t be doing it again in a hurry. The only exception would be if we were using a pub stopover in the motorhome. Only fair to patronise the host.
Hastings by taxi
On our second morning we were woken early by the sound of nuts from the trees above dropping onto the motorhome roof. Squirrels presumably. Fairlight Wood campsite is a lovely setting as the name suggests is very wooded with secluded pitches surrounded by trees. But the idyll does have its downside such as squirrels taking an early morning breakfast of acorns and beech nuts.
We wanted to explore more of Hastings and given the hilly terrain decided to take a taxi this time. The site carried contact details for the “247247” service – no name apparently- with a dreadful computer-voiced personless booking system – hopeless and frustrating. We gave up and Googled for an alternative and found one with real people called “Carmiles”. During the taxi journey back the driver told us that drivers and customers were leaving 247 in droves.
Fortunately, the weather was a little cooler than previous days and so wandering around the town was very pleasant. Our first stop was the local museum whose website made out the museum to be much larger and grander than it turned out to be. It was quite small but still interesting. The man on the front desk sadly knew nothing about the local photographers. I had hoped that I would find out about the local photographer AM Breach but it seems that the local archives room is only available once a week by appointment.
We walked from the museum into the old town to explore that part of Hastings and the “harbour” area. Although a notable fishing port Hastings does not have a harbour as such, all of the boats are beach launched (as is the lifeboat). Along the roadside next to the beach are the old fisherman’s huts and there is much of interest to see. The Jerwood Contemporary art gallery is here. The exhibition at the time we visited was devoted to sea and seafaring, including a wide range of art work from the serious and thoughtful to the witty and comedic. There were also some portrait drawings by Quentin Blake, all done with ballpoint pens and they were amazing.
Whilst on the seafront we visited the lifeboat station. We always visit the lifeboat station wherever there is one on our travels and purchase souvenirs and donate. It is one of the few charitable organisations that have only a few paid staff and which exists entirely on donations and its own fundraising. Its work is of inestimable value
Another pleasant feature of the Old Town is a small pedestrianised shopping area. There are streets with a range of interesting independent shops and eating places. Although not as extensive it is very reminiscent of The Lanes in Brighton. The main shopping area in Hastings, with all of the usual shops you expect to see in a town is also largely pedestrianised which makes the town as a whole somewhere very pleasant to wander.
We took a ride on the East Cliff lift, a funicular lift, one of the oldest and highest such lifts. As you would imagine the views from the top are magnificent and there are extensive walks as the whole cliff top are is a large country park. There is another lift to the west of the town which takes you up to Hastings castle but we saved that excursion for another time.