Friday, 7 January 2022

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Friday. Up and out by 7.30. Urged on by Thursday’s gorgeous bright and crisp start (above), which I had whizzed through at speed on a London-bound train, I find Friday’s attempt somewhat less stunning, but fine enough to run.

As usual with winter running, arms initially cold but I warmed up in a few minutes, running gently uphill towards Silverhill, up to the junction with Sedlescombe Road North. Then along, and down, down, down, under lightening skies, down to the sea front at St Leonards.

I pass a brown tourist sign pointing to ‘Seafront’ and noticed that it had been stencil graffitied underneath in a similar font and colour with ‘doesn’t exist’. My mind paused briefly to consider whether this was a bespoke job for this particular seafront or this particular sign, but I reckon it’s something that could be used elsewhere.

As I near St Leonards I see the U-shaped valley formed by the shops and buildings on either side of the road, and the view through to the sea beyond. I like these views, where the land rolls down to the sea, and you often find a gateway or arch through to the sea in towns like this.

I had timed this run as much to get me out at dawn before work as to see the coast at low tide. Hastings and St Leonards has quite a wide tidal range, and it’s still novel to me to observe it at its highest and lowest. I check the charts for these extremes and if the timing works out I will always try and get down to see them. A year of reading The Almanac from my London home and reading but not fully understanding the concepts of spring and neap tides, and now I live by the sea and can start to grasp it.

This morning it’s an hour or so from low tide and rock reefs are exposed, along with wide, flat banks of sand which normally lie under five or six metres of water, owing to the steepness of the beach.

The submerged reefs are fun to explore, forming rockpools, and the exposed flat sand is also fun as the beaches hereabouts are made up of large pebbles and shingle. But at low tide there are wide swathes of flat, dense sand which can be walked on run on.

The rocks are fascinating too as it gives the impression of a reservoir or lake in which the plug has been pulled and the water level has dropped sufficiently to reveal ruins and remains of something much older. I’m told there are shipwrecks along this stretch of the coast, and I look forward to making a special journey out to see the exposed ribs of an old, doomed vessel in the shallow waters.

I’m not the only one out here at 8am – dog walkers and the occasional solo walker are out too, some rather further out than I dare to venture in my running gear. They appear as dots further out on the sandbanks, reflected in the isthmus of water left behind on the surface. There are also one or two photographers, including a man with a smartphone clamped into a sturdy-looking tripod pointing down the coast to the pier and the sunrise beyond.

At this time of the year the sun makes a shallow arc up and over the horizon, and it rises out of the sea. Those of a certain constitution embrace this event, bravely going for a dip in waters below 10 degrees Celsius, emerging red and frantic and elated. But there is no actual sun to see on the horizon this morning – and I see no swimmers – as a bank of cloud sits grumpily obscuring the show, teasing us with occasional pink and gold frills at the edges.

I snap a few photos on my phone, grateful to have this remarkable landscape not so far from home now, before running along the promenade until I have to turn left at the sculpture of a submerged / re-emerging Norman longboat, and head for home under the shadow of the cliff-top castle ruins.

I manage 10km on this morning’s run – I’d planned an 8.5km route, but hadn’t figured in the beach explorations. It’s a good way to start the day, and I return home for a steaming cup of coffee and a fried egg sandwich while I edit some of the morning’s photos, my legs tired, but with a rewarding ache.

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