Harry’s Ramblings. Hastings Car Parking and Other Pastimes, by Harry Pope
A lovely September day was the ideal time to spend in Hastings by the sea. We live in Eastbourne, which is only twenty miles away, but the car journey via the tortuous A259 took way under the usual one tedious hour. We drove past the main shopping area, keeping to the seafront within the mandatory 30mph speed limit, the pier was open but we failed to succumb to the potential delights. Sometimes it is closed, other times open, and there’s not a lot to do on it, so we went to the far east to the Rock-a-Nore car park. Wednesday at 10.15am was the optimum time, plenty of choice, parking places in abundancy, all well until we came to pay.
A driver in a huge 4×4 didn’t want to walk too far to the payment machine, so was right in the way where you would stand to place your payment in the machine in anticipation of a ticket emerging. The first one we tried didn’t take cash, so we tried to pay £7 for 6 hours longer stay. Nope, there was a coin jammed, so it was back to leaning on the bonnet of the inconsiderate black monster. I ask you, one person inside a car built for it seemed like a dozen. Only a slight exaggeration. It took both Pam and me to work out how to pay by credit card, the ticket emerged, correctly printed, so back we trudged across the unmade section of the car park to our small saloon parked facing the smooth sea.
We walked to the lovely miniature railway. What a delightful little train, with its intimate carriages convenient for banging knees. Of course, I sat with my back to the train, so convenient for seeing where we had been, we paid our £2 each for the one way journey, and with a poop poop from the engine off we went. There is a little tunnel, a smooth experienced driver at the controls, and too soon we were in the station at the far end. Age immaterial, this is something for all generations to enjoy. Coffee was then calling, so we crossed the road into the old town. One place was ‘open’, but refused to serve coffee at 11am, so we parked ourselves next door for a delicious Portuguese pastry and black Americano. Very reasonably priced, we sat and watched the local populace stroll by. There are a lot of eccentrics in this 50,000 populated town, plenty of tattooed ladies, white-haired men with pigtails, and dyed dogs.
What to do next? The call of the golf ball was loud and strong. Hastings seafront has one ticket office servicing three crazy golf courses, all under the same management, and the annual location of the tournament that attracts players from around the world for a prestigious weekend championship. With the two of us playing, suffice to admit that I came second, despite keeping score. It was not an ignominious defeat, I was gracious in conceding that the better player won, despite me sucking an imaginary lemon at the time. Does it rankle? Well, judge for yourself, as it was a week ago and the bitterness is slowly seeping away. The golf took over an hour, it was simple inexpensive fun with courses for all abilities and ages. The crazy course looked fun. Pam managed two holes in one, she is really quite a good player.
We were ready for some food, so back across the road again, this time to a different establishment. We both had freshly prepared paninis, drinks, it was a very reasonable £13, people watching complimentary. The shade was welcome, because it was a warm day, surprisingly no predatory seagulls. No buskers, no insistent beggars, who would have been in the main shopping area. We felt comfortable with our security throughout. Then a wander to the West Hill lift. There is also one at East Hill, but is not working. We did see this when we returned to the car park, there is a car half way up that has been there for at least a year. It was too far away to see if any passengers had been trapped inside. The West Hill lift was built through a tunnel by Victorians, with millions of bricks lining the walls. I asked for two tickets for old people, and it was a very reasonable £2.40 each return, payment by tapping my card onto the reader. They limited the number of passengers for each trip, we shared with three ladies, I think there is a maximum of eight per journey. Despite lighting it’s dark in the tunnel, we emerged onto the upper cliff into warm sunshine. Lots of fields to stroll over, not that many benches, but we found one easily which we occupied for getting on for an hour.
When our bums became uncomfortable, it was back to the lift, then to the ice cream parlour on the seafront. Di Paolo make their own, a fabulous selection, I had the delicious cherry, Pam had coconut. Without dripping any onto our chins or fronts, it was back across the road to the seafront side of the golf courses. There are refreshment stalls with seating benches, lots of snacks from fish and chips to ices. No-one goes hungry in Hastings. We sat there for another half hour, the path is not that wide but cyclists are allowed to share with pedestrians, which seems to work. We walked back alongside the railway, past the sheds used by the fishermen, who catch fresh every day and then sell either from their sheds or from the beach. Some will sell to you in the morning, and then keep on ice until you are ready to collect by 4pm.
Back to the car, slowly bounced across the car park, then meandered back home, after our holiday day out. Something for all generations in Hastings, we’ve been there before, we’ll go back again.