You can’t get a more English word than promenading can you? Using the word in the title made me want to know more – I just can’t stop myself.
The word has been adopted so well by the British that it’s French origins seek unbelievable. The translation evidently is “a leisurely walk“. I’m not sure if it’s true but I feel that we have adapted the meaning so that there is the addition of “a leisurely walk making sure you are on show to everyone” – a mild bit of exhibitionism. We wouldn’t be in all our finery but the description seemed apt for our planned walk from the Marina to the east of Brighton back to Hove – around 3 mile I think.
It was a beautiful day and we hopped on a bus at Hove Station that took us straight to the Marina within about 25 minutes. The whole Marina area had a modern feel even though the main development took place in the 1970s. With over 1200 berths it is the largest marina in the UK and it looked pretty full. The area is a mix of residential properties, retail, leisure and lots of restaurants. Roedean School sits impressively on the South Downs. Our mid morning arrival meant that lots of people were already having coffee or brunch and it all looked great. Then……
Well our bubble was well and truly burst when we tried to find the path, esplanade or whatever it was called to take our “promenade” towards Brighton. Rant time.
First of all there was no clear signage to pick up said path and we basically had to walk through the bottom of a multi-storey car park to get to where we thought it might be. We were then faced by a massive concrete flyover and underpass. What an eyesore! Finally as we walked along a concrete tunnel we came to what looked like a very run down part of the town and it looked like it had been like it a long time. I couldn’t help but think that the residents of the very posh, expensive apartments on the Marina would have to walk through this very unattractive area to get to Brighton or to the beach.
Things started to look up when we got a little further and saw the little narrow gauge electric train. VER is the Volk’s Electric Railway. Named after it’s builder the first section opened in 1883. Although not the earliest electric railway in the world it is the only one still running and seemed to be chugging along quite happily. We did wonder what Mr Volk and the Victorian users would make of our now ever present face coverings.
Pre-dating the railway by over 80 years, this iconic area has also seen better days. The Grade II listed terrace and its seafront arches stretching for nearly 900 metres have obviously weathered so badly over the years that the whole area has been cordoned off for the last 8 years. Funding is ongoing to restore the terrace to its former glory. I hope they achieve their goal.
Both Jonno and I remember parking under these arches on trips to the seaside. They were also the backdrop to the conflict between groups of Mods and Rockers back in the mid 1960s. Think Quadrophenia if you are old enough!
Heading towards the lively Palace Pier it all started to feel like a vibrant seaside town again. All those lovely seaside things like amusements, candi floss, kiss me quick hats. Love it. Reminded us both of our last visit down to Brighton (Promenading on the Palace Pier and Dirty Weekend in Brighton).
The “Golden Gallopers”
Another Victorian gem along the seafront is The Golden Gallopers. Built in Norfolk before touring the north of England, it was then bought by an American who shipped it to the USA. Thankfully it came back in 1990 and has been restored and operates through the summer season each year. It is then taken apart and renovated and repaired during the winter. Long may the Gallopers gallop on the seafront.
Now more of an art feature, this pier has been derelict since collapsing and two fires in 2003. Some more demolition took place in 2010 to may way for Brighton’s newest skyline feature, the i360.
Love it or hate it, it has been on the seafront opposite the original entrance to the West Pier. For around £18 it offers visitors a ride to 162 metres to view the town, the English Channel and the South Downs. The 25 minute ride opened in 2016 and has had mixed reviews and mixed numbers of visitors. Overall we like it although would rather walk up onto the South Downs and get our views but not everyone can don their walking shoes and hit the footpaths.
It was about now, as we neared home territory in Hove, that I was reminded about how there are so many seaside things that make this such an individual country. I known we are not the only country to have deck-chairs, piers, fish and chips, candie floss to the background sound of a carousel organ but it is the mix of all those things in one place that made our promenading from the Marina such a memorable one.
Thankfully the bits we didn’t like were replaced with happier sights and sounds. It certainly does seem to have something for everyone whatever you want to get out of your day at taking the sea air.