Our short summer break with the Madhouse grandparents in Hastings has had autumnal overtones rather than the blazing sunshine that we were hoping for so our days out have been limited, but we did manage to go shower-dodging in the Old Town yesterday morning.
We parked at Rockanore and wandered along to the Stade - only a few hundred metres but there are oodles of interesting things to discover. Hastings fishing port is unique because the fishing boats are dragged right up on to the beach. (The word stade is in fact a Saxon term meaning landing place.) These ones are on display by the Fishermen's Museum so they never go out to sea but the real ones are just behind the huts on the beach opposite.
The iconic tall black net huts are unique to Hastings too - dating back to the 16th century, these huts are used for storing the fishermen's gear, including their nets, and they were awarded a listing by English Heritage because of their importance. They are black because they are made of wood covered in tar and they are tall because of the limited space that was available on the beach before the groynes were built.
The sights and above all smells of the fishing port continue with the little fishermen's shacks, selling fresh fish straight from the boats on the beach. You can tell by the seagulls on the roof when they have a new haul to sell !
As we'd just missed Old Town Week, with Pirate Day, the Pram Race and the Old Town Carnival, amongst other festivities, there were several floats still on view in storage and we were very impressed with this large pirate ship that has been made completely from junk.
I love the pirates at the top made out of part of a table football game !
I asked the Madhouse kids if they'd like to see an even bigger boat and we wandered over to the lifeboat station.
You can get up close to the Hastings lifeboat and learn all about its history, as well as beach safety. (It's a free museum but donations are gratefully received and I bought some huge lollipops in the shop to give them some more much needed funds.)
I was impressed to learn that the Hastings lifeboat took part in the Evacuation of Dunkirk as one of the Little Ships during World War II. You may remember we went and visited the Little Ships, including the Ramsgate lifeboat, when they visited Dunkirk as part of the Operation Dynamo commemorations this year.
The Stade has been totally redeveloped in recent years but it still retains some of the olde worlde seaside town charm. I love the little huts selling whelks and prawns by the pint, and even jellied eels, although I'd never eat them in a million years !
A trip to The Stade wouldn't be complete without a visit to the amusement arcades to play on all the 2p machines.
Sophie sat on the electric chair machine and I was so tempted to put money in it ! (I actually think it's quite a horrible idea, to be honest !)
On the way out, we spotted a rogue hot air balloon ride that had gone a bit mental and was going up and down all by itself.
Pierre had a free ride until we all got bored and convinced him to come off !
Strolling back to the car as the rainclouds rolled in, I spotted this little cottage made out of half a boat. It looks just as I've always imagined Peggoty's Boat-House in Charles Dickens' David Copperfield.
It's amazing how many places of interest are rammed into such a small area. There's also the Blue Reef aquarium, the free Fishermen's Museum (with a real fishing boat you can explore), the Jerwood Gallery, Winkle Island, the half-timbered houses of All Saints Street and the East Hill Lift, a funicular railway that takes you up to the clifftop walks above. It recently dawned on me that I have yet to do all the touristy stuff with the Madhouse kids, such as visiting the remains of Hastings Castle and the Caves (now rebranded as Smugglers' Adventure), so I'll have to rectify that situation on our next visits.