Adur and Downs near Shoreham

Started last Thursday really well with a two and a half mile walk in 40 minutes to meet Peter Powell. We caught a Coastliner bus to Shoreham for coffee and walk.  Went to the Ropetackle for coffee and a sausage roll and used the time to plan a route.  Up the west side of the river Adur, then cross it beyond the cement works and climb the Downs on the South Downs Way before heading back to Shoreham partly through the local nature reserve on the slopes of the valley overlooking the Adur.  Beer to follow, perhaps?

We encountered a significant scar across the valley and learnt that it is the route of burial of cables to carry the power from the forthcoming offshore windfarm through to the electricity substation slightly NE of Henfield.


This is high on the Downs east of the Adur, looking northwards along the scar.


And this is from nearby, looking south across Shoreham airport and out to just a few the offshore ‘studs’, each of which will support a turbine tower, some three miles out.

As we approached the town, on a tarmac road, we noticed that many of the vehicles we stepped aside for where shiny new black or white 4x4s with tinted rear windows, mainly driven by youngish blonde women.  Towards the bottom of the hill houses began to appear, and this scene came into view.  The shiny 4×4 is the tractor and child carrier of choice hereabouts.


We made our way to the ancient church of St Nicolas where I wanted to look at a Coadestone monument.  This is a cast (or cast and further incised) material which was then dried and fired to create artificial stone designs of great detail.  many around the nation are still in excellent condition, this one is a bit curate’s egg-ish.  But here is a good bit:


The bigger bird is about 4 inches long.  Elsewhere we spotted a gravestone marking the burial of Lydia Yavorska, Princess Bariatinsky, the wife of John Pollock.  She died in 1921 and the gravestone looks like its date.  But the surface is not wearing as well as the Coadestone of 107 years earlier.


After a pint of Downlands Root 13 in the adjacent Red Lion we walked into Shoreham for a jar of Long man APA in the Old Star, then caught a bus into Brighton, from which we spotted this rainbow, with its crock of gold apparently in a gas fired power station – so much for renewables.


We had time for a couple of halves in the Evening Star.  Northern Mark’s True North (a little too malty for my taste), Kissingate’s Black Cherry mild (very sweet but pleasant) and Siren’s Vermont Tea Party (pale sour and lemony – enjoyed it).

Posted in Brighton, Environmental Concerns, my travels, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Open Car Tour: day 3

After a hearty breakfast at Howfield Manor Hotel we set out to find a long Roman Road heading south from Canterbury towards the sea – now known as the B2068.  After crossing the M20, and before reaching the sea, we turned west onto the B2067 road for Tenterden for coffee and a bit of shopping at the market stalls there.  Bought some excellent rye bread and cheeses.

The B2067 was much better driving than the straighter B2068.  The combination of wide road, good long views and sweeping curves makes the MG drive feel much more thrilling, without the constant fear of oncoming things suddenly appearing (which we had on winding narrow lanes yesterday) or the dullness of foot-down straight ahead motoring on the Roman road that is the B2068.


Vroom vroom!

Next it was Battle – sorry about the lack of detail.  Great place, the finest bit being the Bishops Palace which we did not enter because its a private school for those outside ordinary society.  Apparently its always been a place exclusively for the elite.

But the empty and draughty remains of the other buildings around the cloisters are available to mere ordinary folk, so we accessed them.  Glorious really.  Lunch in a pub on the high street before we ran back to the car as the rain started, to get the top up and travel home.  Not the best end to the trip, but at least we got to raise the lid.



Posted in my travels, Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Grand Tour – part two.

Having found ourselves on the southern edge of Ashford in Kent, on a road not shown on my map, we had to park and regroup.  Just east of Ashford we found a sideroad for Hinxhill that took us to the Pilgrims Way and into a mixture of wooded valleys and winding lanes named Lyminge Forest on my OS map.  We got briefly lost in this area but soon found a junction with four fingerboards displaying villages and distances.  This was all we needed to get a location and so reach and cross the A2 at Barham and so enter the ex industrial landscape of the East Kent Coalfield, where the names Snowdon, Elvington and particularly Betteshanger brought back dim memories of a long-gone industrial community hereabouts.  Only minutes later we were entering Deal with its castle and seaside bars – one of which provided lunch and more bloody Shep. Neame beer.

Motoring on we headed for the resorts of Broadstairs and Margate, specifically for icecream from the internally listed Morellis ice cream parlour at Broadstairs and Margate’s famous Shell Grotto.


