Now going back to our journey to the south coast. On Thursday we went south to Cocking which is in the middle of West Sussex where the old owners of "Somewhere" live in a beautiful country home. The area is in rolling country which is similar to lots of New Zealand and of course is the old farm village with buildings dating from the 16th century and is so fascinating.
On Thursday evening, Ross and Elaine took us to their favourite hotel restaurant named the Spread Eagle Hotel in a nearby town of Midhurst. This town has been known to be inhabited for 2000 years and has served all sorts of landlords and royals during this period. This hotel had so much history since it was originally developed as a Sussex Coaching Inn in the 15 century, 1430 and is adorned with so many antiques which were being used in every day dining like spindle back chairs and oak tables etc, etc. Adorning the ceiling of the dining area one can look up to see Xmas Puddings hanging. Some of them dating back to Oliver Cromwell's time when people who came to stay and ordered Xmas Pudding had another one cooked, their name added to the bowl and it was hung as the invitation for them to attend the following year.
While the township of Midhurst has a population of only 200 people the hotel is visited by folk from all over so offer a huge bill of fare as well as accommodation and would be rated as a 5 star hotel at least. It is amazing how far folk travel to view and to use these sorts of places and you can tell that there is a very proud feeling by locals and visitors as to the value of the heritage so all items which you can touch are just there before you. I couldn't imagine a pub in New Zealand allowing such magnificent furnishings and fittings to be handled at all.In the foyer stands a complete suit of armour which is an original and as you can examine it so closely you get a true understanding of how small the soldiers were of the era and how strong they were as despite the old story that told of them being lifted onto horseback by rope slung over a branch or frame, this was not so. They had to get onto their horses often without any assistance same as if they got knocked from the horse they had to remount often on their own.
Completely fascinating spot to visit however, we moved on from there to the seaside resort of Brighton. Situated as it is right on the coast this big city has been the playground and holiday destination for millions of Britons and foreigners since the middle ages and the immense layout of multi storeyed buildings which once were homes for the rich and famous they are now largely converted to hotels, B&Bs plus flats and apartments as there is a large university there as well.
If you compare it to Bondi Beach in Sydney, well don't as the beach is heaped gravel, steep,with a horrible surf of brown coloured Atlantic ocean pounding onto the foreshore and as there is a real drift to the East there seems to be man-made groins built every few hundred meters or so to minimise the scouring. I guess in the heat of summer (if any arrives) there will be standing room only or in some cases you can hire pretty little coloured bathing sheds where you can sit out of the wind or store your belongings. To be honest it is like a step back in time as we stayed across the road from the Brighton Pier which is a huge appendage sticking out into the ocean. Gee it must cop some huge storms. This Pier is predominantly an amusement centre with the old slot machines and penny arcades etc.
Further west of this pier is the skeletal frame of the other pier which was almost as famous but sadly burnt down some few years back leaving the twisted steel structure remains to mother nature to destroy. In my opinion it is not only an eye-sore but very dangerous for any bathers who would choose to swim the hundred meters or so out to look at it and I am amazed that the owners have not been made to destroy and remove it completely.
After an afternoon and night spent in Brighton, we moved on as the famous Pavilion designed and built by George IV which looks like an Indian Taj or similar was closed for the winter months which was a pity as it looked quite amazing in that it has stood since 1822 when it was first used as a holiday castle and entertainment centre for royalty and the rich and famous.
We drove East towards the city of Hastings where we were to stay overnight where we viewed the original Butlins Family Holiday Park. Going since19?? this amazing family holiday camp with accommodation and entertainment which even had its own song to entice new visitors over all those years, almost a blue print for Club Meds in later years. It is a tribute to the company that this is still going and packing them in each summer period. We stopped in Eastbourne from where we took a diversion to Beechy Head based on a feeling by Rhonda that this could be an interesting area. I wasn't so sure but as usual the navigator was right as this area is like a piece of the White Cliffs Of Dover and is just amazing. Some of our photos will tell their own story and as it is so lowly populated that you can wander for miles along the cliff tops and look down far to the ocean and coast below. It is quite daunting really and usually while I am not bothered by this sort of landscape, I have to say that the way the cliff edges were not signed nor protected in any way made my stomach lurch when Rhonda and Harry got to be too close by my reckoning to the straight drop of several hundred feet to the beach below. People walk along tracks only which are probably two meters from the edge and despite the fact that every so often the cliffs do crumble it does not seem to stop the strollers even despite the freezing cold day and harsh wind.
Maybe the fact that there was a mobile Chaplain patrolling the local road in her Toyota 4 x 4 van gives a feeling that the area sometimes gets used for sadder happenings but the raw beauty of the area is something one must witness and if the cliffs of Dover are even more daunting then I am sorry we missed out but due to the weather forecast we headed north and home to our barge calling at a couple of pretty small towns which called for our attention but arriving safely before the bad weather arrived.
I have to say how we could not get over how much history is to be found in such small geographic areas and you no longer leave one thing before you are looking at the next. One would need a lifetime to absorb even half of what is on offer to see and to learn about, however, I also have to add that the bloody parking charges are a real pain and even are applied in the most rural areas and spoil the day really as most historic sights charge a visiting/viewing fee and then on top of that you have to pay to park the car which can often be many hundreds of yards away from the actual attraction. That is my only grumble but do wish better parking facilities could be provided at free entry.