Thursday, September 29, 2016

A weekend in Hastings

Britain's most epic battle, the Battle of Hastings, was 950 years ago this year. I cruised downhill into Hastings past the crumbling remains of William the Conqueror's castle on a Saturday morning.

In a quiet corner of the Tourist Information Office down on the seafront I was able to plug my phone in and access WiFi. Forecast - rain. I booked into a cycle-friendly B&B at 30 pounds a night.

Hastings is attractive in places but doesn't look like how I imagined from watching Foyles War. It has a new pier and a newish art gallery, the Jerwood Gallery, which has a great collection of modern British art.

My room was up 5 flights of stairs, with my own bathroom in the corridor, a view into the street behind the waterfront and a bed of wire springs. A bit of rearranging of the bedding, and I slept 14 hours straight, completely missing the musical laser light show, iy_project, on the brand new pier; part of the 1066 Festival. Apparently they beamed out an invitation across the Channel to Normandy but I don't know if they got any responses.

Hastings still has a beach-based fishing fleet, just as there was when William the Conqueror landed and claimed England as his own.

The tall black sheds on the beach below the castle are for drying nets. They date back to the 18th century are are Grade II listed and mostly still used, although the shingle has built up and they are now a bit back from the sea.

Along the waterfront in the historic quarter there's a nice little Shipwreck Museum and a Fishermans Museum, both full of artifacts and tales that generate the spirit of the seafaring history of Hastings.

I learned that French was spoken in the courts of England for decades after the Norman Conquest.

There are plenty of fish and chip shops selling cockles, oysters, mussels and smoked haddock. And plenty of noisy Amusement Arcades, Crazy Golf, and ice-cream shops in the best British seaside tradition and best avoided.

There are also lots of weird people. I was warned about three times not to leave my bike unattended for a minute which made me feel a bit paranoid. I chained Betty up right in front of Costa Coffee, where I could keep an eye on her while I indulged in my daily habit. Here's a Costa customer busy pasting stickers into a notebook, as you do.

The beach is gravel rather than sand. Every step across the shingle is noisy. crunch, crunch; and the sound the waves make is delightful - the rolling and tumbling of hundreds of stones. A deckchair costs a quid for half a day. There are warnings that barbeques can be dangerous - hot stones may explode.
The brand new pier

Maybe Foyle is not that far away after all. 

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