It was a beautiful sunny day as I set off from The Star Inn at Norman’s Bay. The sky a powder blue and the moon a faint half crescent but I could imagine the whole sphere of it.
I walked this route two years ago as part of the Walk the Hospice Trail day so I felt pretty confident as I set off up the lane and crossed a stile into a field heading away from the sea.
The scenery was idyllic, patchwork fields, a little hamlet up on a distant hill, everything looked so clear and sharp and vibrant. I thought about the Summer Cabaret which would have been happening this evening but for the coronavirus pandemic. The concert is one of our major annual fundraisers – it raised just over £93,000 last year – and Robert Bathurst and Celia Imrie were to have performed (both giving their services for free). It promised to be such fun and the weather would have been perfect.
I walked through several fields across stiles and little bridges, it was very easy walking. It was so peaceful; I felt happy -elated even. The path took me onto Cooden Beach Golf Club where I diligently walked around the edge keeping away from the golfers and possible stray balls – there were quite a few golfers out and every one I passed said ‘good morning’ to me. I went a little off-piste where I had to cross a fairway and some very helpful players guided me back on track.
On the subject of golf I’d like to thank Phil and Barry who are organising a golf event this weekend at West Hove Golf Club to raise money for FSH and St Barnabas – so good that they’ve got this good weather for it.
Once through the golf course I continued south to Cooden Beach. I stopped at Beaulieu Green – an open green space raised up from the beach – and sat on a bench looking back along the coast. I ate a protein bar, had some water and drank in the view. There were quite a few people walking along the beach – some in clusters – some with dogs and there were a few people paddling in the sea, which was very calm. In the distance I could see some sailboats racing.
Re-fuelled I continued along some residential drives and crescents and emerged on the seafront. I strolled along past rows of pretty beach huts and stopped at The Kiosk where I saw a sign offering tubs of Maresfield Farm ice cream for dogs – it contains all sorts of vitamins and ingredients that are good for them. They sold ice cream to humans too so I stopped and bought one from Kay and chatted to her about what I was doing. Enjoying my ice cream, I past the beautifully kept seafront gardens dotted with some clever railway sleeper sculptures and interspersed with seating and play areas. The play areas were all marked “Closed” due to Covid-19.
I walked on past the iconic De La Warr Pavilion which was built in 1935 as a ‘public building’ comprising a theatre, restaurant and reading room. It underwent extensive restoration in 2005 and as well as being a theatre it is now a contemporary arts centre, and gallery.
East of the Pavilion I came upon a stainless steel tubular model of an old racing car, underneath a plaque reads “1902 – Bexhill on Sea – the birthplace of British motor racing”. Apparently the 8th Earl De La Warr, who owned this stretch of land encouraged the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland to organise the ‘Great Whitsuntide Motor Races’ in May that year.
Because it was held on private land it was exempt from the national speed limit of 12 miles per hour. The races were all won by French driver, Leon Serpollet, in his steam car Easter Egg, which reached a speed of 54 miles an hour (a replica can be seen at Bexhill Museum).
I climbed up Galley Hill along a narrow walking and cycle path between the railway line and the beach which took me on to West St Leonards. The path was very busy with walkers, runners and cyclists. There were several little pelotons of families cycling together – some parents keeping the toddlers on course by dextrous use of a pole attached to the rear of the child’s bike!
On reaching West St Leonards I bumped into two friends, Tim and Laurinne. Tim had walked a section of the trail three years ago with my friends Julia and Anadi who did it barefoot! It was such a lovely surprise to see them.
Reaching the main promenade brought to mind the Hastings Half Marathon – I’ve hopped from foot to foot at the start line here a few times over the years – partly from excitement – partly to keep warm. Despite it being a challenging course – very hilly and often accompanied by horizontal, icy rain coming straight from Siberia – I’ve always enjoyed the Hastings Half. Maybe the memory has a bit to do with feeling happy and relieved that I’d survived it each time.
This walk today couldn’t have been more different; pretty much completely flat, in beautiful sunshine and accompanied by a gentle cooling breeze from warmer climes.
This stretch of the trail was sponsored by Velda Carter and her son Sean in memory of Velda’s husband, David, who was cared for by St Michael’s Hospice during his fight against leukaemia.