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Hastings Pier

The RIBA award winning Hastings Pier has enjoyed a rousing reception since it reopened in 2016.  Designed originally by renowned Victorian engineer Eugenius Birch and first opened in 1872, Hastings Pier has stood through wars, played host to music legends such as Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd, been closed down, caught fire more than once and was raised from the ashes by the local community and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The new, modern Pier is a simple and sustainable platform that is loved by locals as well as being a popular visitor destination.  As well as the Pavilion Restaurant and beach hut-style food and drinks kiosks, vintage fairs, exhibitions and family-friendly events to keep you entertained - the Pier itself is an attraction that is not to be missed.  Uninterrupted expanses of elegant Ekki wood allow you to get out in the elements and enjoy being closer to nature; we spoke to Peter Wheeler, Chief Engineer at the Pier, who told us a bit more about what he does and gave us some top tips for enjoying the great outdoors during your visit.

Peter and Francesca

My team and I look after the engineering and maintenance of the Pier, everything from checking the structure daily, listening to it for strange sounds or any movement and inspecting it to make sure the nuts and bolts are tight and that rails aren't weak from the corrosive sea or wear from the shingle.  We usually get to work around 7.30am but earlier if we're working underneath as we need to chase the tide down, get down there to do the work and be mindful of the tide as it will chase us back up!

Our job also involves making sure the deck is clean (we power wash the Pier Head to remove seagull debris) and carrying out general maintenance in the Pavilion and Visitor Centre.  There are 510,000 stainless steel deck screws and we extract and replace any sheared or loose.

We also monitor the abrasion guards on the 148 year old cast iron columns, to make sure that they are not being eroded too badly.  Every time a wave comes in it whooshes shingle up the beach and past the columns, so the abrasion guards are there to protect them, to be worn away and renewed before the columns are damaged.  These days we use modern steel columns but the big priority is protecting the old cast iron columns because once they're gone, they're gone.

My favourite thing about my job is looking after the structure, often we will abseil down to take measurements underneath the Pier, come back up and plan what is needed.  Sometimes my assistant Francesca will carry her own weight in tools and spare parts.

We do this in all weathers and underneath the Pier is a completely different realm away from the business of the top deck.  Few will have any idea that we are working away below...

Pier huts

Peter's Guide to enjoying the great outdoors on the Pier

Promenading

Hastings was the first pleasure pier and promenading has always been one of the most pleasant and simple past times for pier-goers. It means to take a leisurely walk or stroll, perhaps to take in the air or to stretch one’s legs.

The Victorians were big fans of promenading on Hastings Pier, thrilled by the sight of the waves underneath them (where usually you would only see those on a sailing ship).

The Pier was one of the few places that courting couples could walk unchaperoned and we get a lot of visitors saying that their parents met on the Pier and that they wouldn’t be here without it!

It’s about dressing up and getting out there to enjoy the outdoors, the place to be seen and maybe spot a famous face.

Birdwatching

There are many birds to admire from the Pier. We have murmurings of Starlings -  around 1000 birds that fly together in the summer. Also, Turnstones - they are very common around Europe but they gather around the Pier and harvest small bugs at low water. They have a lovely white underbelly and you can see them rushing up and down the beach when the waves come in.

You can often see Cormorants flying close to the water or drying their wings and of course we have seagulls! Black backed gulls as well as the iconic Herring gulls.

There are free binoculars at the end of the Pier for birdwatching and you can also see the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse off Eastbourne and up to Dungeness the other way when the visibility is good.

Paddler on sea

Venture underneath the Pier

There's a lot going on underneath the Pier, too.

You can find winkles, mussels, barnacles, sea anemones and even oysters on the concrete columns at very low water.  Crabs! We also have hermit crabs, velvet swimming crabs and masked crabs underneath the Pier.  If you look closely you might see some shrimps or giant prawns buried in the sand too.

There are three special passages where it is safe to walk underneath the Pier that Francesca and I work all the time to keep clear - Storm Eleanor exposed a lot of steel which had been cut away during previous reconstructions, some not seen for 75 years - and we had to pull up 2 tonnes of steel which was sent for recycling.

I regularly take groups around the Pier to talk about the structure and the history and the wildlife, it's called "Wade Around the Pier with the Engineer".  These are free but we ask for a donation or encourage people to buy a cuppa and a cake whilst they're here.  Details of upcoming talks can be found on the Pier website.

Fishing

The fire in 2010 caused the Ballroom at the Pier Head to collapse into the sea, it made a habitat for marine life (you can see that at very low water) and it's attracted many types of fish including flat fish, Whiting, Pollock, Dabs, Mackerel, Sole and we even had a Conger the other day!

If you would like to fish from the Pier, you need to obtain a fishing licence from Paul's Tackle (just a short walk east from the Pier) but specified dates and times apply.  (If you are lucky Porpoises can be spotted as they pass up and down the Channel from the Pier Head).

Photography

Since reopening, the Pier has proved to become a focal point for photographers from around the country.  The various textures of reclaimed wood and precise, minimal architecture on top, coupled with the industrial Victorian sub-structure offer an endless array of options, not to mention the views of the sea, sky and sunsets which are different every day.

Swimming

We advise against swimming under the Pier itself but there are safe zones for swimming and lifeguards on duty in peak season to the east of the Pier - please always check the local sea safety information before swimming.

We do a swim to work from the site of St Leonards Pier to Hastings Pier 4 or 5 times a year.

For the last 10 years I’ve run a charity swim from the Pier to the Harbour Arm and back, raising money for children with cancer. We wear wetsuits which protect you from the cold and also the rough beach.

Taking in the view

As well as impressive views of the coastline and the sea, the Pier is a perfect spot to admire the light show in Bottle Alley. It makes a magnificent photographic spectacle at sunrise and sunset and the sandy beach at low water reflects the sun to light up the structure and the Ekki.  You can also see the fireworks on bonfire night and carnival from the Pier.

Front of Pavilion

Fun Fact:

Hastings Pier is almost exactly the same length as the new HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

The events schedule for Hastings pier can be found on the website here

View the interactive guide to the America Ground and White Rock area of Hastings

Mobile users: http://bit.ly/AmericaGroundGuide