The reawakening of the Coastal Culture Trail
As the weather grows warmer and the days grow longer, one thing is for sure; spring has arrived. The season is synonymous with new life and transition, and along the Coastal Culture Trail, this is represented in its own spectacular way.
While flowers bloom in the countryside, beach huts emerge along the coast, with pop-up food vendors and ice cream vans littered in-between, giving the trail a fresh, vibrant coat of paint. Coupled with the change in weather, the re-awakening of the trail presents the perfect opportunity to travel by bike, something which I am fortunate enough to do on my commute to work. Gone are the days of battling the harsh winter winds, now I’m met with a comforting spring breeze gently guiding me along the seafront.
Being based in Hastings, it’s easy to identify and follow a clear route that covers the whole trail. By using the three galleries as checkpoints, I can measure my progress and take a moment to relax and embrace their offerings, soaking in powerful pieces of art from artists around the world. Starting from Hastings Contemporary, the route to the next stop, the De La Warr Pavilion, is a simple straight path, spanning nearly six miles of land, seemingly tailor-made for cyclists and walkers alike. The route is flooded with temptation, with the aroma of incredible food from local eateries hanging in the air, while gallery posters boast their busy summer schedules, it’s almost impossible not to veer off the beaten track and explore. That’s the incredible thing though, the beauty of the trail doesn’t end with the coastline, each town has plenty of twists and turns that lead to hidden gems just waiting to be uncovered.
Arriving in Bexhill, the centrepiece of the Coastal Culture Trail, I’m able to lock up my bike at the De La Warr Pavilion, and pop in to visit the record store, hunting down another vinyl to add to my collection. After this, I chose to explore the winding high streets of the town. I’ve never experienced a town quite like Bexhill, which is filled with independent shops and teeming with life. After wrestling with the urge to stop at one of the many cafés for a sweet treat, I retrieve my bike and decide to extend my journey by taking advantage of the trail’s linked railway service. This allows me to complete that final stretch of the trip in a more laid-back fashion, enjoying the beauty of the trail and its surrounding areas while the train carries me towards my destination.
Upon arrival in Eastbourne, you’re met with a completely different town right as you exit the train station. Much larger in scale, featuring an impressive shopping centre filled with recognizable high-street names as well as independent businesses and branching roads that guide you towards the seafront, populated by cafés and other eateries. Eastbourne greets you with many different options, so I’ll be sure to return to explore the things I missed. I opted to head towards the seafront for the opportunity to cycle alongside the warm blue sea once more. Of course I couldn’t miss out on the chance to check out the marvellously presented Towner Gallery, made up of vibrant colours and sporting a unique flair. Despite my lack of familiarity with Eastbourne, it was simple to navigate, and as a result of my seaside upbringing, it delivered a sense of comfort and familiarity, combined with the joy of exploring somewhere new.
Even as the day moved on, my appetite for exploration remained, urging me to continue, so I decided to check out one of the six new Sussex Modern exhibitions by Nathan Coley. These are illuminated text sculptures dotted around Sussex, featuring thought-provoking quotes that encourage self-reflection as well as observation of the world around us. Luckily, one of these sculptures is situated right along the trail, at the Junction Road Car Park in Eastbourne. Finding it was an experience in itself, as my stubbornness prevented me from using a map initially, causing me to take a series of wrong turns, ending up further away from it than where I had originally started from. Eventually, I conceded defeat and installed Google Maps, which guided me to the exhibition. Upon arrival, I was shocked that I even missed it in the first place, as right at the top of the car park stood the words “We must cultivate our garden,” in bold lettering. This was only my first taste of the exhibition, but I knew that it wouldn’t be my last. With five more pieces to discover, I have no doubt in my mind that it won’t be long before I’m back on the train on my next adventure.
Photo by Keith Hunter
If you haven’t yet visited the Coastal Culture Trail, right now is the perfect time to introduce yourself. As the three towns along the trail emerge from their winter slumber, ushering in our first relatively normal summer in a long time, there is plenty to enjoy, whether you are travelling for a day or for a longer period. Whatever you do this year, don’t pass up on this experience, because I promise you, you can’t find it anywhere else.
Find out more about the Coastal Culture Trail here and follow them on social media to keep up to date with everything going on in and around the trail.
Facebook: Coastal Culture Trail
Interested in the Sussex Modern exhibition by Nathan Coley? Discover where each piece is located on their website here.
Blog by Luke Furminger
Posted by Luke on Thursday 28 April 2022