Watching the holiday makers on a crowded Broadstairs beach whilst eating Morellis ice cream.


Inside the Shell Grotto at Margate.  Thoroughly amazing construction which I was happy to visit again, to show it to Graham.  Then we made our way about 20 miles down the A28 just past Canterbury and to the Howfield Manor Hotel, our second night stop, and the Chapter Arms pub just a mile up the road for supper and beer, and wine!!  I think we finished the whisky on our return, after a pint of something keg at the hotel bar.

Posted in my travels, Real Ale | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Grand Tour – part the first

On Wednesday 31st August my school friend Graham picked me up in his British Racing Green open topped MG for a three day tour of East Sussex and Kent.  I had spent some days plotting routes using Graham’s guiding rules (average speed 30mph, only 4 hours driving per day, mix of winding lanes and some faster B-roads, and explore the coast, find some interesting places to visit).

We left Brighton by minor roads – Bear Rd to Woodingdean, Falmer, Kingston roundabout, Kingston to Newhaven, Seaford and Cuckmere valley, Seven Sisters downland loop and back way into Eastbourne.  Cruised the whole of Eastbourne seafront and snuck into Pevensey Bay, Normans Bay and Coodens Bay before going inland to scuttle along lanes round the back of Bexhill and Hastings and on to Fairlight where we stopped to climb the sea defence and look at the sea.


Travelling along the seaside road does not guarantee a sea view.  We reached Rye at lunchtime and spent a fruitless 20 minutes driving around full car parks hoping someone would leave.  Then spotted a pub car park, and they offered lunch – parking problem solved.  It was the Cinque Port, one of many Shep. Neame houses.  The exuberant manager served an acceptable golden ale and a delightful seabass and ratatouille dish.  The lovely man said we could leave the car whilst we took a walk around town.


A fine mix of buildings held together by red clay tiles.  Lots of arty shops and some good views out to low-lying lands around us.  We motored onto the giant gravel protrusion that is Dungeness foreland with its marshy infills including Romney Marsh.


Passing Camber Sands on our way towards Dungeness power stations.  We decided on cake and a train ride on the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch railway.  Cake was possible because we planned to wait for the next steam-hauled train.


Green Goddess looks big here, but the oil can on top of the coal tender gives a clue to its real size.


At the southern end of the line the train traveled a big loop across the gravel lands to head north again, giving views of lighthouses and the 2 nuclear power stations.  We had booked into a farmhouse B&B near Brookland where we stopped for a pint next to Brookland Church with its very odd separate shingle clad bell tower.


We asked for directions to Dean Court Farm and the barmaid did a quick google search and started to direct us to Dean Court Stadium in Bournemouth.  We found our way and were soon set up with tea and coffee makings as well as the bottle of malt picked up at Aldi (or Lidl) at Newhaven earlier.


That evening we had supper at the Woolpack, just a 20 minute walk down the lane.  Possibly the biggest mixed grill I have ever encountered.  Had to leave some of the chop and liver, and hardly touched the separate big bowl of chips!!  Waddled back to the B&B and made the above dent in the scotch.

Breakfast saw Graham and me taking two seats at a 12 seat polished hardwood dining table where we ate raspberries and yogurt followed by smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with brown bread and butter, all under a giant cut glass chandelier.  Then we planned a route round a few Romney Marsh churches – Brooklands, Old Romney and Ivychurch – using a Penguin publication we found in the lounge, Romney Marsh Churches written and illustrated by John Piper.


Fragment of the Matyrdom of Thomas Becket on Brooklands Church, discovered in 1964, further revealed and conserved 8 years later, originally painted in 13th century.  The archbishop in the small guy kneeling down on right, the three killers with drawn swords are behind him, one having smashed his weapon into Becket’s skull.  We also liked the lead font, box pews, old clock mechanism and the seriously outward-leaning columns of the nave.

On to Old Romney with its 600 year old yew and plethora of extra buttresses to hold the structure up.  Piper describes this Romney Marsh church feature as ‘brokenbacked’.


A column in Old Romney church leaning out.  Extra timbers carry some of the sideways thrust out to the aisle wall and extra buttresses have been built onto the aisles.  The box pews and gallery here are pleasing.



The extra buttresses take away from the intended lightness of Old Romney church, but I guess they keep it up.

