I wasn’t especially excited to be visiting Hastings, but having been I don’t quite know where to start telling you about it!
We headed all the way up Rock a Nore to park – in busy times this is not the best idea, as it was gridlocked later on in the day with people trying to get both in and out. It’s also fairly expensive to park, but I suspect that’s the case all around Hastings.
Once parked however we were already spoilt for choice of what to see as soon as we left the car park. We bypassed the Sealife Centre (I visited so many of those when my kids were young…) and popped into the Shipwreck Museum (free, but we spent some money in the shop). This concentrated on the stories surrounding the shipwrecks of the Amsterdam (1749) and Anne (1690). It was a really interesting place and a bonus that it was free (donations suggested as it’s run by a charity).
We then walked about 50m further up the road to the Fishermans Museum, another very interesting attraction set in an old seaman’s chapel. The main attraction, taking up most of the space, is an old lugger, the Enterprise (for which part of a wall was knocked down to get her in). You can climb up onto the deck and look down into the boat where a couple of displays have been made to illustrate how the boat would have worked – great for kids!
In a smaller room there are many photos of Hastings of yesteryear and also a very interesting video showing a rescue from the 1970s, together with interviews of the people involved. This museum is also free. Apparently the church stills holds christenings and a carol service every Christmas!
Outside there is a display showing net stores, which are unique to Hastings. They are 2 or 3 storey, narrow wooden huts used to store the fisherman’s huts. Narrow as there was little space to build them, and tall as they needed to store the different types of nets separately – 1 type on each floor. There are a number of this still on use on The Stade – the fishing beach that is still very much in use.
The boats are pulled up onto the beach, now by steel cables via winch huts – in days gone by by horses and capstans. There are also diggers which are used to push the boats into the water.
In the winch huts there are many stalls selling fresh fish, caught that day. I watched these fish being gutted and skinned and was surprised by how few seagulls there were around.
There is also a miniature steam railway with a station on The Stade that runs along the seafront. Calv loves to watch these engines! (Unfortunately only 1 of the engines is really steam, the others are pretending to be…)
Moving on there was an event going on in the Lifeboat Station and the towncrier was just leaving to go and ‘do some sharting’ on Winkle Island (his words – not mine!)
We now made our way back towards Rock a Nore and Winkle Island (where there was a drumming band waiting to spark up), and from there we had a little nosey up All Saints Street – lined with old buildings and narrow lanes to take you to other parts of the old town, it’s well worth a look.
Having wandered through some of these narrow lanes we found ourselves back on Rock a Nore and hungry. So we chose from the dozens of fish and chip shops available and ate at The Mermaid. We were going to buy some dressed crab from the stall next door for our tea, but didn’t make it back in time sadly. We’ll try again next time we go!
A wander along the seafront followed and we made it as far as the Bingo. I wanted to go and have a play but it was a proper bingo hall with sessions (rather than the old run all day at the amusement arcade that I was hoping for!), so from there we turned round and started back (the parking was about to run out as I didn’t have enough change for more than 3 hours…)
Along the seafront there is mini-golf and pedaloes (swan shaped), a funfair and many odd-shaped buildings that seem to have been squeezed in wherever…
Once we’d managed to pay for a few more hours parking (there was no point trying to leave as there was gridlock along the Rock a Nore), we headed to the East cliff railway (like a furnicular really) to go up to Hastings Country Park (next time we’ll go up the West Cliff Railway to visit the castle). You can walk but why wouldn’t you have a go on this wonderful railway?!
The Country Park stretches atop the cliffs to Fairlight further east. We walked through the Ecclesbourne Glen, which was actually quite challenging in places, with high steps (my little legs have trouble with these!) and some steep sections. A section to a cave is inaccessible due to landslip. We also headed for the reservoir that was shown on the map, only to find it wasn’t actually open to the public. But some lovely views on our wanders made up for this.
Back down to Rock a Nore we stopped in Undercliffe House for a cuppa. We somehow managed to resist a slice of the rather lovely looking Victoria sponge, for me, and the Coffee & Walnut cake, for Calv. We tortured ourselves though by sitting right beside said cakes!!
So Hastings Old Town was a massive hit and we are intending to return for the May Day celebrations of Jack in the Green 🙂