Wednesday, November 03, 1999

Walk 9 -- Eastbourne to Pevensey Bay

Ages: Colin was 57 years and 179 days. Rosemary was 54 years and 320 days.
Weather: Dull at first but turning sunny. A pleasant breeze and very mild.
Location: From Eastbourne Pier to Pevensey Bay.
Distance: 5½ miles.
Total distance: 73 miles.
Terrain: Promenade at first, then we alternated between shingle beach (which is hard going) and sandy beach where we had to scramble through gaps in breakwaters. It was entirely flat.
Tide: Out.
Rivers to cross: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: No. 6 at Eastbourne.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: None!! (Since Colin had visited no less than five ‘real ale’ pubs the day before he actually declared that he wasn’t all that bothered---let this be put on record!)
‘English Heritage’ properties: No.1 at Pevensey Castle---a medieval castle first built by the Normans on Roman ruins and last used for defence in the Second World War. Excellent audio tour.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: No.4 on Eastbourne Pier due to maintenance works. No.5 between Eastbourne and Pevensey where they are still building an harbour which is not yet on the map.
How we got there and back: We drove to Pevensey Castle, then walked to the nearest station and caught a train to Eastbourne where we walked down to the sea front.
At the end, we walked from Pevensey Bay across the fields to the castle which we toured because it is ‘English Heritage’ and we can get in free because we are members; then we drove home.

Is it really four months since we did our last walk? Well, we have been rather ‘busy’! At the end of June we went to Helsinki for a few days. In July we toured France, Germany and Austria with a tent for two and a half weeks. As soon as we got home, my cousin, Paul, and his wife, Sue, arrived from Canada to stay for a week. While they were here we had to help my brother, David, and his wife, Monica, celebrate their Silver Wedding. Then we took young Jamie, our grandson, on his first trip abroad to Verdun in northern France to view a total eclipse of the sun! Later in August we flew to Hawai’i and stayed a few days on three of the islands where we did a lot of snorkelling and swam with turtles! Then we flew to Las Vegas and hired a motorhome which we drove to the Valley of Fire, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Dead Horse Point, Arches, Canyonlands, Mesa Verdi, Monument Valley (where we went on a crazy jeep ride with the Indians!) and the Grand Canyon returning to Las Vegas via Zion and the Valley of Fire again. Having failed to win more than 25cents, we flew home FIRST CLASS! (at least as far as Chicago). We had hardly been home a week before we drove up to Cheshire and hired a 54 foot narrowboat for two weeks. This we took to Chester and then into Wales, rising up in locks a total of 227 feet and down again, and travelling 136 miles at the heady speed of up to three miles per hour! Then we had to go up to Manchester for a few days to visit our son, Paul, and his girlfriend, Caroline; thence to Blackpool to take Colin’s elderly cousin, Barbara, to see the illuminations; and we visited Ironbridge and Malvern on our way home. Lastly we had to help my sister, Veronica, and her husband, Bernard, celebrate their Ruby Wedding. Meanwhile my leg is almost back to normal (I left my stick in a taxi in Las Vegas which I thought was a fitting end to it!) and after three cortizone injections in my shoulder and a course of steroids, my arm (which I injured on walk 5) is also back to normal. As to that over-indulging in alcohol nonsense, it turned out to be a load of baloney—when I returned to the hospital for the results of further tests they had found nothing at all and dismissed me!
So at last we can do some serious walking! My doctor has given me some stuff called ‘Powergel’ to rub on my arthritic toe before I go hiking and it really works! Now I can enjoy walking again.

