Sunday, February 17, 2013

What You Could Have

The Cuckoo Trail: A 14 mile surfaced path through the Sussex countryside that is mostly traffic free and is a safe route for walkers and cyclists of all ages, forming part of the National Cycle Network - route 21.
Did you know that in 2007 a new countryside park was being developed called Pebsham Countryside Park Project, which is also known as Combe Haven Valley? Rother District Council, East Sussex County Council and Hastings Borough Council, with part financing from EU INTERREG fund put out a leaflet letting us know how they were getting on. New sign posts had been put up marking public rights of way, some paths had been improved, a business plan was being developed and they were looking for further funding.

In 2011 the plan was continuing and a booklet was produced letting us know that "over the next year we will build a path for pedestrians and cyclists along the beach between Bexhill and Hastings through the coastal part of the proposed park". There was a year long list of events at Pebsham Countryside Park including a farm walk, a dawn chorus walk, Filsham Reedbed open day, photography walk, bug hunt and forest school taster day. This continued in 2012 with volunteer days at Filsham Reedbed up until 15th December 2012, just a week before trees trees started to be felled. The park had a new name for a "new era" Combe Valley Countryside Park. There was even a Children's Poetry Competition: "Put pen to paper in celebration of our local countryside and join us in the exciting launch of Combe Valley Countryside Park! The park that links Bexhill, Hastings and Crowhurst!" The last time there was a public consultation about the road was in 2004, long before the work to promote and develop the Countryside park began.

One week before Christmas 2012 work began to build a road through Combe Valley Countryside park. Contractors moved in to fell trees along the railway line. Local residents were informed the works would start in January. The ancient, peaceful land will be changed forever and there is no talk of the Countryside Park anymore. Instead, Councillor Peter Jones, head of East Sussex County Council says the people of East Sussex want the road and he wished everyone else would "shove off" and let them get on with it. This included the leaders of six national environment groups who visited the site on 27th January calling for the work to stop.

One of the reasons I love Hastings is because there are a number of beautiful Nature Reserves here. These have been spared the developer's bulldozers because Hastings is a bit of a hidden town, with a reputation for being a dump, at the end of the train line. There aren't very many wild places left in England. Over the years with support from groups like the Wildlife Trust these areas have been looked after and developed to make them useable by everyone in the community. A whole industry of environmental projects could be set up here with the support of anyone with the intelligence to see that: improved education, arts, physical and mental health, tourism, leisure and the jobs this could create. None of the local schools are making use of the Nature Reserves.  Let's not forget the wildlife that is being supported, from a booklet published by Hastings Borough Council in 2004: "much of which is rare and endangered". Over 20 different species of dragonfly have been recorded within Combe Haven Valley including the rare Hairy Dragonfly and Ruddy Darter. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest designated due to its importance to nature conservation NATIONALLY.

The old railway line that could have become a cycle path leading to a community farm and shop and country pub will be replaced by a road. The trees have been felled already even though the Department of Transport have not yet approved the building of it. This is the first of hundreds of roads proposed in England and Wales by a Government who's austerity cuts have made thousands unemployed, threaten the future of the NHS, have resulted in rises of mental illness, suicide and domestic violence and have failed to get the country out of the recession.

Today it all seemed like it could be another world. My family and I cycled along the cuckoo trail which is a 20 mile drive from Hastings. The 14 mile former railway line was busy with people of all ages walking, cycling, horse riding, smiling, chatting to strangers. It's a place where birds play chicken, flitting across the path in front of our bicycles. We saw a fox quickly run and hide from us. The sound of bird song drowned out the distant traffic. I recently heard on a radio programme that birds in urban areas are singing at night instead of the daytime because they can't compete with the noise of the city. In a pub on the trail the owner said it's packed in the summer months. It was pretty busy today, despite the February chill. We need safe places like this that can be enjoyed by every member of the family.

Following the advice from Hastings Borough Council, East Sussex County Council, Rother Council and 1066 Country who funded the 2012 Combe Valley Countryside Park booklet:
"Make the most of Hastings' parks and countryside, learn more about its wildlife and contribute to its protection and preservation". A number of people, many of them elderly, have been arrested for doing just that.

Cuckoo Trail and Pebsham Countryside Park Project information.

From a Pebsham Countryside Park Project Event & Activities Booklet. Published 2011 sponsored by Hastings Borough Council, East Sussex County Council, Rother Distric Council and the Sussex Wildlife Trusts.

From "Nature on your doorstep" Pebsham Countryside Park Project leaflet produced by East Sussex County Council 2007 sponsored by Rother District Council, East Sussex County Council, Hastings Borough Council and the EU INTERREG fund.

From a Pebsham Countryside Park Project Event & Activities Booklet. Published 2011 sponsored by Hastings Borough Council, East Sussex County Council, Rother Distric Council and the Sussex Wildlife Trusts.

From a Pebsham Countryside Park Project Event & Activities Booklet. Published 2011 sponsored by Hastings Borough Council, East Sussex County Council, Rother Distric Council and the Sussex Wildlife Trusts.

From "Wild Hastings" Produced by Hastings Borough Council 2004 with grant aid from English Nature. Further acknowledgements & Sponsors: New Opportunities Fund, BTVC, Biffaward, Environment Agency, Sussex Wildlife Trust and East Sussex County Council.



  1. I find it amazing that central and local government talk about tackling the obesity crisis in this country and then push ahead with more road schemes over natural exercise trails like this one. And this sounds such an important and lovely place, so I hope the destruction here does stop.

  2. I am so sorry this is happening to you. It is awful to see how progress can destroy the environment and the quality of life. Terrible your councilman said for all to 'shove off'. If that happened here he'd be finding himself a new job pretty quickly because American irateness would quickly take its toll on any public servant who is so callous. Good luck with your battle. I truly hope it all works out.

  3. Thanks Wendy, there is no logic. And it's interesting to hear your views from America Tina. I personally don't understand why more people aren't complaining about Peter Jones and his attitude. I think it will take something that will affect more people directly before they realise what is going on and can connect enough to feel something about it. England's Green and Pleasant Land is going to rapidly disappear. I have read that as we become disconnected from nature we won't care about fighting for it. It's already happening. And the areas where there are people from lower incomes are the areas that are being targeted. It's wrong on so many levels.


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