For today’s trip we decided to play Train Bingo. This because over the weekend many rail routes are suspended or diverted and it is best to avoid these. In Train Bingo, you have a list of places to visit in order of preference and you select the first one for which there is a train.
In our case, the list started with Eastbourne, then Brighton. Disembarking from the number 43 bus at London Bridge station, we saw that for Eastbourne the departures board had the comment “See posters”, whereas normal train times and platforms were listed for Brighton.
So Brighton it is. The only slight problem is that it is Brighton Festival 2009 this week and the trains therefore risk being crowded.
Not that we will necessarily stay in Brighton. Tigger fancies going to Shoreham so we might take the bus there. As I recall, there is a nice little Indian restaurant there that we might happen upon around lunchtime…
The day started grey and damp and, ominously, the bus driver started his windscreen wipers as we were on the way to London Bridge but while we were waiting for our train on the strange platform 8, the clouds parted and the sun shone through.
The sky is still cloudy with a mixture of white and leaden grey clouds but as we pull into Haywards Heath, the sun is shining so let’s hope for the best.
You cannot visit Brighton and not walk along the seafront even when, as today, the wind is blowing off the sea at nearly gale force.
After coffee in Barney’s, we caught the bus to Shoreham.
The town’s full name is Shoreham-by-Sea but for my money, the river Adur is at least as important in giving it its special character. The Adur runs around two sides of Shoreham in an L-shape and actually separates the town from the sea.
How do we characterize Shoreham? On the face of it, Shoreham is a quiet little West Sussex town, as this picture of East Street suggests. As you begin to explore the town, however, you become enchanted by its character, revealed in its buildings and streets, and by its spectacular views over the river and the countryside.
One of the curiosities of Shoreham is that a number of streets have been renamed, the old names still being on display. The sad thing is that the old names have more character than the new names which are banal in comparison. Below are some examples.
To wander around Shoreham is to come upon beautiful, quaint and interesting sights at every turn. There are buildings from many periods and an impressive catalogue of these could be made. There are also traces of technologies of the past.
The 14th century Marlipins Museum has a beautiful chequer-board pattern
The Adur acts as the axis of many beautiful views. At first sight it is a tangle of active quays and decaying moorings and crumbling boats sinking into the mud and being absorbed back into the environment but I think an industrial archaeologist would probably read this like a book and decipher the historical stages so graphically recorded.
Not least among the charms of Shoreham, in my opinion, are the houseboats. The word “houseboats” is too tame to reflect what I am talking about. These consist of an array of many different craft, dragged above the tide line, and converted, often fancifully and whimsically, into dwellings. I cannot describe these boat-houses adequately in words. They need to be seen to be believed and appreciated. Here is a selection.
I understand that boat-dwellings have occupied this site since WWII when housing was in short supply but that in more recent times they have become increasingly unpopular with the authorities who have made attempts to remove them. I hope they survive and I would have no hesitation in making at least some of them listed buildings as they are unique and enliven the environment with their colours and the ingenuity of their design.
We had lunch in a little cafe in East Street called Toast on the Coast and after our afternoon ramble took the bus. We had intended to go to Arundel but as time was getting on, stopped off in Worthing. We spent less time there than in Shoreham so I can say less about it but it struck me as a very pleasant town with a character of its own. Its shingle beach will seem familiar to habitués of Brighton.
The sunshine that we had enjoyed until now seemed to be fading. Clouds were gathering and we even felt a few drops of moisture. It seemed a good idea to take the bus back to Brighton and find a train to London.
We caught the 17:34 and it was quite full, though not uncomfortably so. I don’t know whether this was because of the festival or because of people returning home for the weekend. Either way, we arrived home in good time for a relaxed evening of blogging!