Archives for posts with tag: Newhaven

KDANGG is the sound of the garage door connecting with my forehead, in no uncertain terms. The sharp blow forces out a loud and vile oath, and I sink to the forecourt, moaning. Gill, sensitively, keeps well clear and silent, though in retrospect I think I would have preferred being smothered in sudden and huge sympathy.

The plan was to cycle along the seafront, though this could be postponed now, due to my life-threatening concussion. I sit on the concrete, staring. But it’s a golden warm autumnal day; it would be a shame to waste it in A&E, queuing for hours with railing-trapped children and drunks with axes in their heads.

So to Lewes Station and a train to Newhaven (this is not an endurance test). We take the cycle path that goes through the nature reserve and turn off at Tidemills, an old ruined mill and village, once home to 100 workers. The last residents were forcibly removed in 1939. From the beach you see the long black arm of Newhaven Harbour, lighthouse at the end silhouetted against a blue sky and glittering sea. Tiny figures climb the steps onto the harbour wall, only to be repulsed by barbed wire.

We cycle along the promenade towards Seaford Head, and stop at a little kiosk; it serves good espresso and has a blackboard, saying: ‘Frankies Forecast. Dry, Bright, Sunny, Clear & Warm. Light Gentle Breeze From the SW Gently Lapping Waves Carressing The Shoreline With A Welcoming Embrace…’

A little further we pass a bench with the inscription ‘Glad and Ron Wellden, now dancing together always in the hearts of those who love you.’

Standing rather nervously outside the Dome, I’m waiting for Duncan to pick me up. Destination: Twineham International Airport. Well, yes, an ironic name, for when we arrive and swing open the rusty gate, and drive around the edge of a muddy field – we find a shed. In which there stands a very pretty little plane – a single-engined high-wing monoplane, cream with burgundy stripes, and chunky spats over the wheels. Duncan unlocks the wire cage gates and we push it out. I really am feeling nervous – I’ve been up with him once in another plane, but this time…

After the pre-flight check (Duncan is reassuringly thorough – he has been for the 47 years I’ve known him) – we’re tightly side-by-side in the little cabin, and we’re soon taxi-ing towards the mown grass strip, then accelerating, and the plane is so light you’re barely conscious of leaving the ground, and we’re up, climbing up over West Sussex then circling round, and it’s really exhilarating and I’m not nervous anymore. But there is only a half-inch of metal between me and 1800 feet of cold air, and a small door-catch (easily caught on your cuff I’d imagine).

I’m trying to snatch photographs and little movie clips between the wing-struts (from inside – this isn’t Flying Down To Rio) and we’re suddenly over Lewes, and – look! there’s the Council office block! – and now we can see the full shape of Chris Drury’s Heart of Reeds, the land sculpture made in the shape of a cross-section through the human heart. We follow the Ouse down towards the sea, the sun is bursting through the clouds and shining on the river, ‘like a National guitar’, to quote Paul Simon. The clouds are piled up in layers coming from the west as we fly over Newhaven and on towards Cuckmere Haven. A glimpse of the Seven Sisters and we turn inland and the meanders and ox-bow lakes are beautiful, with exquisite tiny rivulets contrasting with the wide, dead-straight channel.

The huge storm-cloud is heading towards us, and Duncan decides to put down until it blows over. He radios for a convenient airfield, and here’s one, north of the A27. The owner is also in the air and we see his plane circling too. We land, easily, dancing onto the field, and switch the engine off. I walk away, and my feet slide out from under me, and I’m flat on my back, winded, in the mud, staring at the sky…