A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about fishing

An English seaside town

Hastings

We have friends living in this south coast seaside town, Paula and Kevin (who used to be our neighbours in west London) and have visited several times. Let me introduce you to some of my favourite sights in the town.

Hastings Old Town

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Buildings of the Old Town

At first glance Hastings looks much like many other mid-sized English seaside towns, with fish and chip shops, amusement arcades and deck-chairs. Not that there’s anything wrong with these, but tucked away at one end of the resort is the great bonus of the picturesque Old Town. This truly retains the old character of the town in its winding streets and historic buildings which now house some interesting shops, bars etc.

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Carnival parade

Every summer there is a week-long carnival, Old Town Week, celebrating the delights of the historic town centre, promoting its shops and other local businesses, and raising money for local charities. There are lots of events, culminating in a grand procession through the streets of the old town and fireworks at dusk on the beach.

The Stade

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Net storage huts on the Stade

On the beach of Hastings Old Town, which is known as the Stade, are these traditional huts for storing nets. They were built in this unusual shape to make the best use of limited space and because of a council regulation that they should be no more than eight feet square. Most date from the second half of the 19th century and quite a few are still in use, while others have been adapted e.g. as a fish and chips shop. One of Britain’s oldest fishing fleets is based here, the largest between the Thames and Brixham in Devon, and the largest beach-launched fleet in country.

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Fishing boats on the Stade

This is a great place for keen photographers, and for buying fresh fish of course.

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Fish shops on the Stade

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The Stade - fishing paraphernalia

Rock-a-Nore Beach

At the eastern end of town, beyond the Stade, is a small shingle beach known as Rock-a-Nore Beach. This is a quieter place for a stroll, especially in winter, and has an attractive setting with its backdrop of cliffs – yellowish sandstone here, not the chalky white found both to the west (Seven Sisters and Beachy Head) and east (the famous white cliffs of Dover). The difference is due to the geology of this part of England. The chalk downlands of the South Downs and North Downs are separated by the Weald. The South Downs meet the sea near Seaford and Eastbourne, while the North Downs meet it near Dover and Folkestone. Hastings lies between these, at a point where the Weald meets the sea. A glance at a map will show you what I mean.

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Rock-a-Nore Beach

Part of the cliffs here collapsed in January 2014 (caught on video by a bystander: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-25594640) so take care if exploring this area, especially in rough weather.

The area of town behind this beach and the Stade is also known as Rock-a-Nore. The name apparently derives from a former building ‘lyinge to the Mayne Rock against the north’, that is, with a rock to the north of it. You can take a funicular railway up the cliffs to East Hill, for walks on the grassy cliff-top and views of the town and the sea – still on our ‘to do’ list!

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The East Cliff funicular

Fishermen’s Museum

In the heart of Hasting’s Old Town a small church (formerly the Fisherman’s Church) has been converted to a museum which tells the story of the local fishing industry through the ages. The centre piece is the Enterprise: one of the last of the luggers (sailing fishing boats) which dominates the main room. Children in particular love to climb up on to its deck and imagine themselves out at sea, but it’s interesting for anyone who wants to get just a small sense of the lives of the hardy fishermen who once sailed her and others like her.

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The Fishermen's Museum, outside and in

Around the walls are numerous old photos of some of these men, with descriptions that each evoke a small piece of history – when they fished here, what their boat was called, how they died (some of them sadly but inevitably in accidents at sea), nicknames and family etc. Other exhibits include models of different types of boat, and a variety of nets, ropes and other artefacts. In one corner display cases hold examples of the marine life these men would have encountered as well as some that they most likely would not – the giant albatross’s huge wingspan is fascinating but the likelihood of one ever having been spotted off the Sussex coast very small.

A side room has yet more photos – I particularly liked the ‘before and after’ ones of Rock-a-Nore (the name of this area of the town) which showed that in fact relatively little had changed over the two generations that separated the photographers.

Admission to the museum is by donation and the Fishermen's Protection Society and the Old Hastings Preservation Society rely on these for its upkeep so please give what you can.

Hastings Lifeboat Station and Visitor Centre

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Lifeboat, Hastings

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution plays an important role in this country, surrounded as we are by the sea. It provides an essential service but unlike the other emergency services (police, fire, ambulance) is a charity, relying on donations from the public. Some of those donations are raised by having open days, when it’s possible to tour the lifeboat station and learn more about the work of the lifeboat men and about the boats themselves. On our recent visit to Hastings it was one such day, and a volunteer showed us around and told us lots (arguably too much!) about the two different boats they have here. One is a smaller Zodiac-style inshore boat, the Daphne May, while the other, the Sealink Endeavour (seen in my photo) can travel as much as 50 miles out to see on rescue missions. Apparently one or the other of the boats goes out from here an average of 50 times a year, so you can see it’s a much-needed service.

There has been a lifeboat stationed here since 1857, when a sailing vessel and all its crew were lost off the coast of Hastings. This tragedy led to funds being raised to purchase a lifeboat, which was stationed in a boathouse at Rock-a-Nore. Six years later the RNLI took control of the station. In more recent historical times the Hastings lifeboat was one of the 19 that took part in the evacuation of forces from Dunkirk. Today’s lifeboat station was built in 1995 and was the first to be designated as a Visitor Centre as well as an operational one. While clearly those operations have to take priority, as lives may be at risk, you are likely always to receive a welcome and to be able to see the boats if they are not at sea. There is also a small shop selling lifeboat-related souvenirs, with all profits going to the RNLI.

Posted by ToonSarah 07:13 Archived in England Tagged beaches boats fishing coast history festival seaside Comments (7)

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