An unexpected encounter in Hastings

Having manoeuvred carefully down a steep muddy hill, we eventually reached the beach. It was secluded. Rocks jutted out from the sand in the foreground, and beyond, the waves swept onto the shore, and the grey hazy smudge of sky blended into the horizon.

Taking my eyes off the treacherous footpath momentarily to enjoy the spectacular scenery, I found my left leg sinking into a bog. Quickly yanking it out, my right leg began sinking instead.

Thankfully, my walking companion managed to drag me out in the nick out time.

Making it to safety, I breathed a sigh of relief. Lifting my eyes once more from the ground I was confronted by a sight for sore eyes.

There in front of us stood a middle-aged gentleman who was unfortunately stark naked, bar a rucksack and a handful of branches. He gave us some guidance to avoid sinking in the mud.

Not knowing exactly what to do or indeed where to look, I thought to avoid awkwardness, I should spark up a conversation.

‘Come here often?’ I chirped.

‘Yes, us regulars have built the steps around here’.

‘Great, thanks for the help finding a path down,’ I said before scurrying off.

In a bid to rush away I lost my footing and managed to do the splits on the next set of rocks.

Not being able to control the laughter, it was time to put as much distance between us and the nudist as humanly possible. We chucked our shoes off and ran into the sea. It was freezing, so exposing our feet was more than enough for us.

How the nudist had survived without any clothes on in the bitterly cold weather was beyond us.

We ran along the beach to warm up. The sand was firm beneath our bare feet. The beach was peaceful and we practically had it to ourselves.

The roar of the ocean and cold wind hitting our faces felt exhilarating. It was certainly turning out to be a very memorable adventure.

Little did we know that the dilapidated wooden sign on the walk down to the beach saying, ‘nudist area’ was genuinely applicable in the winter.

The sign before that advised us not to use the coastal path due to rock falls. It warned us that we’d be taking the path at our own risk.

This said, it didn’t actually prohibit our access and was merely offering some friendly guidance – so we decided to press on.

Walking past the sign and winding round a muddy bend, there seemed to be no immediate danger. It looked absolutely fine.

Ignoring the two signs on the way down to the Fairlight Glen Naturist (FKK) beach was the correct course of action because (despite the strange naked man) the scenery was spectacular and very peaceful.

Our day had begun by catching a train from St Pancreas at 10.37 am to Hastings (there was one change at Ashford International). The journey took around an hour and half and cost £25.45 (with a Young Person’s Railcard).

Disembarking at Hastings station, we strolled down some residential streets towards the harbour.

Some of the houses were rather quaint with lovely cottage plaques on the front doors. Other homes had seen better days.

The sleepy seaside town was, as you’d expect, replete with high street stores, casinos and fish and chip shops.

From the off, we agreed not to use phones and resorted to using a good old-fashioned map. The tourist office was very helpful, giving us a selection of leaflets.

Compass in hand, map sorted and provisions in our bags, we set off Eastward along the coast. Walking along the pebble beach was a little harder than expected.

But thankfully, we soon found the path we needed and climbed up a series of steps.

At the top, the view was wonderful. We took in the vista: a mish-mash of colourful houses set off against the grey backdrop of the ocean.

Just as we were thinking how dry the path was, we encountered mud – lots of it.

Sloshing through carefully, it seemed best to stick to the flat part of the path. Admittedly, the mud was deeper here, but at least there was less chance of falling than there would have been by balancing precariously on the steep incline of slippery grass.

Along the way there were spectacular view points of the sea.

Being in a nature reserve, we were lucky enough to be hiking through woodland – home to gnarled trees and an abundance of wildlife.

One tree was perched above a stone overhang. It was remarkable. There was a perfect spot beneath for shelter had the weather turned against us.

Ivy tendrils wound themselves around thin tree trunks greedily consuming all their nutrients.

At either side of us, tree branches punctured the skyline.

Hearing a cascading waterfall, we decided that this would be the perfect spot for a lunch break, and perched ourselves on a fallen tree trunk. In other words, a bench with our name written on it. Needless to say, we tucked in and enjoyed our surroundings.

There is something very tranquil about listening to water flow over rocks and trickle down inclines.

After lunch, we continued the hike consulting the map and compass on a few occasions. We knew we wanted to walk a circular route and that is what we did.

Miraculously, we didn’t get too lost and stumbled upon some wonderful panoramas.

Not looking at phones, we had lost all concept of time. However, we managed to return to Hastings town before dark.

On spying a pier in the distance, we decided to head for it.

It had recently been refurbished but was now deserted like a ghost town. Strolling around, we read some information boards on the sides about wildlife.

Returning back to the entrance, the gates were shut. Interesting. They didn’t look particularly easy to climb.

Luckily a security guard started waving at us and kindly let us out.

That was a close call.

It was time to find somewhere warm to sit – but we were both caked in mud. During the day I had managed to fall over twice, which considering the terrain, wasn’t too bad. Luckily neither time hurt, it only added to the earthy artwork jazzing up my outfit.

At this point, I thought it would be a good idea to wash our shoes in the sea in order to make ourselves look a tad more respectable. In theory this was a great idea. However, when busily stomping around in the shallow waters preoccupied with our feet, we completely missed the enormous wave that came crashing towards us.

We legged it out and found a bar in town to dry off. Here we sat with wet feet and muddy trousers before heading back to London.

Hiking in Hastings can be done in one day from London. It provides the perfect escape from city life.

Does anyone else have any recommendations of where to walk in Hastings? Or indeed the UK?

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