By Tony May
Living in Hastings has been quite an experience of late. With seemingly continuous rain and high winds battering the town day and night (causing trees to come down and green bins to topple over and spill their contents about the place) and dangerously high tides smashing into the coastline life in the town has felt more like a trip out in the R.N.L.I. boat in treacherous seas than that of a seaside retreat in winter.
As ‘The Clean Up Man’ I have never been busier due to the green bin problem and have had more than one giant ‘stream’ of rubbish to deal with down Old Church Rd since the weather took a turn for the worst. Will it ever stop raining? That’s a question I have asked a thousand times of late and I’ve not been the only one! Since about mid December one giant area of low pressure after another has headed straight for us and brought misery and destruction with it.
The effect of all this was of course seen to spectacular effect on January 3rd when part of a cliff along Rock-a-Nore collapsed into the sea at about 1.30pm. Thankfully, no – one was injured this time but those who love walking or fishing often use the area in the summer as a ‘quiet place to get away from it all’ so it could have been much worse.
As if to prove my point, I took two of these pictures of the cliff face myself back in April 2011. Rock-a-Nore is an area of outstanding natural beauty and there is something quite magical about standing on the beach gazing up at the cliff face with a blue sky above your head and the sound of the gulls in your ears.
At this point I would like to thank Shoreham-by-Sea photographer, Mandy Willard for generously allowing me to use the pictures you see here of the scene AFTER the fall. Mandy is a keen photographer and has been a member of Bexhill Photographic Club since 2008. Amazingly, landslides seem to be following her about at present. Following her last visit to Rock-a-Nore (a week before the fall) Mandy took some pictures of the coastline at Birling Gap – where, the very next day, a similar cliff collapse occurred! Bearing in mind the old saying that ‘things happen in threes’ I think you should be careful for a while Mandy as looks as if the rocks are out to get you for some reason! (lol)
For more information on Mandy and to view more of her fabulous photos visit her flickr account here…
As far as Rock-a-Nore is concerned, I always find myself thinking of the old days of smuggling and of the plethora of caves I can see up above me. How I would LOVE to be able to clamber up there and do some exploring of my own with one of those old style lanterns swinging to and fro in front of me…I’ve been to St Clements Caves a number of times and have always found it to be a fascinating experience but its the sound of the sea, the wind and of waves swooshing over rocks that really brings the history of smuggling to life for me…
Thinking of more legal pursuits, it will be interesting to see in time whether any interesting fossils come to light as a result of the rock fall. According to discoveringfossils.co.uk, the sandstone cliffs and foreshore along Rock-a-Nore have yielded some great finds over the years. Skeletal remains of dinosaurs, pterosaurs (a kind of flying winged lizard) fish and other creatures have all been found there along with vegetation from around 140 million years ago.
Amazing, isn’t it? How something like a spectacular rock fall can suddenly make you take a greater interest in your hometown. There is a lot of really interesting information about the cliffs at Rock-a-Nore on the Internet when you actually look for it and I feel somehow more attached to them than ever after finding out that when they were formed Britain was still part of the European landmass! We all think of Hastings being ‘born’ in 1066 because of the famous battle but reading up about geology and fossils really puts things into perspective. Did you know for example that Hastings is part of the ‘Weald Basin’ and that the basin was formed by the European and African plates colliding? I didn’t realise that interracial marriages went on 140 million years ago, did you? In fact, I’m not sure I even knew that anyone even had plates in those days? I wonder if anyone has informed the Greeks of the havoc that can be caused by a fractious wedding celebration – or was that what did for Atlantis?
No, seriously, you could do far worse than to spend an hour or two reading about our town on discoveringfossils.co.uk. It is always interesting to learn about the place you call home and as t he events of Jan 3rd prove conclusively nothing stays the same forever so the lesson is to enjoy the things you love while you can.
Do you know what? I’m so inspired I think I could turn into Hastings very own version of Tony Robinson!
From the February 2014
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