Saturday, 18 October 2014

Hastings Battleaxe at Ore Village

Ore Village is our nearest local shopping area. It's tucked away over the top of the hill and down again from genteel Clive Vale, where we live. Writing on the history of Ore, the Hastings Chronicle says 'For the better-off people of Hastings, the Ore Valley has often been out of sight and out of mind.' Well, we like it, anyway.

     Last year at the WI we had a very good talk on the history of Ore from local historian Brian Lawes, husband of my friend and Committee colleague Shirley, so I can draw on material from that.
     Why is Ore called Ore? Probably because the area was a source of iron ore, and traces of Roman 'bloomeries' or smelting furnaces have been found. The name 'Red Lake' survives in the village, referring to a former mill-pond or a pool produced by later iron-workings, coloured red with dissolved iron oxide.
     Ore has always been a poor area. It housed labourers who built the grand hotels and homes in the town during Hastings' days of prosperity, and who worked on the roads and the railways. After Hastings declined in the early years of the last century, these workers fell into extreme poverty. Many of their small terraced cottages, now desirable little homes, still survive, tucked away down quiet side-streets and twittens.
Little houses in Ore

     The enormous Hastings Workhouse, now mostly demolished, was in Frederick Road. Novelist Catherine Cookson worked there as head laundress when she first arrived in Hastings in 1929, living in nearby Clifton Road. She described Hastings as 'another world, in which everything moved at an easy-going pace.' Battleaxe and Philosopher would agree.
The Workhouse
    Today, three council estates border Ore, two of which, Halton/Farley Bank and Broomgrove/Malvern Way, are in the bottom 1% most economically deprived in England.
     For us, coming from Birmingham, where vast run-down social housing ghettos still blight the lives of their residents, the Hastings estates appear very different. This must be due to their smaller size - they blend into their surrounding localities, and they also appear well-kept - no mattresses, burned out cars, trees chewed by fighter dogs. As ever, there are lots of plastic toys. I'll swear, in the future, when our civilisation has died out, archaeologists will be speculating about those things. They'll ask: What were they? Fertility totems? Household Gods? Symbols of wealth? Why are there so many?
     The village centre of Ore always depended on the busy road running through it. Initially, the main turnpike from Hastings and London ran along Frederick Road to join the Ridge, but then was diverted along its present route through the village. The coming of trams in 1905 created further development of the shopping centre. The power-station that generated electricity for all the borough's trams was built in the Ore Valley, and successive, even bigger power stations provided local employment until the 1980s.
     Until 1897 Ore was outside the Hastings town boundary - its one pub, the Hare and Hounds, was very popular, and the first theatre in Hastings was established there in the 1700's. Both theatre and pub were destroyed by fire in 1867. The pub was partly rebuilt and finally closed in 2006.
Hare and Hounds theatre - commemorative plaque
     Ore is now badly off for pubs. The Clive Vale Hotel on the corner of Alfred Road was partly demolished in 2010 and replaced with a truly horrible housing development.
Clive Vale Hotel then...
And now....
     The Oddfellows Arms is now a Tesco, despite substantial local protest. Battleaxe said she'd boycott the new store, and indeed, I have never been in it. I even had to send Philosopher in there to put up a poster about the WI jumble sale.  However, we have an Aldi being built just up the Rye Road - I shall certainly go to that. 
      The King's Head in Rye Road has closed. As far as I know, there is a pub in Winchelsea Road, and the Old King John in Middle Road, which always looks a bit full of daunting-looking locals. I'll venture in there and report back.
       The main road in Ore is dominated by Christ Church, built in 1858 in Decorated Gothic Revival style. Pevsner described its skinny turret tower as 'very naughty'. I don't quite see why. It is a handsome building, usually kept locked, but when I walked down the other day to take photos for this post the door was open. Inside, I met the Vicar, who is just recovering and returning to work after a serious illness, and spoke with him briefly. The interior of the church has painted floral designs and lettering - very Pugin-esque, but clearly needs some maintenance.

