Friday, 23 June 2017

Hastings Country Park - Fabulous, Fun, Fresh Air! #CountryKids


We've lived in East Sussex for four years now and we are only about ten miles from Hastings and we are there at least once a week so it was a real surprise to me to find that Hastings has a country park situated up on the cliffs.

What a great find it is and there is enough to keep every keen walker or explorer busy. The country park forms part of the Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve along with Hastings Cliffs Special Area of Conservation, Hastings Cliffs to Pett Beach Site of Special Scientific Interest and is 345 hectares (853 acres) of coastal gill woodlands, open pasture and cliff top grassland, together with five kilometres of dramatic soft rock cliffs and coastline.


Some of the most stunning views of the south east coast can be experienced from the cliff tops but sadly not on the day we visited as there was to much sunny haze! On a clear day there is spectacular views overlooking the coastline from Beachy Head to Dungeness and as far afield as Folkestone and the coast of France.



Image: Friends of Hastings Country Park

We headed up onto the cliff tops after church on Sunday to have a picnic and celebrate Fathers Day. It was a blazing hot day, around 30 degrees and I'll be honest shade is not that easy to find in the area we visited - Firehills, but we still had a wonderful time. We picniced with half of us on a shaded branch and half on a blanket on the grass enjoying the sun, we then took a walk down to the cliff side and along the marked our trail but be didn't go too far due to the heat and the rough terrain in parts. You need the right footwear, a hat and a bottle of water as a minimum in the summer.


In the short walk we took we saw many different plant types and we could hear the crickets. I think the kids were too noisy to hear much else but there is a great assortment of birds that can be spotted and the area is great to watching the birds migrate in Spring and Autumn. There are many birds of note that can spotted in this area like the peregrine falcon, yellowhammer, raven, buzzard, linnet, dartford warblear and wheatear. I suspect my husband will be going back up there on his own with his camera and finding a quiet spot to get some good bird pictures.

We didn't see them but there is currently a small herd of Exmoor ponies and a new herd of Belted Galloway cattle to manage the glens and slopes in the SSSI and SAC, which are otherwise inaccessible to mechanical management. The fencing has been opened up so the cattle and ponies can roam freely around one of the largest and wildest glens, allowing them the same freedom as walkers. We have all agreed we will definitely go back on a cooler day and take a nice long walk to spot the ponies.


Refreshments
We finished our afternoon off with a cuppa in the wonderful Coastguards Tea Room, which is an easy walk from either car park at Firehills and then the kids had an ice cream from the van parked up in the furthest car park. The prices in the Coastguards tea room are pretty reasonable, I paid about £5.00 for three drinks - a fresh fruit smoothie, strawberry milkshake and J20 but you could easily get a freshly made sandwich for around £4 or a cooked lunch like omelet, salad and chips for about £6.50.

The selection of cakes was amazing and they are all made on site and the retail price was about £2.80 a slice but they were generous. Next time I am having the Baileys and Chocolate cake but I couldn't manage it Sunday after our big picnic. There is a good selection of crafts, wool, paintings and second hand books for sale too, so it is worth a browse.

Opening hours are - Tuesday to Sunday April to October 9am to 6pm and once the clocks change - November to March 10am to 5pm. The on site toilets are for customers only.


Picnics and BBQ's
You can picnic anywhere you fancy on the country park but there are benches and tables at Firehills, Fairlight picnic area and East Hill and static BBQs at East Hill and the Fairlight picnic site. Just bring your charcoal and food and off you go!

Parking and Toilets
There are various car parks along the cliff top, off Barley Lane and Fairlight Road. The charges are in place between 8am - 4pm and the cost is £2 for up to 2 hours or £3 for up to 8 hours, which I think is super reasonable.

There are toilets in the Firehills car park closest to the main road, at the Fairlight picnic site and at the East Hill.


Visitor Centre
At Firehills there is a small visitor centre manned by volunteers, it is open Tuesday - Sunday each week for a few hours a day. You are best to call ahead on 01424 812140 if you wish to ensure it is open when you are there. On the Sunday we visited it was open 10am - 3pm. There is a great range of leaflets that you can pick up or free about the history, geology, wildlife and plants of the local area.

Access for All
An accessible path has been developed over at Firehills and this mean that buggy's or someone in a wheelchair could enjoy this part of the country park easily and get to enjoy some of the amazing views and a spot of fresh air.

Events
Various events take place at the Hastings Country Park, some are free and others incur a small charge. Take a look on the Friends of Hastings Country Park site for all the latest details and information of how to book if necessary.

We had a really fun time at the Hastings County Park and will definitely go again. I hope you enjoy if you visit there too. Mich x


I'm linking this post up with Fiona at Coombe Mill for #CountryKids.
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

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