On the 14th October anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, a rather overdue post with plenty of holiday photos from our own conquest of the Sussex coast by caravan this summer!
Visits to Bexhill on Sea, Hastings, Battle, Biddenden Vineyards, Brighton, Wilmington, Pevensey and Rye.
We stayed at the Caravan & Camping Club site at Normans Bay, about a mile east of Pevensey towards Bexhill. Some friends of ours expressed their concern about this, because they had heard that Normans Bay was a nudist colony. Turns out that yes there is a ‘private beach’ a little bit further down the road, but fortunately our own campsite was fully clothed. So it’s a good job I brought my pants!
About a mile along the coast road is the small village of Pevensey Bay. Not to be confused with Pevensey itself, which is a little further inland and has its own train station, Pevensey Bay has a handful of pubs, restaurants and shops mainly catering to the seaside tourist trade.
Day One and we visited the nearest large town, Bexhill on Sea. Easy parking on-street at the furthest end of the West Parade, followed by a long walk along the promenade with the dogs into the centre of town near to the De La Warr Pavilion.
It’s a lovely seaside resort, extremely well presented and maintained. We found some delightful little beachfront apartments just east of the centre. I wonder how much they sell for?
Day Two and we visited Hastings, a little further to the east. Another traditional seaside resort, with the beach, promenade and gardens to the west of the pier, and more of a family holiday feel to the east of the pier with its funfair and amusements, fish & chip shops near to the old fisherman’s wharf, and some castle ruins set high on the hill above the town.
Not far inland from Hastings is the Battle Abbey & Battlefield. A really quaint little linear village with cafes and gift shops, but the real reason for visiting is of course to explore the ruins of Battle Abbey, with its grounds overlooking the ancient battlefield from 1066.
We parked in the pay & display immediately outside the gates to the abbey. Parking is free for visitors to the English Heritage site, by way of a barrier token issued when you purchase your admission tickets.
On a glorious summer’s day, we started out with a sit down and a drink outside the cafe and visitor centre. There are various displays inside the centre giving a summary history of the site and the associated Norman conquest.
From the visitor centre, we headed out one one of the walks from our visitor map. There are signposted walks of various lengths, some around the accessible ruins only, some visiting trickier access ruins, through to the longest walk including the perimeter of the battlefield slopes.
Brighton is about 25 miles to the west of where we were staying, which gave us a day out driving in the opposite direction. To us it felt more cosmopolitan and less tourist-friendly than the previous towns we visited. But there are a handful of attractions in the centre of town, such as the Royal Pavilion and Gardens, with the Museum & Art Gallery next door.
Near to the Pavilion is the central ‘Palace Pier’ (no dogs allowed, unfortunately!). The old ‘West Pier’ is now just a rusting skeleton after a series of disasters, although an entrance kiosk building on the promenade is being restored by a local trust.
Also close to the pavilion is a winding network of narrow passageways known as ‘The Lanes’. It’s packed with exclusive (=expensive?) shops, including a jewellery quarter, and some pretty little pavement cafes. Another exhaustingly hot day, so we stopped for a coffee, and some water for the dogs!
Running for about a mile along the promenade from the pier to the marina is the curious Volks Electric Railway, a narrow gauge line dating back to the Victorian era. Halfway along the line is a very small visitor centre attached to the engine sheds, providing a historical background and a scale model of the railway to enjoy.
Our route back to the campsite from Brighton took us very close to the famous ‘Long Man of Wilmington’, carved into the chalk hillside of the South Downs, so we stopped off for a while to explore the immediate area. My photo from a distance doesn’t show it off particularly clearly though.
Wilmington is not too far from Lewes, where some old friends of ours live. As we hadn’t seen them for a few years, we managed to organise a full day together exploring the area and catching up on family news. We also visited Biddenden Vineyards in Kent, where visitors (and dogs!) are welcome to walk around the perimeter of each of the vineyards. There’s a cafe and shop on site, of course, for some essential souvenir shopping and a cold drink after a relaxing stroll around the fields.
Closer to our campsite, in the village of Pevensey, are the huge ruins of Pevensey Castle. It’s another English Heritage site, with a fascinating history from its 4th Century Roman beginnings, through the Norman Conquest where it served as William’s landing place and was subsequently transformed into a full Norman castle.
The castle featured during the civil war of 1264 between Simon de Montfort’s parliamentary forces and King Henry 3rd’s royalist army. In more recent years it was modified for use as a Second World War coastal fortress.
Approaching the end of our holiday, we travelled further afield to the coastal town of Rye in East Sussex. In the old part of town above the harbour, narrow cobbled lanes full of medieval half-timbered buildings line the hill up to the Norman Church of St Mary’s and the 14th Century Ypres Tower which was part of the walled town’s defences.
A thoroughly enjoyable holiday for us, showcasing some of the best that Sussex offers, during another spell of glorious summer weather. If you’ve enjoyed reading, please do take a moment to leave me a comment below. But… “Do not on any account attempt to write on both sides of the paper at once”.