Christchurch, Ore
     On one side of the Church is the War Memorial and then Winchester's Hardware Store. The Winchesters are one of the local families that give Hastings its colour.... they own Blackbrooks Garden Centre and a range of property in Ore and the surrounding area, including the scaffolding yard near our house. The yard has had its moment of fame.   According to this article in the Guardian, Hastings is in Kent. Typical.

    Ore is surprisingly well-off for facilities. As well as Winchester's, Tesco and the Co-op, it has several convenience stores, two chemists, a Post Office, a baker, a greengrocer, three charity shops, a betting shop, a butcher, hairdressers, and no less than five fast-food outlets. There will be six soon - Pizza Hut is opening.  There is also a library - small, but very sweet, and the Community Centre.
    As well as hosting all sorts of worthwhile activities, including the dreaded Zumba that Battleaxe didn't stick at, the Community Centre also has a cafe that serves a decent cup of coffee! I have not tried their food yet.

Community Centre and cafe
    Ore also has an open space, Speckled Wood. Now here's a crazy thing.  Inevitably, Speckled Wood is at risk of housing development. There are two rival community groups campaigning about it. One lot seems to want a Village Green, and I can't tell what the others want. There have been accusations of hi-jacking websites etc. etc. Why waste valuable time and energy arguing between themselves? How Hastings is that.
    There are plenty of other community activities, like Ore in Bloom, which is largely backed by Fairlight Hall. I did enter our garden into this year's competition, but got nowhere. Huh.
    Ore is not gentrified - no artisan bakeries or distressed nick-nack shops here.  There are several empty shops, and Philosopher and I were thinking what was needed. No more fast food or convenience stores. How about a Poundland Local? In Brum, we had many Asian-run pound shops featuring piles of psychedelic kitchen plastic stacked outside - we could do with one of those in Ore.
    To finish, here are a couple of scenes of Ore, then and now.

Junction of Fairlight Road


The Old Sanatorium, looking up Rye Road towards the new Aldi. What a lot of horrible street furniture we have now.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Hastings bonkers and beautiful. Thoughts on wild boar.

I am in the middle of writing a post about Ore Village, just up the road from us, but it is taking longer than I thought.  So here's a  few bonkers pictures from our wanderings round the Old Town, some random thoughts, and a very beautiful picture from Philosopher.
     So, where to start?  We were having coffee in our favourite Hanushka's this morning, sitting at the window, watching the world go by. By the way, they do a brilliant range of unusual fruit teas. I had quince and something-or-other this morning, and it was excellent.
Hanushka Coffee house - great for people watching
     Opposite is a shop called  'The Glass Sculptress', that sells reproduction weapons and armour. Yes, I know. It is the first day of Hastings Week today (battle anniversaries, bonfires etc.) and all the retailers are getting their goods in tip-top order.  Here is the bloke arranging arrows on the chain mail display - spooky, no?

Then on to the Stade, and today we find it full of classic cars - scarcely a week passes here without some happening or another.
     I do like vintage American cars. Here are two great examples, and a Bond Bug.

    There were lots of Morris Minors. I passed my driving test in one, the 1956 vintage Doris. No, fools, I am not that old. Doris was an elderly lady when we got her, and I passed my test in 1986, when I was in my thirties.  I was an absolute wimp about driving and did everything to get out of doing it. I said I would drive if I got a Doris, so we got one, and I did. Fortunately, I have never looked back. That car was a great character.
    Next, this wild boar hat stand has been on sale in the junk yard in Courthouse Street for months. They appear to want £495 for it. It is truly horrible. In your dreams, guys.... I like the way it is going 'Up yours' with its trotters. Do wild boars have trotters? It sounds a bit domestic.

