Saturday, May 10th 2014
We decided to take a trip south to the seaside. to Eastbourne, as it was some time since we had last been there. We took the Brighton train from St Pancras and changed en route.
Tigger had heard about the Marina and wanted to see it. We imagined that it might be an exciting place with all sorts of things going on.
We caught a bus from the centre of town and duly arrived at the Marina. It later turned out that there is one bus an hour, which says something about the popularity of the place.
Sovereign Harbour Marina, as the name suggests, opens to the sea and has been developed inland with a number of basins. The area was “developed” in 1993 and has had time to find its feet, one would think.
I found it a pretty boring place. There were some shops, some eateries of the kind you would find in a seaside town and that was about it. Well, and moorings and the yachts. If I were a member of the yachting fraternity I might have found the place more interesting. Then again, what is a marina but a caravan park for the floating rich?
The title comes from the fact that a stiff breeze was blowing, so much so that I felt it prudent to install my hat retainer. This is a piece of cord with a clip at either end, one for the hat brim and the other for you coat collar or other convenient anchor point. With this in place, if the wind dislodges your hat, it can’t be blown away.
One thing did get me excited, though. This was when we spotted a cormorant perched on the end of a jetty. He looked quite relaxed and had obviously not been fishing or he would have been drying his wings. We later saw him flying across the Marina in the characteristic manner of cormorants, that is, just a few inches above the surface of the water.
Cormorants are curious birds because although they can dive for fish, they do not have oiled feathers like other diving birds and need afterwards to dry off. They do this by standing on a perch exposed to the breeze, with their wings open. In cormorants we are watching evolution in action: in a million years or so, they will have their oiled feathers and will no longer need to hang themselves out to dry.
Cormorants are fishing birds and in some parts of the world, especially China, fishermen use trained cormorants for catching fish. (See here, for example.) Gulls, on the other hand, are much more adaptable. There were plenty of gulls at the marina and it was fun watching them. They are social birds and spend a lot of time flying or floating or standing in groups, calling back and forth, and bullying one another to establish pecking order. I caught the above one in a rare moment of tranquility. They are opportunists and will exploit any food source, including scraps discarded by humans. Their only limitation is their webbed feet which require them to perch on flat surfaces. They cannot perch on branches or wires like other birds.
I like watching the juvenile gulls, recognizable by their brown and white plumage. They are still learning their trade, so to speak, and spend a lot of time quarrelling to establish dominance but by the time they reach adult size they are already superb flyers and can cope with strong winds with ease. This one was floating alone in one of the basins but became nervous when he saw us watching him and suddenly took flight. I managed to grab this shot. It is remarkable how they can take off from sitting on the water. Even those other expert flyers, pigeons, need to do a little jump when taking off from a standing position.
We had lunch in the Ganges, which advertises itself as purveying “Contemporary Indian Cuisine”. I avoid such places usually as the “contemporary” label often implies over-fussy presentation and small portions. We succumbed, though, and I would give it a good average rating, I think.
It was when we decided to return to the town that we discovered that there was only one bus an hour. We reached the bus stop with half an hour to wait. Fortunately, the sun was shining and the the bus shelter protected us from the wind. The grass verge beside the bus stop was full of daisies. I like these simple but pretty little flowers. We callously mow them down along with the grass and often overlook them or regard them as weeds. To me, a lawn without daisies is like the night sky without stars. Fortunately, they are a very hardy species and soon spring up again after the passage of the mower. They press their leaves flat against the ground to give them breathings space by preventing grass growing near them. This, of course, is why gardeners don’t like them. Happily, I am not a gardener and can enjoy the sight of their white and yellow stars among the grass.
Back in the centre, we followed first Gildredge Road and then College Road to reach the Towner Gallery and I took this photo of St Saviour’s and St Peter’s Church on the way. It is a solid Victorian church, completed in 1867. Previously, it was simply St Saviour’s but in 1971 the nearby St Peter’s Church was demolished and the saint had to up sticks and share accommodations here.
The Towner is one of our favourite galleries but a disappointment awaited us here today as well. Most galleries were closed, leaving very little to see., We visited the shop and then had tea in the upstairs cafe.
On the ground floor there was an exhibition of art done by pupils of local schools. The quality ranged from the average to the highly competent and I particularly liked the ceramics entered by members of Cavendish School’s Art Club.
I thought that in both design and finish all the pieces were commendable and some were extremely good. I hope that at least some of the young people making these works will go on to become fully fledged artists.
We began to make our way back to the railway station, though we did stop off to admire the Italianate-looking Devonshire Park Theatre (the name comes from the fact that the Duke of Devonshire once owned much of the land around here) and at Lakeland, the well known cookware shop, where we, who do not cook, like to look at all the ingenious devices that we might use if we did cook!
It seemed that there might be a wait on nearly an hour for the next train out but an earlier one was suddenly announced and we scrambled aboard. While waiting, I took the picture below of the a gull standing on the glass canopy over the platform. In this unusual view of a gull from underneath, the pink webbed feet are clearly seen.