Friday, 9 September 2011

Brighton and Hastings

It's been more than half a year since I last posted and as I've had some new interest in this (more on that another time) as well as Blogger making the publishing interface a lot easier use!

So two weekends ago I went down south on my motorbike. I set off in the early hours and aimed to be at Beachy Head on the coast next to Eastbourne by 6am, which failed as I set off at 3:45am, so instead I headed for the nearest peak/viewpoint on my map - Ditchling Beacon. I'd known that it was a steep hill and the steep and winding road that takes you to the top is part of cycling routes and races from London to Brighton. Ditchling Beacon is one of the highest points on the South Downs, which are a range of chalk hills in the south-eastern coastal counties of England. Historically, the Beacon is one of several which were used as places to fire as a warning when there was an inevitable invasion.

So why was I up at that hour? Well I didn't sleep for a start, and wanted to see the sunrise! I was hoping for postcard-style pictures from Beachy Head but as that was another hour away I had to make do with Ditchling Beacon. I haven't watched a sunrise in years at best, and the last one was witnessed on a ferry coming into Rotterdam, which was easily better, but I didn't pay much attention to it. It took around 15-20 minutes for the sun to appear as a slither of bright light to being completely visible as a full circle. It was a fun experience.

Pretty =)

With the sun now risen, I rode into Hove (the city next to/attached to Brighton). Naturally, with some time to kill, I detoured and went via some small roads over the South Downs. This V-shaped valley is called Devil's Dyke and was formed by erosion, and is quite amazing to see in person.

Devil's Dyke

Next to Hove lies Shoreham-By-Sea. I'd hoped to visit a greasy spoon here in the industrial dock area, however the surroundings put me off and I shortly headed into Brighton proper to find somewhere which I could easily visit next time I came down here.

As I wasn't keen on having breakfast in this area, I headed into Brighton for a bite at The Bystander Cafe, which is right next to the station. Not the healthiest food but I don't think I've been to a greasy spoon in years.... and I mean about 10 years at least!!

Brighton itself is a beautiful city. Architecturally and culturally, it's quite distinct - and indeed, half the youngsters dress as hipsters and might as well be hanging out in bits of East London such as Shoreditch or Dalston!

Two interesting doors - I love those chequered staircases!

I don't know how widespread graffiti is in Brighton, but where I did see it, it was certainly the most tasteful kinds.

Of course, Brighton wouldn't be Brighton without the Mods on their Lambrettas - these guys were buzzing around and I must have heard/saw them about 4-5 times that day:


Another interesting architectural feature is the finish on some of Brighton's older buildings - pebbles on the external walls. Some were painted over, some weren't. Their use is probably due to Brighton being a coastal city with a pebble beach, just like how older buildings were built with materials sourced locally in other areas (unless you were extremely well off to have them transported from elsewhere)

Brighton's Royal Pavilion is one of Brighton's most famous sights. It was originally a royal residence, and was built in the late 18th century. What you see today, is largely a result of John Nash's work on it in the early 19th century - during this time, it was extended and redesigned. The gardens themselves have been restored as per Regency landscaping styles, which is how it would have looked when Nash designed it. It is built in an Indian style (with Chinese interiors) which was considered very exotic.

Brighton's Royal Pavillion

I have forgotten, but I believe this gate is to commemorate the Indians who fought in the wars for us.

Brighton beach is a pebble one. It's a fairly nice pebble beach though, and isn't interrupted by coastal defences (such as those at Eastbourne). On the beach, these ladies were singing a traditional song to a drumbeat, which was nice to listen to. Admittedly, I didn't ask them what they were singing.... ><

Brighton Beach

I headed indoors to do a little bit of shopping and unfortunately, it soon started tipping it down! =( So I checked my phone and had a look if there was anywhere was raining nearby. Hastings wasn't, so I headed along the A27/A259 over to Hastings. I've been asked several times whether this was where the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066, and my answer is always "Yes and no". The battle took place near Hastings, by a small town now known as Battle, a short drive away. Anyways, getting there was easy and nice enough, and there was ample parking on the seafront (though this pic was taken when I left, admittedly, when the other bikes had all left).

 I've been to Hastings before, so I don't have any pictures of the pebble beach. It's similar to Brighton's in a sense, although much smaller. Hastings has a pier too, although I've never actually been on it. Nor Brighton's for one reason or another.... I'm a boring sod, ain't I? =P

It also has an old town, and I'm always a fan of old streets and buildings.

George Street

George Street is one of these streets. There are a number of nice gift shops, eateries and watering holes, as well as antique shops with buckets suck as these:

This was spotted in one of the gift shops:

These fish-tank ornaments are pretty cool. The left is an illuminated lighthouse, whilst the right is a diver trying to pick something up, but failing and dropping it again, and it works by letting air bubbles gather underneath it, until there is enough air to raise him. Pretty ingenious.

Between the buildings, there were many little private alleyways, for access to the backs of buildings and commonly used to place bins in.

Some of the older buildings such as these were quite nice:

I spotted an alleyway which looked interesting enough, and so I decided to see where it went. I was in for a treat!

It was pretty steep and I climbed it and soon enough it took it above the main shopping area. It was much quieter up here, and already away from the tourists.

Look! no people!

There are caves? (didn't actually visit them) There's a castle?? Great!

Up we go!

What a beautiful view!

A novelty door knocker

Getting pretty high!

So we're now at the top of the hill, and blimey, it is absolutely lovely up here. Even better is the lack of wind which I experienced on the beach! And it's quiet too!!

Looking ahead towards the Channel

Looking west, and towards the castle

Looking east
A little further west of where I'd climbed up, was an outcrop of rock. I'm pretty certain this was sandstone or something due to it's powdery and sandy nature.

hehe =D
By now, it was around 5pm and everything was shutting. I was allowed a quick gander inside the castle although I left pretty soon after a few pictures so as not to keep the staff waiting (you normally need to pay). You can see the kind of view the castle would have afforded to it's inhabitants in the old days - excellent!

That's Hastings then, a lovely town, and I was off back home. On a small country road, I spotted this lovely church, although it's been converted for another use. Still lovely though!

And that's my Brighton and Hastings visit!! I didn't see as much as I'd like to have seen, and so my report isn't great, but I did have a great day out, and perhaps not seeing so much was a good thing as I had to hack a 3 hour drive back to London..... Taken me some time to get back on here and writing this has taken the best part of two evenings, but it was a bit write-up and I hope to get more up soon!!! =)