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|A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton|
by Paul K Lyons
31 - Of cycling and lanes (long and weird), of bowling (mixed), and a rainbow of huts
It is time for me to cross over to the south side of Kingsway. At this point in my walk, Kingsway runs very close to the east-west line of the 450 northing but at a very slight angle. At such an angle (were I to follow the imaginary route exactly) it might take 20-30 metres to cross the road. Well, this would be true anywhere else but opposite The Sackville Hotel, where half the road is closed to pedestrians and traffic. So I cross here. Known as Coast Road, Shoreham Road and King's Road in the past, the road was renamed Kingsway in 1910 in honour of Edward VII (and his visits to the Sassoon houses along the way).
There is a relatively wide pavement on the south side of Kingsway, half of which is devoted to a bicycle lane. It's not very busy, though, not busy at all. While I walk along, hundreds of cars are passing, but not one bike. Some 90 years ago, on the eve of the First World War, cycling was the most common form of transport here. Once again, I am indebted to Middleton and her 'Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade' for some interesting local history. Less than 500 metres north, on a section of New Church Road, a traffic census counted 1,719 cyclists and 715 horse-drawn vehicles between 6am and midnight. Nevertheless, dedicated cycle lanes were not laid down in Brighton and Hove until the 1990s. The same decade also saw cyclists fined for riding along the esplanade. But this was no new development - records show that that at least two cyclists were fined half a crown for cycling on the sea wall 100 years ago.
A small blue sign informs me that the bicycle lane is part of the National Cycle Network, which 'offers miles of cycle routes on quiet country lanes and traffic-free paths, using easy to follow route signs and connecting towns and villages throughout the UK'. The network is backed by Sustrans, the UK's leading sustainable transport charity.
While this cycle lane, running all the way from Palace Pier to Portslade, must be the longest in the city, Brighton can also boast (or be ashamed of) having the weirdest collection of very short cycle lanes.
A series of lawns, generally referred to as Western Lawns, lie between Kingsway and the promenade (Western Esplanade) many of them used for bowling by the Hove & Kingsway Bowls Club. The club plays friendly matches mostly at home (presumably because other clubs like visiting Hove). Although a men's club, it has, what it calls, 'a very close affinity with Kingsway Ladies BC', and it holds 'an increasing number of 'mixed' matches'. The greens, which are all set slightly lower than the promenade, sometimes with hedge or shrub surrounds, all look in very good condition. However, between the bowling greens, there is one square of turf where the grass is rougher and less well cared for. This is marked on maps as a croquet lawn. There are very few structures, the main one being the Hove & Kingsway Bowls Club pavilion, a low flat building. The bowling greens give way, eventually, to a well-planted garden surrounded by lots of benches. At the back, with its main entrance facing the sea, is another low flat building, this time occupied by the Babylon Lounge. During the day it offers tea and coffee, but at night it moonlights as a club, offering raunchy private dos for hen nights and the like.
The 450 northing, which is now closer to the esplanade than to Kingsway, leads me to cut through between some tennis courts, the older ones on my left are on grey tarmac while the newer ones on my right have green surfaces. It's a real pleasure to arrive at the broad pleasant promenade, Western Esplanade, so close to the beach, the sea and the surging waves. The first thing that strikes me is the colour of the beach huts. The backs have been in view for a long time, ever since I walked down Second Avenue, but their colour has been a uniform aquamarine. Now I can see that their doors are all different colours, vibrant colours from one end of the spectrum to the other - violets, yellows, reds, greens, oranges, blues and I'm sure there's one painted indigo somewhere. The first huts were erected in the 1930s, but situated on the beach side of the promenade. Plans to increase their number to 700 never seem to have been implemented. Today, there are about 400. More than two-thirds of them suffered damage as a result of the 1987 storms, but they all look in good nick today, well painted, and locked with padlocks of many different varieties. Only one or two are being used this morning.
by Paul K Lyons
A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton - along the 450 northing
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