Please note that the talk on the 15th February 2013 will now be The Last Days of Sail
The Friends were recently thrilled for a second year running to receive "The Environment Award" sponsored by Southern Water as part of the Hastings Achievers Awards 2012. These awards, sponsored by the local Observer group of newspapers, "celebrate personal achievements by local people" and individuals and groups are nominated to receive them.
Our chairman, Andrew Blackman, received the certificate on behalf of the Friends at the award ceremony held at South Coast College. He warmly thanked the Friends' committee for their tireless work in promoting and protecting the Country Park Nature Reserve and stressed that without the support of all the Friends we couldn't begin to achieve all we do.
Everyone Loves the Pier
This was the title of a fascinating talk recently given by Cllr. John Hodges to the Friends at the History House in Hastings Old Town. The talk centred on the somewhat troubled histories of our two local piers – Hastings Pier and St. Leonard’s Pier – and was accompanied by illustrations of original documents, postcards, programmes and other ephemeral items.
Our much-loved Hastings Pier first opened in 1872 and quickly became a popular tourist attraction. It boasted a beautifully ornate Indian-style pavilion for musical and theatrical entertainment but this was sadly destroyed in a disastrous fire in 1917. The replacement shed-like structure was to prove popular in later years as a venue for rock concerts where many well-known artists such as the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Jones and Cilla Black performed in front of huge audiences. I think one or two of our own audience may have had fond recollections of those heady days! However the decline set in shortly after and, as we all know, culminated in the terrible blaze of 2010.
St. Leonard’s Pier, despite offering some novel attractions such as a maple-floored roller skating rink (1909) and Kursaal pavilion for taking high tea in Palm Court-like surroundings suffered a gradual decline in popularity and after a serious fire in 1944 was finally closed and demolished several years later. Nothing now remains of this pier at all but its vibrant history could certainly be re-lived through the wonderful postcard images we were shown by Cllr. Hodges. I was particularly taken with the postcard showing graceful skaters on the roller skating rink, the women looking particularly elegant in their long, flowing dresses and wide-brimmed hats.
We also learned of all the efforts made by both Hastings Council and the Hastings Pier Trust to save Hastings Pier and transform it once more into a valuable local resource to be enjoyed by both local people and visitors. The first major step towards this goal was announced only last week with news of a successful Heritage Lottery Fund grant which will enable vital restoration work to begin on the pier’s below-deck structure.
So a hopefully happy ending to a somewhat turbulent history. Cllr. Hodges received a well-deserved round of applause for his captivating and extremely informative talk.
If any readers would like to learn more about the history of the two piers I can highly recommend a book written by Friends’ committee member, Steve Peak: “Peerless Piers: The Story of the Hastings and St. Leonards Piers” (pub.2011) available from the History House and other local venues.
The annual Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve Autumn Migration walk, expertly lead as always by Andrew Grace, started at 8 am after another wet night. Those who braved the weather-12 in all-were treated to one of our best autumn watches, as the weather speedily inproved. It was clear that birds were arriving just where we were, at low level, then heading along the coast in either direction, giving everyone a chance to see and hear groups of Siskins, Goldfinches and Linnets at close range, and experience a heavy passage of Swallows. The Jay movement was the best so far:
Jay 65 W in groups of up to 20, Meadow Pipit 40 W, Goldfinch 140 W 340 E, Siskin 150 E, Redpoll 13 W, Chaffinch 60, Brambling 1, Linnet 50 E, Swallow 1700 W, House Martin 300 W, Sand Martin 1W, Pied Wagtail 25 W, Greenfinch 4, Reed Bunting 3, Starling 15 W, Goldcrest 9, Chiffchaff 6, Blackcap 3,
Rook 1, Yellowhammer pair.
The sun shone and the breeze was light yesterday morning for the enthusiastic group of young bug hunters which gathered at the Visitor Centre in the Country Park for an event organised by the Friends of HCPNR. Armed with sweep nets, pots and hand lenses we set off on an intrepid adventure amongst the wildflowers and brambles to see what we could find. First catch of the day was a 7-spot Ladybird closely followed by a Gatekeeper butterfly and a Soldier Beetle. The juicy blackberries along the way almost proved more popular than the insects! Our journey took us down to the quarry area where we were rewarded with a beautiful Speckled Bush Cricket perched in full view atop a bright yellow ragwort flower. This was closely compared with a Field Grasshopper which our leader, Alan, had just found – an excellent teaching point! Other finds included a pair of mating Meadow Brown butterflies (a teaching point rapidly passed over) and a very smart Holly Blue. It was a slightly weary little band of bug hunters which returned to base but not too tired to consume (and collect in the insect pots) even more juicy blackberries along the way. A splendid morning in the fresh air was enjoyed by all.
The miserable weather on Saturday 14th July was not enough to deter an intrepid band of enthusiasts from gathering at Fairlight Road Picnic Site for one of Dr Owen Johnson's fascinating tree walks. Previously we have held these walks at the beginning of the year to examine trees in winter so this walk provided us with a wonderful opportunity to look at the same trees resplendent in all their summer finery.
From the walnut tree at the start of our walk, taking in a variety of shrubs and trees along the way including bullace, spindle and a self-seeded apple, to our finish beneath the majestic trees of Fairlight Glen we were enthralled by Owen's descriptions of the histories of each tree and the surrounding landscape from Ice Age times right up to the present.
This walk is always a highlight of our events calendar and with so much information to absorb never fails to please. We are now looking forward to future Spring and Autumn tree walks!
To visit and like our facebook page go to www.facebook.com/friendsofhastingscountrypark
We will be updating the page with news about the Friends and the Reserve. Feel free to ask us questions or leave comments on the page.
Welcome to the new Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve website. The website will be developed and new content added regularly.
A new photo gallery has been added and we also now have a flickr gallery. Join the Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve flickr group to show off your photos of this beautiful part of the Sussex coastline.
The new Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve website is currently under construction. The site will be ready in early July 2012.
On the 15th August at 10:30 meet at the top of the East Hill Lift and join us for a walk on the East Hill. We will be in the company of various experts from within the ranks of the Friends who will be exploring both the history and the natural history of this scenic area. Charge: £2, free to Friends of HCPNR For more information contact: Jill Howell on 01424 815256 or Jan on 01424 715556