Yesterday was such a lovely day, I decided to take a day trip down to the beach. I took the opportunity to explore the town of Bexhill-on-Sea, in East Sussex. The name Bexhill is actually a derivative from the Saxon name, Bexelei, which means “place where the box tree grows”.  I like finding places in England that still have remnants of Saxon-ness about them — I think it’ an interesting etymological puzzle to see how the Saxons and the Normans all fit together.

Anyway, back to Bexhill…  which is a lovely little English sea-side town. I think there are probably hundreds of towns like this throughout England, but Bexhill is historically important because it’s in 1066 Country (yes, that’s what the tourist board calls it!) — otherwise known as the area where William the Conqueror came ashore, won the battle of Hastings, and declared himself King of England.  I would have liked to explore Hastings also, but I think I’ll save that for a separate trip.

Other than it’s roots in the Norman conquest, Bexhill became famous in the 18th and 19th centuries for smuggling. You can still walk parts of the “smuggler trail” through Bexhill and on towards Sidley. There is also a “William the Conqueror” trail that goes from Hastings to Bexhill and on towards the town of Battle.

In 1890 the seventh Earl de la Warr decided that Bexhill was going to be the next big Victorian resort town (like Bath and Brighton). He supported the building of a sea wall and promenade along the water, and encouraged development in the area. He also renamed the town from simple Bexhill to the more descriptive Bexhill-on-Sea.

The promenade is hugely popular. I walked for about 2 miles along the coast, and there any many benches and rest areas to buy an ice cream. The temperatures were quite warm, but with a nice sea breeze I never felt overly hot.

I didn’t see very many people actually in the water — I think it’s pretty darn cold!  There were some children jumping in from this platform, and I saw a couple in a sea kayak battling the waves. Apparently the sailing club in Bexhill is quite active, though I didn’t see any sails on the horizon.

On a more risque note, Bexhill was the site of the first mixed-bathing in the UK, where men and women could finally swim together at the same beach. Oh my! I believe the swimsuits today are quit a bit skimpier than the ones back then! For example:

As you can see, Bexhill (like Brighton) is a pebble beach. Instead of sand, there are small, rounded rocks. They’ve been worn smooth by the waves over the years, and some are quite beautiful!  I know you’re thinking that a pebble beach is not very soft, but I think it’s actually much nicer than sand. It doesn’t get in every nook and cranny and drive you bonkers, and it’s much cleaner. It’s also softer to sit on — even though that seems to defy conventional wisdom!  Because the rocks are all so smooth they almost massage you.

I quite enjoyed my day out and about in Bexhill. It’s inspired me to plan a slightly longer trip that includes Bexhill, Rye, Hastings, Battle, and Winchester … all of which have their own attractions! Of course, God alone knows when we’ll have time to explore East Sussex, but I’m sure we’ll manage to squeeze it all in!

On a personal note: Alex comes home tomorrow!  Yay!  It’s been 10 long days without my schmoopy, and I’m excited to have him home again.  Tonight I’m meeting some friends for drinks after the match (wait, you haven’t been following the World Cup?  Whyever not?!)….  so I hope you all have a good weekend!

Posted on 27/06/2010, in Exploring the UK, travel. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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