Checking out my new(ish) neighbourhood.

September 05 2019 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

One of the unexpected joys in this inter-departmental civil service transfer that I am doing has been getting an extra week holiday, albeit in this case an unpaid week. Things are never simple in the civil service and one of the things that is more complex than it needs to be is moving to another department. This is especially so with all the Brexit changes going on, with staff being seconded and loaned all over the place. Nailing down a start date has not been easy in this transfer from the Cabinet Office to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. However, it is happening and I am starting my new role on Monday 9th, not the 2nd. The extra week off has been good.

I spent last week back in Walthamstow, getting a few things organised; buying some clothes for the office, attacking the mega ironing pile, all the little tasks that need to be done before starting a new job. I also went back to the office for the final time and handed in my laptop and security passes, it wasn’t time for a final farewell; that is happening over drinks next week.

I did go out and buy a new camera. I own three other cameras, none of them work properly;

  • The Panasonic GX1 I took travelling all those years ago, which no longer works, but does have three lenses.
  • The Canon 5d Mk1 that I dropped and broke the battery cover and is so old I cannot get a new one. It is also starting to be unreliable and I have been thinking of replacing it for ages.
  • The Canon G16 compact. Three scratches on the lens, one right in the middle which does effect image quality.

I have been thinking about new cameras for ages, the 5d is 12 years old, but I have lenses and other things that I could transfer to a newer version, a Mk4 or 5, but those camera bodies are over £2000. It is a magnificent camera, but it is really heavy and impractical for travelling or hiking. I looked at the Fuji and Sony systems, smaller and great quality, but I would end up spending similar amounts by the time I got lenses to go with the cheaper body from a different brand.

In the end I decided on going for another Panasonic Lumix – probably two of them in fact, one small and ‘pocket’ sized and a second, more professional version; though I can share lenses between them both, and having some already helps.

I bought a Lumix GX800 to start with, the cheaper ‘pocket’ sized camera. I like it because I can change the lens, which is unusual for a compact.

This week was going to be test week. My post from the gig on Tuesday night showed that its low light capabilities were excellent, way better than any of my previous cameras, which is a good sign. 

Which takes me back to the rest of the week. With another week off and El working I chose to come back down to the flat, with no tasks to do it was just going to be a relaxing time. Walking, reading, typing, photography was all I had planned, and pretty much all I achieved.

My first activity was to head back to Bexhill, and then walk to St Leonards. I wanted to see how long it would take. The answer is only 90 minutes, so it was closer than I thought. It is a great walk, mostly dead flat, but there are loads of small things to look at along the way. I may have to do a series of photos of the shelters along the Hastings, St Leonards and Bexhill sea fronts. I like them.

The following day I wanted to do a longer walk and get a few hills into the legs. When I was looking at the map of East Hill the other week I saw Ecclesbourne Glen Cave, and given my surface interest in caves and in the weird history of Hastings I decide that I would endeavour to find that on this walk. The cave can be found in Hastings Country Park, which I discovered today is bigger than it looks on the map.

It was pointed out during last summer’s drought that when flying over fields of drying and dying grass you could the outlines of things that had been buried or marked in the grass. Sites of ancient interest, some previously unknown became clear through the way the grass grew on top. While this is no ancient site, I have never seen football pitch markings on East Hill before, but this Google Maps image clearly shows ghost football pitches coming out of the grass. Love it.

I walked along the seafront, it was a busy day, I had thought the kids were back at school, but discovered it was a ‘teacher only’ day so there were a lot more families out than I expected. I took the steps next to the funicular up East Hill.

I particularly liked this shadow on the wall as the steps made a turn to run perpendicular to the very bright sun.

Back on East Hill I had a quick look for any sign of the Black Arches from above and was not disappointed to not find them, I had no luck when I was properly looking. The park is narrowish, so I headed off in the general direction of the cave. I was sort of hoping to find a sign, but if not I would use a map on my phone. The first sign I came across was not helpful.

As I was wondering what to do two teenagers walking a dog came down and just crossed the fence, they told me there had been landslides but it was safe and passable. I too crossed the fence; they went down a path heading towards the beach and I went along a path traversing the hillside. Looking at the map again with more knowledge and I could clearly see the landslip, it happened two or three years ago and the path was fine. Though vague in parts it was obviously well used.

I ploughed along for a while, finding different paths to follow, vaguely heading in the right direction, before finding a sign pointing to Ecclesbourne Glen, immediately followed by another saying the path was closed. Ignoring it the same as I did the last I started down the hill, seaward, eventually stumbling across the cave by good fortune rather than by good luck.

I do not know when the cave was first dug out of the small sandstone bank but I do know that in the late 19th century there were cottages nearby and gardens up near the cave. In 1893 John Hancox came to Hastings after his business had been bankrupted in London. He was given permission by one of the landowners to live in the cave, which a door was added to.

John lived in the cave until his death in 1918. He was found in the cave, which contained almost nothing. He slept on the ground and had a small fire for cooking. Though no one officially, or otherwise lives in the cave now, it is well used, and there have been numerous small fires lit in and out the front, along with the sad but not unexpected piles of empty drink bottles and food containers.

Leaving the cave I climbed back up to the main path and carried on walking through the Country Park, it is very nice up here, cool under the trees and fairly quiet, only dog walkers seem to come this way.

I walked as far as Ecclesbourne Reservoir before deciding to turn back towards Hastings. I was hungry and had no food on me. My normal careful planning, :), though I did have water, I am not completely stupid 🙂

I didn’t do a lot else with the week, took a few photos, learning how the new camera works so I don’t have to keep stopping, digging through a bag or pocket for glasses so I work out what button I pressed. I am very much liking the new camera.

About wheresphil

Originally from Auckland, New Zealand, now living in London.
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