It’s Sh*t Along The Dock of the Bay

Sometimes things just aren’t meant to be, and that’s kind of the feeling I get about the town I lived in for the best part of 30 years until 2008: Newhaven, East Sussex.

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It’s not all bad though….

As my job occasionally brings me back here for a morning or afternoon, I thought I would “do” one of my old cycle routes from back in the day and park up at Splash Point in Seaford and cycle along the cycle path to Newhaven, along the West Quay and then down to the village green elect that is the West Beach, before heading back to Seaford for a coffee and driving to Newhaven, where I was starting work at 12:45.

Throughout the eighties and nineties, there was much talk of redevelopment of the West Quay in Newhaven, with it’s ramshackle landing stages with peeling black and white boards proclaiming their number (and #10 was the one you could see the house my mother way brought up in from!), Fishermens’ Club and fish sellers into a kind of yuppie development with a waterfront. For years the negotiations went on, there was the recession of the early nineties, which I guess didn’t help and then finally, I’m guessing sometime around the turn of the millennium, development began and houses were built, the road semi-pedestrianised and the area where the old ballast sorting works were was turned into a car park and green.

I remember going down there, not long after it was completed, and thinking that it really did look quite smart – although there wasn’t really anything to “attract” people to the area and the docks over the other side of the river really were looking extremely tatty and, as ever, the ferry service was hanging in the balance. But it looked nice and it was a sunny day. I guess this was around 2004, although I can’t be sure.

I'd just love a lick of paint

I’d just love a lick of paint

Fast forward nineish years to today. Seaford was still Seaford, although I must admit, it was looking quite tatty along the seafront and the kiosk where I used to cycle to when I was on my rapid weight loss programme only achieved 20% at the last inspection from Environmental Health.  I’m also in conflict with Seaford Town Council’s approach to cycling on the seafront, which, in 2005, was declared legal by virtue of the fact that there is no bylaw prohibiting it.  The council resolved to remove the signs in 2005, but never actioned this resolution.  And I want to know why, being that cycling is acceptable in far more exotic locations, such as Hastings, Brighton, Hove and even Lancing!

A new section of cycle path to “plug the gap” by Seaford Sailing Club has recently been installed and this makes life a lot easier when exiting the town, and a lot lot easier when entering it.

The path along the estuary was disappointingly overgrown, although we have had a few warm days recently, so it could only be a week or two of growth and then, once I got the the B&Q roundabout in Newhaven, I was disappointed to find that the mish mash of signs, and information really hasn’t improved along the stretch of Drove Road to the other side of the Swing Bridge.  A couple of particular gems include instructing cyclists to use Railway Road for Transmanche and the main entrance for Hoverspeed only (the former passenger terminal closed down years ago, and Hoverspeed left Newhaven in 2004) and directing cyclists down a pavement, only to give a no cycling sign a few yards on!

Once we get around the problem of being told to cycle where it is prohibited, we can head along “Riverside North” towards Hugget’s Green which still looks ok actually.  It was beyond here I became disillusioned.

Welcome to Newhaven

Welcome to Newhaven

Unloved Railings

Unloved Railings

The place is looking tatty, that is the only way that is can be described.  The once smart red cycleway is now faded and cracked, near the RNLI station it is positively bumpy.  There are weeds growing out of the retaining wall as you cycle along the back of the houses and the whole area looks like someone was paid to install it all, which, to be fair, they did a reasonable job of, but nobody has really maintained it since.  At the north end of Riverside the railings are shabby.  They are quite beautiful railings (for a municipal installation!) but now they are covered in rust spots and the varnish is long gone.  Where is the civic pride?  This area could be so nice, why are the people of Newhaven not maintaining it, why are the councils not maintaining it, or the port, or the developer, or someone?

I cycled on, past the now closed Sheffield Arms pub and on towards the beach.  The Yacht Club is long gone and the whole area from the bottom of Gibbon Road to the Hope Inn is a mess on the river side of the road.  A disgrace, there is no other word for it.  Welcome to Newhaven, Gateway to Europe!

You then arrive at the West Beach Promenade Car Park (for the signs have been changed, less you forget it is not a beach in the eyes of the owners), the scene of the new Battle of Newhaven (the last battle being lost, and an incinerator, sorry, energy recovery facility (which recovers energy by incineration, but that’s not the point) being opened).

It's a cracking ride!

It’s a cracking ride!

West Beach Steps

Keep off the beach!

The port authority (French) decided a few years ago that the beach would no longer be accessible to the good people of Newhaven and put up a big spiky fence to keep anyone out.  Undeterred, the people of Newhaven, backed by their Town Council, registered it as a “village green” and then the port appealed and still it ping pongs about!  I think they will probably win, but what happens next, who knows?

The hut, charging £2 to park and not use the beach, or breakwater, is still there and there were two cars in the car park.  The amusements and refreshments have long since been demolished.  This is where I almost did myself a mischief.  It was the end of the ride (well, I had to head back, but this was the end of the road so to speak) and I turned at the end of the car park and was admiring the view of Seaford Head when the (thin) wheel of my bike went down a groove, where the two sections of concrete meet and the wood between had rotted away.  Fortunately I didn’t have my clip in shoes on and also the bike managed to get itself out, but I could easily have hurt myself quite badly.

And this is the problem: The whole area has not been maintained.  It’s not the fault of any one organisation, the whole thing is just really unfortunate.  It seems nobody has any pride left.  Nobody cares.  Yet we know they do, from the huge battle over the beach.

I cycled back to Seaford, and sighed at the sign which still directs cyclists towards Sainsbury’s for Seaford, eight years after the cycle path from Denton Corner to McDonald’s was opened.

Take care!

Take care!

Unloved Beach

Unloved Beach

Tatty waterfront

Tatty waterfront

Cracked path

Cracked path

Take care!

Take care!

The varnish will soon be gone

The varnish will soon be gone

 

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