We picked up the Walk at the ‘theatre’ place just west of Eastbourne Pier, and since it is now ‘out-of-season’ all the chairs had been stacked away and it was just an open space. We were annoyed that the first lot of toilets were padlocked and the next lot had a turnstile costing 10p. Colin stepped over the turnstile in the Gents but I was ‘good’ and paid up—only because I wasn’t sure if loads of burglar alarms would go off if I tried jumping over the gate summoning half a dozen police cars. I had been tempted--I mean, two shillings to go for a wee! What would my grandmother have said?
We walked along the pier and there was lots of loud music and various shops were selling tourist tat. We were by far the youngest people there who didn’t actually work on the site, most of those pushing wheelchairs looked as if they ought to be in them. Perhaps they toss up who has the turn for the ride each day—don’t mock! by the time we finish this circumnavigation we could be like that or worse! The west side of the pier was closed off for most of its length, also dying of old age, but although a couple of men in hard hats walked officiously into the area nobody looked as if they were doing any work. There was a lone fisherman on the end of the pier but he hadn’t caught anything.We continued east along the prom in the sunshine. We stopped to read a sign that told us why we should be out walking for 30 minutes each day and all the details as to how it was doing us good and how to go about planning a walk and how to walk and how they were ‘helping’ us by putting up a sign at every half kilometre and….(the ‘nanny’ State is at it again.) We were pleased to see that half the prom is a cycle lane (cycling is forbidden on pain of a fine on Bognor prom) though we did think that the pedestrians should be on the seaward side. We stopped to read a second sign all about three phases of work on seafront defences which will only take place during the winter and the shingle will be returned by each summer and they hope to have the whole thing complete by the summer of 1998—I wonder if they did! We stopped to read a third sign which told us that this area has been preserved forever as a site of ‘natural significance’ or something, and how they had all collaborated together to preserve this site forever because it is of such importance and it would never be developed and loads more of similar claptrap—it was a few yards of untidy shingle behind the prom!
When the prom at last came to an end there was a fence (such as you find round building sites these days) blocking the way over the shingle to a Martello tower. Since one panel had been ‘felled’ we carried on and began to realise the full hypocrisy of the last sign we had read—our way was blocked by a brand new harbour leading to a new marina complex which was still being built! A huge area was under construction and obviously the few untidy yards of shingle we had just passed had been left as a concession to the conservationists. Money certainly talks! We wondered how much they were flogging the houses for, and the annual cost of renting a berth for your boat. (A couple of years later, when there was widespread flooding in the South of England, we heard that the Environment Agency had warned against building houses on this site because the buildings are actually below sea level! As usual, where money is involved, the warnings were ignored.)
Since we did not want to swim across the harbour entrance we started to make our way round it, and fortunately there was another hole in the fence before our way was completely blocked by scaffolding and half-built houses. We thought we were going to have to walk inland for another mile or so to get round it all, but Colin kept finding little notices saying Pedestrians with an arrow and we ended up on a footbridge over the lock gates between the new harbour and the new marina behind it. We came off the bridge through a little gate, and looking back we saw that there was a notice on the other side of the gate which said No Access—oh well, too late now!
We made our way down the other side of the harbour to the beach where we found a handy breakwater to sit on and eat our sandwiches. It was here that my film ran out and I discovered that I had not packed another one, so no more photographs today, unfortunately.
The tide was out leaving a wide sward of smooth sand so we decided to continue along the beach. This was okay for a while, but the breakwaters were getting increasingly near to the water and we had to scramble through them like contortionists! Eventually my leg objected, so we walked up the mound of shingle because we could see the first houses of Pevensey Bay. But there was no prom or even footpath along the top of the shingle and we found ourselves walking along an unmade road with houses between us and the sea, then an unofficial path through wasteland. When we tried to continue this, a woman came out of one of the houses and told us, in a posh voice, that there was no way through and “you will have to walk up to the road!” So we went back down to the beach.
Now it was easier to get along the sand and we did so until we reached the fifth Martello tower (this one had been converted into a house) where we left the beach in the centre of the village of Pevensey Bay.

That ended Walk no. 9, we shall pick up Walk no. 10 next time at the same point on the beach at Pevensey Bay. We walked a mile inland to Pevensey Castle where we had left our car. After a refreshing cup of tea from the flask we had thoughtfully placed in the boot, we toured the castle before driving home.
A fortification was first built there in Roman times when it was by the sea and there was a natural harbour by its walls, long since silted up and drained for farmland. Pevensey is a medieval castle first built by the Normans and sieged at several points in history including Tudor times and the Civil War. It boasts a dungeon and an ‘oubliette’. It was last used for defence as recently as the Second World War when Canadian troops were stationed there to guard the south coast. I regretted not having any more film for my camera because it was beautiful in the setting sun with a number of spectacular lighting effects. We went on a audio tour which was very good and brought it all alive.

(At the end of Walk 10, I returned to the castle with my camera which had a film in it this time!)

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