So something I don’t think I’ve mentioned so far on this blog is my ongoing life mission to visit every single one of the UK’s surviving piers. There are around 50 of them, and having grown up in a very pier-heavy region (North Wales) and moved to another similarly pier-blessed area (Brighton), it seemed like it would be a fun thing to do. It would also probably be a fun thing to blog about, but realistically I’m making such slow progress it would be a very sporadic blog, and lots of other people have done it faster and in more interesting ways.
Anyway, I’m moving away from Brighton next January, and decided that I needed to visit Hastings before I go, because it’s only an hour from Brighton, and ridiculous that I’ve not once visited in all of the 9 years I’ve been here.
Especially given that Hastings pier is a wonderful example of a community coming together to save a historic landmark, and run it co-operatively and positively for the good of the town.
Hastings pier is very lovely. Beautifully re-built/restored, with the kind of buildings that you would actually visit again and again if you lived locally. (Rather than the usual gaudy amusement halls, the pier instead features a lovely cafe, community space, and lots of small shops, as well as playing host to big name live music)
But we’re here to talk about benches. Let’s get to it. (You can see the benches I want to talk about in the background of the above picture, here they are below in more detail)
Initially I was quite excited about these benches. They’re unusual, look like they’ve probably been designed and made bespoke for this setting, and use the same beautifully coloured wood as the slats and buildings on the pier.
However upon close inspection, and testing, they have to my mind, some fundamental issues.
The metalwork isn’t actually that aesthetically pleasing, to my taste, although it is mostly hidden.
The benches look like they’re going to be comfortable, but actually, the slats are quite lumpy, and don’t fit particularly well with your body, especially down the back.
I sat next to Alex (who is about 6’, to my 5’5”). I commented that if I actually put the small of my back to where it’s intended at the back of the seat so that my back could rest comfortably on the back rest, my feet didn’t touch the ground, and the pressure of them hanging down caused the slats to dig in uncomfortably to the back of my thighs. But if I put my feet on the floor and leaned back, that meant the back rest was uncomfortable.
I suggested that these benches were only comfortable for tall people, and that a good bench should be comfortable for everyone who comes to it.
Alex suggested that maybe I’m suffering from ‘bench privilege’ and that actually most benches are comfortable for people of my height, but maybe less so for taller and shorter people, and I’ve just been blind to this fact. I personally don’t think this is true, and that Alex was just winding me up, but I’d be interested to hear from other tall people… are most public benches uncomfortable for you? Seats too shallow? Back rests too low? (Although you wouldn’t have a problem here…)
I’m also interested in why the pier was rebuilt without benches built in. (Although admittedly there are some on top of the cafe building) My experience with most piers is that they have benches built in for much of their sides, and it’s interesting that Hastings Pier didn’t decide to do this. Perhaps because those benches inherently face away from the sea? Perhaps because people like being able to go right up to the railings and lean? Either way, I’m inclined to prefer built in benches rather than randomly placed (albeit screwed down) individual benches like this. It just seems to me like when you’re creating an entire structure from scratch like this, why wouldn’t you build seating into its very fabric, rather than adding them as an afterthought. (Some of my favourite benches are benches that are part of bigger things)
Anyway, I don’t really want to criticise anything about Hastings Pier because it’s a really lovely place/thing, and a great job has been done to bring it back to life. But these benches could have been better, in my opinion.
Comfort of bench: 4/10
Capacity of bench: Each bench would comfortably hold 3 people on each side. But there are quite a few of them dotted around.
View from bench: 8/10. Sea and Hastings. Very nice, especially on a sunny day.
Accessibility of bench: Hastings Pier is very good for accessibility (there’s even a lift up to the better benches I mentioned above on the top of the cafe building)
Adventure level: Around 10 – 15 minutes walk from Hastings Station. Not very high. 3/10.