Horrible wild boar coat hooks
    My next big nature wish is to see a wild boar in the wild. First it was badgers - we have plenty of those here. Then it was dolphins, and we saw those in Turkey last year. Apparently there are numbers of wild boar in Sussex and Kent woodlands. It is horrible to look up wild boar on Google and find nasty shooting sites. Here is one about Beckley Woods, not far from here. How can people be so stupidly barbaric?  Apparently the wild boar population is plummeting due to the disgusting yobs who think this is a good way to spend their time.... I'm not particularly sentimental about animals but this type of shooting for sport really gets to me...
Wild boar in an East Sussex woodland
I see Rye has a Wild Boar week, coming up quite soon...
    So, to finish, here is a lovely photo Philosopher took in the last days of the Indian Summer. Gone now - it's autumn and the heating is on.
How sparkly is this....


Friday, 3 October 2014

Indian Summer in Hastings

We returned from Cirali, Turkey at the beginning of the week to find Hastings basking in sunshine. According to the locals there was no rain in our absence, which means that apart from a few isolated drops, there has been no rain here since August Bank Holiday.
     I said before I went away that I was worried about our garden - well, thanks to our neighbour Angela, who must have been watering way beyond the call of neighbourly duty, everything was still alive.
     Our garden birds were very glad to see us - look at these young starlings enjoying the refilled bird bath.
Young starlings enjoy the bird bath
     It was strange to emerge from Gatwick airport and not having to muffle up in fleeces, the air was as almost as warm as Turkey. In fact, over there we had a couple of cloudy days, some showers overnight, and it was cool enough for jumpers in the evenings. On our last night, we played the final game of the Great Scrabble Tournament sitting outside Shaun's place wearing not only fleeces, but wrapped in blankets. For the record, it had been Shaun two games, me two games, but then Philosopher breezed in and won the last game.
    I just looked up 'Indian Summer' on Google. The term appears to be of American origin, but I guess must have fallen out of fashion a bit. 'Native American Summer' does not sound quite the same. In Britain, we once called this type of warm spell an 'Old Wives' Summer', even more politically incorrect. In Europe, particularly in Slavic countries, that old terminology still exists - Old Wives, Old Women, Old Ladies, Ladies, Crones, and even Witches have summers. This appears to relate to the proximity of All Hallows Eve, and also to the large number of spiders this weather brings out - the drifting fine grey hairs of webs, and the mythology surrounding the spiders themselves.  Clearly, this is the season for Hastings Battleaxe.
     Meteorologists define Indian Summer as a spell of fine weather occurring in October or November, but as usual, our media has hyped up this warm September. 'Indian Summer wreaks havoc on the High Street', screams the Daily Mail, as apparently, share prices plummet due to nobody buying winter clothes. How can shareholders be so stupid? Looking at the weather forecast, gallons of rain and cold weather are on the way.
     Having said that, I have not bought anything either. No wonder the retail economy has collapsed. Oh no, I lie. I have treated myself to a pair of Russell and Bromley tassel loafers. Very classic.
     Today has been an absolutely glorious hot sunny day here in Hastings. Philosopher and I went down to town and took a walk along the sea-front. The sea and the sky were as blue as the Mediterranean. Well, maybe not, see the picture of the Turkish sea at the end of this post. No English sea can ever quite compete with the vivid blueness of the Med. We have a gentler colour and light. In Hastings today, the sea was calm, and the beach was empty. .
Lovely day - nobody on Hastings beach!
     We had a good look at the big barge-mounted crane currently working beside the Pier, which arrived just before we left for Turkey. We expected to return to see the wreckage of the old ballroom completely cleared, but apparently it is not as easy as one might expect. Last winter's bad weather caused the ballroom to collapse further, taking the floor of the Pier with it. The crane on the barge  holds a gang of workmen in a basket, who are then lowered down to cut up and demolish the wreckage.
The crane on the barge

Lots of work going on

The skeleton of the old ballroom
     It seems that the rebuilding of the Pier is still on course to be completed in March next year, but this operation must be difficult as well as costly.

Turkish sea blue - a final memory of our holiday