In Search of England: Why living in Eastbourne ruined me

Eastbourne Pier Fire

The pier in flames on 30 July 2014, which I walked down to and witnessed

In the spirit of the ‘ruins you for life’ series on Buzzfeed, and in response to the report about the unhealthiness of our high street, here are 10 reasons why living in Eastbourne ruined me, in the form of activities I can do for under £10 (and mostly for free) on a day out, setting off on foot from my doorstep.

  • Sip the perfect tea brew (because timing makes perfect) at Urban Ground, a colourful and bright independent café with friendly service, on Bolton Road. Update since publication (2017): It has been so popular that a second branch has opened on South Street.
  • Walk in the South Downs National Park to the Cuckmere Haven and back, passing the picturesque but infamous Beachy Head, the world’s second most popular suicide destination and the film location of the Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. The Edwardian charm of Eastbourne and the beauty of the surrounding East Sussex countryside have featured in lots of films. Update since publication (2017): Go berry foraging in autumn! I went for the first time with my friend Joy and her Mum this year, and we walked to Birling Gap and back. At the National Trust shop there, you can flick through or buy books that tell you about the berries out there (which are edible and poisonous). We also passed through fields of cattle and sheep, and mushrooms (don’t eat these!).
  • Watch a foreign film in at the Eastbourne Curzon, which has housed cinema screens (with screen curtains!) since 1920. I love the staff’s comedy intros about cinema etiquette. They screen foreign films on Wednesday’s.
  • Order a Casablanca, former No.1 women’s tennis seed Caroline Wozniacki’s favourite ice cream sundae, at Favo’Loso, the ice cream parlour of choice for Aegon Championships tennis players, on Carlisle Road.
  • Stroll down the promenade to a 145-year-old pier and fire veteran as of 2014 (the melted lampost that I posted on Instagram is one relic from the blaze), and pass the Grand Hotel, where Debussy composed La Mer.
  • Play at seagull dodging when walking outdoors with food in hand. Nowhere else in the UK have I seen seagulls so cunning and daring. Though I once saw a ‘beware of seagull attack’ sign inside a Welsh castle; this might have been at Caernarfon, where their seagulls inspired Stephen Gregory to pen a horror novel called Plague of Gulls.
  • Consult a parrot called Archie while book-browsing in Camilla’s, a second-hand bookshop on Grove Road. There’s also a husky at the Fantasy and Comic Emporium.
  • Watch the Red Arrows fly overhead every summer at Airbourne, the biggest free seafront airshow in the world. Last year the highlight was the world’s last two Lancaster bombers flying together for the first time in fifty years. Update since publication (2017): Bring a picnic up to the start of the South Downs behind St. Bede’s Prepatory School. Here, though you do not get a commentary from the loudspeaker, you get the clearest, widest expanse of sky and can enjoy the show away from the dense crowds on the beach.
  • Experience seven consecutive days of sunshine. There will be sunshine, even if just for half an hour, or for half of the sky. The town really does live up to its nickname ‘the sunshine coast’, no matter what others may say.
  • Watch fireworks displays from my home windows. Eastbourne lets off fireworks quite frequently, and on more days than just New Year’s Eve, Guy Fawkes’ Night, and the Proms period in summer.

Despite all the teasing I get (“you must be the youngest person to live in Eastbourne”), one does have to appreciate why the town is so popular with the retired, and I am very privileged to have been able to grow up here.

Update since publication (2017): Eastbourne is undergoing a regeneration; lots of cafés and burger joints are opening, Hotel Chocolat has replaced Thorntons (we’re becoming more upmarket), and our Arndale Shopping Centre is being expanded. Our shopping choices may not be as wide-ranging as those of Brighton, but our Christmas market is several times the size of the five stalls pitched on Jubilee Square this year, which a colleague of mine from Strasbourg (which has one of the largest and oldest Christmas markets in France) refuses to call a ‘Christmas market’. There are other events during this time. Last year the Coca-Cola truck stopped in Eastbourne. This year it is not coming through, but Neon Noel, a light-show specially created with the backdrop of our Town Hall and town’s attractions in mind, is still running.




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