Bexhill on Sea (England)

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Bexhill on Sea (England)

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Review of "Bexhill on Sea (England)"

published 30/04/2001 | tomc
Member since : 21/03/2001
Reviews : 30
Members who trust : 9
About me :
Super
Pro Quiet, excellent beaches, easy parking
Cons Very elderly population, perhaps too quiet for some
very helpful

"The good, the bad and the fairly pleasant"

Bexhill grew on me when I lived there a few years ago. Why would a sleepy retirement town on the Costa Geriatrica, with the highest proportion of retired people in Western Europe (55%), appeal to anyone who was not themselves in the “twilight zone”. The parade of zimmers and electric trikes along the seafront was surely enough to put off anyone with the merest spark of life left in them.

But, Bexhill I found has a lot going for it. Firstly, its best not to focus on the age of the population. There is in Bexhill a substantial minority of people who actually work in real jobs, do the usual sporty and active things that other young people and families do, and also benefit from a beautiful sea front, outstanding facilities for leisure and relaxation and an overall quality of life which people from many towns would envy.

So, what exactly is so good about the place. Well, I’d start with the seafront, with its three miles of promenade. You want a walk – you got it. Just head down to the prom on even a windy and wet day, when life is getting you down, and head east or west, then go back to the car. The views across the bay to Beachy Head, the boats from the sailing club skudding across the water, the spray in your hair and the noise of the waves will have perked you up. If its fine and sunny its therapy in itself, because Bexhill is an old-fashioned resort where it comes naturally to indulge simple pleasures like buying an ice-cream and sitting on the beach throwing stones at the sea-gulls (don’t worry, you’ll never hit one).

Don’t forget to visit the De La Warr pavilion on the sea-front, a huge art deco concert hall with bars, sun-deck, and exhibition area. This is a world renowned building and if you do an Internet search you’ll find various websites describing its importance in architectural history. Its also a nice place to visit and as you wander around you can appreciate the genius of its designer.

If you get fed up with the beach, head inland and visit the many parks, country parks, and woods which can be found within a mile or two. There’s Egerton Park, an ideal place to take young children with its beautifully cared for playground and it boating lake, tennis courts and bowling greens (of course!). Or go to Little Common and walk across the country park, perhaps going on up Pear Tree Lane to Highwoods, an area of public access woodland with nature trails and walks signposted from the entrance. Bexhill Down, a great place to walk the dog, or on summer evenings to play “stool ball” for one of the local pub teams (a Sussex game somewhere between cricket and rounders and played originally with a milk-maids stool, but now with a round long-handled bat).

If you want to go back to the sea again, don’t go down to the sea front but head west towards Cooden Beach. Go there on a hot summers evening if you can, when the tide is out and wander reflectively among the pools and sandbars, collecting shells and pulling up great lengths of seaweed as you go. Simple pleasure but when the mood is right, hard to beat. After your beachcombing session, the Cooden Resort hotel with its garden adjoining the beach, is a great place for a drink or a meal.

Bexhill has all the usual facilities like a sports centre, a leisure pool, out of town super-stores, drive thru McDonalds, but also benefits from high levels of service from local tradesmen. It was a place I could find a plumber or a car mechanic without feeling I was being ripped off. There are men who will stick a tile back on a roof, or fix a broken up and over garage door without imposing a huge call-out charge on you. It seemed a friendly sort of place to live.

The town centre has a good range of small shops for daily needs but not a place to “go shopping” for which Brighton or Eastbourne would be better. It’s a bit depressing to see the vast number of charity shops in the town centre, but there is a good range of other shops too and certainly you could survive quite happily only shopping in Bexhill.

What’s it like for children? Bexhill has a number of good schools and colleges, and although the population of the town is generally elderly, younger residents soon get to know each other and there’s the same community of families and children that you’d find anywhere else. And that beach, well, who could beat it in summer. Its common for people to gather on the beach after school and most of the schools will hold barbecues or other events there when the weather’s warm. Not so good for teenagers though, although nearby Eastbourne and Hastings have the usual range of pubs and clubs. Bexhill kids suffer the same social problems of anywhere else and drugs and heavy drinking are pretty normal for the usual proportion of them. I think Bexhill, like so many small towns, is one of those places you need to get away from when you reach a certain age and university or college offers a welcome escape for large numbers of the towns young people.

Finally a word for the retired. I think the one thing you observe about the community of older people is just that – a community. There is a huge infrastructure of care in Bexhill, from voluntary and public sector organisations, churches, round-tables, social clubs, special interest groups and so on. The town is geared towards the needs of the elderly, particularly those with a bit of money, and services are freely available to cover all areas of life. However, I guess if you’re poorer its not so good. Look at the prosperous bungalows where people have migrated from London suburbs and life looks pretty good, with new cars in the drive, a gardener to cut the lawn, and plenty of coffee mornings and lunch clubs to go to. But in the town centre where flat conversions are more the norm, rented bed-sits abound and I suspect it can be pretty lonely and depressing. So, a great place to live if you own your own property and have a good pension, but not quite to so nice otherwise.

After ten years of living in Bexhill, I moved with my family to Guildford, from one extreme to the other – a quiet town by the sea to a place where business rules and leisure seems to be a thing of the past. Which do I prefer? Guildford is a vibrant town, with a sense of life and purpose, but Bexhill has many attractions too of a more reflective kind. Heck, I think I might go back there when I retire.

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Comments on this review

  • TrueSatan published 12/11/2003
    Bexhill-on-Sea isn't a city and so this opinion is quite definately out of any proper category listing. Here is where it ought to be listed: http://ciao.co.uk/Further_UK_Towns_16241_3
  • Bradman published 05/02/2003
    I'm going to Bexhill tomorrow with a view to buying a flat as a second home. Tomc's comments about the town are extremely helpful. I am encouraged and look forward to my visit to the seaside! Bradman
  • LostWitness published 30/04/2001
    Brilliant opinion - really well-written. I like the way you have tried to describe the other side of things in Bexhill. Cheers, Phil.
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Product Information : Bexhill on Sea (England)

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Listed on Ciao since: 30/04/2001