Harry’s Ramblings Seafront Refreshment
by Harry Pope
Eastbourne’s seafront is unique in the whole of the UK. Why? Because no commercial outlets are allowed on the seafront, due to it being owned since before development by the Dukes of Devonshire. No shops, no amusement arcades, no restaurants, but there is one exemption in that hotels are permitted. The seafront is a mixture of apartment blocks and hotels, with a flat promenade developed in the mid-Victorian period.
However, there is a lower esplanade at seafront level, with shelters that were built in 1935 when the whole area was re-designed, with the bandstand being the main feature. These shelters are there to protect promenaders from inclement weather, with seating. They are inset into the bank which is the higher level, but in the past twenty years or so they have gradually all been boarded up, mainly for the same reason. Anti-social drinkers have been attracted to the seaside resort, so they started gathering in the shelters, to the discomfort of many people who found their behaviour unacceptable. This came to the attention of the authorities, and the decision was made – board the shelters.
After about five years, the commercial caterers for official council outlets such as the Winter Gardens asked if they could re-open the shelters to sell refreshments. Some ingenuity was necessary, because of limited space, no toilet facility for example could be offered to the public, but one has very small number of seats, others have decking outside. Pam and I like to walk along the seafront at all times of the year, not just during the summer, and it is a real pleasure to sit and have a coffee on the beach decking in autumn sunshine. Our favourite is family owned and run, is adjacent to the pier, serving the best coffee we could possibly enjoy.
I would like to make it clear that they have no idea I am writing this article about them, they thought that I was taking photos to share on Facebook. But when you come across something so pleasant, then it’s a delight to share with others. No name mentioning, I don’t want to embarrass any of them, just want mention to good friendly service. Let’s start with the exact location.
Eastbourne is on the UK south coast, between Brighton and Hastings. Mainly it’s quite genteel, public transport okay, good variety of restaurants, population well in excess of 100,000. Politically swings between Conservatives, which we have at present, and local Lib Dem council. It’s been a seaside holiday resort for years, not that many day trippers, more staying in b&b, hotel, and self-catering. Land between the pier and local landmark Beachy Head to the west originally owned by the Devonshire’s, hence the covenants. East of the pier a lot is owned by a different wealthy land-owning family still with influence. The seafront has a 3 ½ mile flat promenade, with a pier built 1870 now owned by a businessman with hotel interests. There is side-street parking at present, make sure you purchase a ticket.
All Decked Out shares a building with a souvenir shop, that sells all manner of beach necessities. Like all other establishments, it had to close during lockdown, but is now fully operational. You can see from one of my photos that it is adjacent to the pier, in its shadow, but the Westminster chimes of the pier clock above its entrance means that you will never be late. Customers stand behind the barrier, socially distancing of course, waiting for Chris to take your order while he dances away happily to background music. This can be 1960s, 70s, 80s, or 90s, he knows all the tunes, singing away happily in his own little dream world. Everything is freshly prepared, all clean. We usually have coffee, but have also purchased fresh shellfish for our later lunch at home. Quite a good choice here, the usual prawns, cockles, crab sticks etc. Ice creams choice is good, the 99 flake is a pretty good size. We take our purchase to the decking, quite a lot of chairs and tables on the beach. There might be a breeze this time of year, just take a chance.
There is a new grandson, born October 2020, so the business is in safe hands for at least the next generation, so come on down. As stated, they have no idea I have written this about them, so when we next visit it’s going to be interesting, to say the least!