Then we drove on to the ‘Cathedral of the Marsh’ at Ivychurch.  A big church alright, with the aisles almost as big as the main nave, and one currently holding an exhibition of old agricultural machinery and tools.



More wall painting here and our second vicars rain hut – a heavy wooden ‘sentrybox’ used to protect priestly vestments and bible from rain at graveside services.

The plan was to take a short piece of A-road off the marsh before turning onto a minor road and jinking our way to Deal for lunch, but the road layout had been altered since my 1974 OS map was published and we found our drive constrained by lack of exits until the outskirts of Ashford.

Posted in my travels, Real Ale | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Working in another garden

Jackie and I went to Marian’s this week to help her convert old decking and an even older scaffolding plank table into a woodstore.  Marian had already found a near neighbour who had a palette available, so that provided the airy base, held above the earth on bricks and tiles as well as basic dimensions.  Coffee and conversation came up with a basic plan that was refined as we went.  About 5 hours later we had finished the store for a cubic metre of firewood.  Marian will coat the whole thing with a shed/fence preservative when it has had a chance to dry out – some of the decking had been on the soil for a while.  The only purchase was a tube of waterproof gap-filling glue to seal the spaces between each of the decking board roof elements.  A remarkably satisfying days activity.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Squirrel activity, hornbeam and hazel.

I was sitting in the shade of our mighty hornbeam reading an old New Scientist when small things started to slowly rain down on the magazine and me.  It was associated with a shaking of leafy twigs and a clicking noise.  Stepping to one side and looking up (for I not a fool) I saw the cause of my vegetable precipitation.  A grey squirrel pulling off bunches of hornbeam seeds and nipping each seedcase open to get at the small seed within, before dropping the unwanted bits on me.  It provided an opportunity to examine the seeds.  Each flattened nut case is about 6 to 8mm across and 2 to 3mm deep, and set at the base of a pleasing three-pointed leaflike structure.  The squirrel doesn’t get them all, there are a few which have germinated and small new hornbeams are growing – at least for a while – in various corners of the end of the garden.


Above is a selection of nibbled hornbeam seeds and one complete one for, well, completeness.

Whilst scrabbling around on the ground seeking the above specimens I found lots of opened hazel nuts, so here is evidence of further squirrel feeding.  I’m glad I wasn’t sitting under the hazel tree – much heavier vegetable rain!


This warm spell has brought me into the garden a lot more, and it has brought our rose out again.  I thought it had finished flowering for the year, but no.  Two big blooms, and more to come if it stays mild.


You can tell its autumn by the spider webs anchored on both flowers.  Finally – last month saw the fellow below turn up and walk over my leg.  Looks like a fairly early stage of a cricket, but I’m not sure.  Nice colour though.


Posted in Brighton, Round Hill, wildlife | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Renovating the bird table

Our back garden is really quite small, some 60 feet by 17 feet, but it is the permanent source of jobs, every one leading to another.  A few weeks ago we cut back the increasingly oppressive holly by the back door.  That created a gap at the end of a supposedly cat-proof fence I built a couple of years ago, so more fence had to be made, to extend to the impenetrable,  thorny holly.  In working on the fence we decided that the bird table was not in the best position (on a high post along the fence, and surprisingly hard to get to when the castor oil plant is bulking up).  So the table came down.  Inspection showed a lot of rot to the feeding surface and de-laminating of the plywood roof (designed – successfully – to stop gulls reaching the feeding surface below).  So it was dismantled, new timber found for the feeding surface, and re-mantled.  But what (I hear you cry) about the plywood roof?  Well, I stripped off the buckled layers of ply an clad one half with a sheet of copper which was on its way to the scrap merchant, but there was not enough for both sides.  Decided to adopt clipper ship technology and stretched a layer of canvas to the other side and coated it with boiled linseed oil.  From somewhere I got the idea that battening down the hatches involved canvas and linseed oil, but I could be wrong.

Then the bloody thing had to be re-homed somewhere.  We put it back in the middle of the garden, using a ‘found’ estate agents post as support.  And as I look out of the window now I see it providing shelter for the squirrel which is eating its way through the seeds and bread put out for the birds.  So – a squirrel resistant bird feeder next?


Above you can see the copper roof side, and below the oiled canvas side, with the castor oil plant behind, and some of the extended fence to the far left.







Posted in Brighton, Round Hill, wildlife | Tagged , , | 1 Comment