Whilst exploring the wreck of The Amsterdam last week, I also thought I’d get in a little bit of coastal walking and the Bulverhythe Coastal Link is perfect for that. This coastal link is a shared pedestrian and cycling route, and part of the National Cycle Network Route 2. From Hastings Pier to the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill is roughly 7 km, most of which is pretty flat and takes you past a number of little curiosities. If you don’t mind walking back again, that’s fine but if you don’t have the time for that, this route is perfect for a civilised little cycle ride!
Hastings Pier has a chequered history. Built in 1872, its first heyday was in the 1930s along with the rest of the area. By the 1990s it had suffered some storm damage and then a fire in 2010 forced it to close. Following a renovation project in 2010, it re-opened in 2016. You can start your walk here if you want but for my part, I didn’t. I started at St Leonards Warrior Square and the Goat Ledge Café. If you do start in Hastings, the Coastal Link between Hastings and St Leonards takes you along Bottle Alley. It’s part of the double-deck promenade built in the 1930s by Sidney Little, Hastings’ “Concrete King”. It’s just under a kilometre long and the arches are decorated with broken bottles as the name would suggest. In 2017, new lighting was installed to make it more attractive at night.
Goats, huts, and murals
I started at Goat Ledge, a community café in St Leonards Warrior Square. It’s right on the seafront and has a great atmosphere. They have a selection of differently decorated beach huts, deckchairs and parasols, brightly coloured décor and a beach bar vibe. On a sunny Saturday morning, the air was filled with the sound of some light jazz and the smell of good coffee and bacon. Immediately after the café, the promenade arches have been decorated with a series of murals and the whole area has a bohemian feel.
A very short walk from here and you pass Marine Court. I read a review of this building written just a few years back which described Marine Court as a “run-down block of flats with peeling paint” but that couldn’t have been further from the truth for my visit. Also built in the 1930s, it’s now Grade II Listed and on the day of my visit, was gleaming with nautical elegance. It’s designed in the style of the Cunard White-Star Line Queen Mary, and there’s no mistaking that it imitates the curved, stacked bridge of a ship. At one point, it was the tallest block of flats in the UK and home to 153 flats and three restaurants. It’s distinctive, unusual, and visible from along the coast and frankly, I loved it!
The old Lido
Bimble along the coastal path through St Leonards and enjoy some interesting architecture which includes tall, elegant seafront houses and a mixture of Victorian Gothic properties backed by steep cliff-type gardens. As you start to leave St Leonards behind, you come to the Bathing Hut Café on the site of the old Hastings Lido. Another landmark built by Concrete Sid in the 1930s, the Lido was once an Olympic size Roman amphitheatre-style attraction that wasn’t demolished until 1992. The café is right on the seafront and a great spot to replenish supplies. It feels a bit run down around here but the beach huts, water sports, and building projects hint at a current regeneration project.
Combe Valley and Galley Hill
With the Lido behind you, you follow both the path and the railway all the way to Galley Hill. This takes in Bulverhythe Beach where you’ll find the wreck of the 18th century trading ship The Amsterdam and the preserved remains of the submerged Bronze age forest. This is the Jurassic coast, so look out for dinosaurs relics, and you’re also in Combe Valley Countryside Park renowned for its wildlife. You can see the rising face of Galley Hill as you approach just past Glyne Gap.
From here, you’re coming into Bexhill already and racing territory (because in 1902 the 8th Earl de la Warr organised Britain’s first-ever motor race from the top of Galley Hill, along the promenade at Bexhill). I’ve spent a lifetime avoiding Bexhill on Sea but I was pleasantly delighted. Admittedly it was a sunny day but it has shimmering white gazebos overlooking the sea, has a pretty promenade, Edwardian and Victorian architecture, and the famous art deco De La Warr Pavilion and Motoring Heritage Trail. Ah, but Bexhill is a story for another day. After more coffee and cake from one of the many cafés, it was time to turn tail and head home.