Starting the day at The Pelican Diner on Hasting’s East Parade was tough – tough on my taste buds that wanted to try absolutely everything on the menu.
Huck Finn pancakes - The Pelican Diner, Hastings
I always find eating out for breakfast a real problem. The English have just about mastered brunch, however compared to our comrades both on the Continent and across the Atlantic, I feel breakfast still has a ways to go. The Pelican Diner is an exception – for menu fantasists, the tributes to American classics match up with what arrives on the plate, and what was on the plate was a slice of US of A heaven à la Huck Finn: fluffy blueberry pancakes, crispy bacon and proper maple syrup – yee-yum! Best seats in the house are on the light-filled first floor looking out onto The Stade and sea with local contemporary art decorating the walls.
Walk off breakfast exploring the independent and eccentric shops in Hastings Old Town. The High Street is a charming parade of design and home interior boutiques, finely curated to their individual tastes. Be sure to visit A. G. Hendy & Co. Home Store for on-trend understated traditional lux living for home and kitchen as well as Made In Hastings across the road, for contemporary artisanal gifts and products.
Hastings’ latest cultural addition is the Jerwood Gallery. The black tile-clad white space opened in 2012, neighbouring the native black wooden net huts that are still used by local fisherman. Jerwood Gallery hosts seasonal exhibitions as well as a permanent collection of modern art. Currently on show are paintings by Jeffery Camp and etchings by the Chapman Brothers (Game of Corpses, August 2013).
Following the coastline Westwards, the De La Warr Pavilion is a national modernist landmark. Framed by Bexhill on Sea’s wide promenades along the sea front, its clean, cream lines houses a dynamic programme of exhibitions and events all year round.
The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things is curated by Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Leckey and includes a selection of historical and contemporary works of art, artefacts, technology and objects presented in specially designed environments that explore the connections past, present and future between this international collection.
The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things curated by Mark Leckey
An outdoor installation of Exposure Sculptures by Matt Calderwood are also on display on the pavilion’s roof terrace.
Exposure Sculptures by Matt Calderwood
Ice cream by the sea is default whatever the weather - Di Paolo’s Café is a few minutes walk along the Marina from the De La Warr and offers genuine homemade Italian ice cream with a variety of delicious flavours to boot.
Through the picturesque harbour town of Rye - which is worthy of a return visit on another day for its preserved Tudor and Georgian architecture – lies the nature reserve of Dungeness in the county of Kent, east of Hastings. As the sun began to set, this leg of the trip was unexpected - the extent of this special detour only became clear through the shingled landscape that is overshadowed by Dungeness nuclear power plant.
The approach to the headland is unassuming along Dungeness Road until it nears the shore and the impressive Jurassic-esque terrain engulfs your field of vision. I would have never believed such a landscape existed in Britain - it is a peculiar corner of the land, officially classified as a desert. The wildlife and vegetation that lives and survives in such a bleak environment is equally remarkable, warranting the status as an important site for international conservation.
As I had learned throughout my day along this stretch of coast, there is chic to be had in the rough. Small wooden cottages with their handmade ‘private’ signposts and security chains are scattered along the gravelled road that nears both power plant and The Britannia Inn pub - a when-in-Dungeness must, serving mighty fish and chips.
The cottages that haphazardly sit along this landscape are uniform in their aesthetic – black matte finish is de rigeur and may have been inspired by the most famous dwelling in the village, Prospect Cottage. The former residence of English film director and Slade alumnus, Derek Jarman is a destination in itself – on one side of its exterior reads in raised lettering the poem, The Sunne Rising by John Donne. The front garden, and I use that term loosely, comprises of pebble and drift wood formations, scrap metal and a host of extraordinary plants that thrive on the peninsula. Jarman’s aesthetic has expanded to the other properties – some have retained their old railway coach features while others have redesigned their sought after residences into über chic bungalows with glass sides and even a shiny vintage airstream addition.
The Britannia Inn, Dungeness
Think Montauk compounds in America’s Hamptons, minimal Danish design and a retiring air of exclusivity and you’ll only be half way to understanding and appreciating the beauty of this area. As a lover of all things symmetrical, even I was taken by its charm and the uncomfortable sense of scale between the colossal nuclear power plant, the towering lighthouses and the lilliputian cottages in comparison. But I guess that is precisely what makes them so attractive as a refuge from the brutal outside world, in every sense of the word.
As it got darker, adding more drama to the already dramatic, barren scape, I would have not wanted to visit at any other time. At the farthest end of the village I spied a highly designed compound with a series of cast iron sculptures in its garden I believed to be by Antony Gormley – my investigation to find out more about this exclusive enclave and its creative occupants begins, as does the countdown to my return to the South Coast…
Thank you again to @djbrass and the most distinguished whippet in the land, Finn, for such an eccentric itinerary!
Jeffery Camp: The Way To Beachy Head and the Chapman Brothers' Exquisite Corpse exhibitions run to 2nd October 2013 - visit Jerwood Gallery for visitor information.
The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things curated by Mark Leckey runs to 29th October 2013. Exposure by Matt Calderwood is on display until February 2014 - visit De La Warr Pavilion for further details.