A family outing on a rainy day

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The weather this summer is very unpredictable so it’s useful to know what interesting adventures there are to be had with children on a dull day if you’re unable to spend time on the beach. Hastings has much to offer and if driving, it has two big beach front car parks or if travelling by bus use the 100 or 101.

Rock-a-Nore Road, (TN34 3DW)  has an aquarium at Hastings beach front which takes a journey through naturally themed water habitats, including sharks and reef fish. Next is the Hastings Fishermen’s Museum and the fishermen’s huts to buy fresh mussels and cockles. If art interests you, it can be viewed in the Hastings Contemporary gallery. Next to it there is also the pleasant Stade restaurant to sit in or outside and which welcomes children.

Walk along the beach or in parallel along George Street with its many different cafes and shops and you arrive at the entry of the funicular railway which takes you up to West Hill where the St Clements Smugglers Caves are.

In 1700, all along the East Sussex Coast, locals smuggled various goods like rum, tobacco, barrels of beer and more by ship and hid them in the caves along the beaches. In 1760 a gang of privateers led by ‘Ruxey’ were notorious and dangerous, they pretended to do ordinary business aboard ships in the channel but once on board, took the crew prisoner and anyone resisting would be killed. Their argument was that the taxes were so high they had to earn their money this way.

But soon conflicts ensued with casualties on both sides between the government and the smugglers. Eventually the government won the fight, reduced taxes in the late 18th and early 19th century and as a result smuggling became less rewarding.

The Old Town in Hastings which leads to Rock-a-Nore still retains many of the buildings that would have had caves underneath used by the smugglers, as well as all the fishermen’s net houses in their original condition. The cellars of the Stag Inn, in All Saints Street, were once linked by a tunnel to the caves on the hills above the pub. To get to the caves on West Hill you can either walk up steep steps or take the funicular, which is fun. Arriving at the caves there were friendly staff and the queue moved very quickly into the depths along different paths, to wander along the various displays which explained the history.

We learned that in fact the whole family was involved, not just the men. Women were lookouts and children helped with various duties including hiding the bounty. For a while, in the 1950s, the caves were used again as a jazz club.

To finish off your trip, head back down in the funicular and why not settle for a lovely fish and chips meal in one of the various restaurants.

Image Credits: Heidi Foster .

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