A tale of three places – Paignton, Poundbury and Hastings Pier


Stephanie Gaunt has adopted the alter-ego ‘Hastings Battleaxe’ and on her own blog expresses her forthright views and opinions on a range of topics. Stephaine says, ‘Hastings Battleaxe does set out to be honest, but that means the posts do include the expression of some strong opinions – well, she wouldn’t be a Battleaxe otherwise, would she?’  Although it means to be light-hearted and a bit tongue-in-cheek, inevitably, sometimes readers sit up and take notice!

Here we republish a piece from the blog on the Battleaxe’s recent visits to Paignton and Hastings Piers.

When I last left this blog I was still in holiday mode. Well, that’s long past, but there is still space to look back on three contrasting experiences – a visit to Paignton, taking in Paignton Pier, a stop-off in Prince Charles’s pet model town Poundbury, near Dorchester, and a stroll on Hastings Pier. This is indeed a tale of three places.

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Paignton Pier.

In the last post I told how we had travelled to Paignton to catch the steam railway to Dartmouth? Well, on our return from the railway, we went for a stroll around Paignton. What a surprise!

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Paignton Pier.

It was a sunny Sunday, and the place was absolutely heaving with cut-price holiday-makers – or day trippers – but where had they come from? We complain about infrastructure to get to Hastings, but Paignton? The nearest cites are Plymouth and Exeter and they are a good distance away. I dunno who they were or how they got there but they were clearly having a great time.

The road to the beach was rammed with burger joints, tacky bars, slot arcades and the sort of clothes and gift shops you see in the Bull Ring open market in Birmingham, or maybe in a package-tour Turkish holiday resort. Every bit of grass was covered with kids play stuff. The air was heavy with chip fumes, old onions, rancid doughnuts.

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I liked this tasteful shop sign!

We fought our way onto the Pier – and I guess it would be our Mr Gulzar’s dream. A riot of colour, flashing lights, blaring machines, shrieking people – you couldn’t even see the structure of the Pier beyond the mind-numbing clutter of techno-colour tat. Look at this carpet!

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Paignton Pier.

So what of Hastings Pier? What indeed?

When I went for a walk the other day, absolutely nothing was open.

There were a few fisherpersons at the end and a couple of walkers, but that was it. The rooms in the centre building were empty. The Pavilion cafe was shut, supposedly for ‘interviews’ but there was no sign of life inside.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want Hastings Pier to transform itself into Paignton Pier,  but for heaven’s sake, is Mr Gulzar ever going to do anything with it? It is just a tragedy for our town to see it deserted and lifeless like this.

Allegedly, the man has not got the money – for all his fine talk. No doubt if he had money, he would have geared up something more for the Easter holidays…  Hell fire, it’s not hard to hire a bouncy castle and some kids amusements and get the catering sorted out.

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Hastings Pier

I know some local people (a rapidly decreasing number) say ‘give the man a chance’ but he has had every chance. It is an utter, shameful disgrace and an absolute mess. I said in an earlier post that it was our local version of Brexit, and indeed so it is. As he has bought it outright, there is absolutely nothing we can do. We are powerless to act while the poor Pier quietly rots.

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Hastings Pier.

Urgh. Let’s change the subject. Poundbury. We stopped for a coffee and a break on the way back from Devon, out of sheer curiosity. Oh wow, we think we have a ghost Pier, Poundbury is a ghost town; a soul-less, bleak, characterless, empty film-set.

I dunno what our dear Prince thinks when he sees the result of his attempt to create a new ‘integrated’ community using ‘traditional’ building styles, but believe me, it is not a success. You can see the ‘Shop to Let’ signs – and where are the people? Which takes me back to our Pier. At least the attempt was made to create something modern, innovative and new. It may need a lot more doing to it, but creating a ‘pastiche’ Victorian pier would not have worked. A tacky horror like Paignton does not rise up overnight – it takes generations to build it up.

Anyway, here are some pictures of Poundbury to finish up.

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