This is the first of a few brief tours of some of the locations from The Chalky Sea.

It was a beautiful morning today (9th August) here in Eastbourne so I decided to take some pictures at Holywell which is a favourite haunt of Gwen in the book. The beaches here are quieter than those near the town, but at the time of my novel they would have been festooned with barbed wire and tank traps, where today there are only pebbles and wooden groynes.

Near Holywell there was a break in the barbed wire and while the foreshore was out of bounds and still heavily mined, the promenade was accessible. Gwen liked to walk along to the bottom of the cliff below the now neglected Italian Gardens, past the Edwardian beach chalets and the closed up Holywell tea room. The area was effectively the end of the line before the beach gave way to the vertical chalk cliffs that became Beachy Head. Before the construction of the gardens and the promenade, the area had once been home to lime kilns and chalk pits where the local fishermen worked to supplement their income from the sea.”

There are a number of Edwardian beach chalets here, including one which bears a plaque testiftying its use by King George and Queen Mary on a visit to Eastbourne in 1933.

“Gwen sat on the wall in front of the chalets. At one time she and Roger had thought of renting one, but the idea was dropped as he was travelling so much with his job and once it became clear, if unsaid, that they were not going to have children. Like the tea room, the beach chalets were closed up, not just for the winter but for the war. Gwen tried to remember what it used to be like here on a peacetime summer day, the promenade scattered with people strolling, children playing in the shallows or fishing in the rock pools under the cliff for shrimps. Ice cream and cups of tea, teacakes and scones. Buckets and spades.”

Here is the now-open (every day except Christmas Day) Holywell Tea Chalet, where Gwen goes to buy ice cream after the end of the war. Today I enjoyed a cappuccino in the sunshine while doing some writing – for the sequel to The Chalky Sea.

The next stop on my tour will be the Pier and the Bandstand.

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