Despite growing up here I’ve never done much exploring of the “interior” of East Sussex. Normally I just go for a walk along the coast in one direction of the other. Well, time to change that: a new programme of exploration is launched! The first mission is north to Bodium Castle and then to Robertsbridge.
A wood just outside Hastings
This was my favourite part of the walk, an unexpectedly lush wood just a few minutes from Hastings hospital.
Bodium Castle is basically what you get when you ask a five year old to draw a generic castle. It made a brief film appearance as “Swamp Castle” in Monty Python and the Holy Grail!
Robertsbridge high street
This was the most picturesque part of Robertsbridge, a small town on the Hastings-London train line. I’ve passed through it on the train loads of times but I don’t think this is the first time I’ve ventured into the town itself.
On the map I saw a “Robertsbridge Abbey” but what is left of the ruin is on private land and so a bit of a disappointment.
Unseasonably warm and sunny weather on the Easter bank holiday weekend so I decided to go for a walk in the opposite direction along the coast.
The sea was eerily calm, almost like a lake. You can see in the miniscule waves in the picture below.
The rebuilt (and bankrupt) Hastings pier
I got to Bexhill and on a whim decided to divert to Sidley, site of my former sixth form college.
All that remains of Bexhill Sixth Form college
Alas the college has since been demolished: all that hints at its former existence is a residential estate named “Scholar’s Walk” and these old railings. Demolition is a common fate of educational institutions attend by me.
Sidley, but it could be anywhere really
Sidley is pretty nondescript. It doesn’t seem to have changed much in the last 18 years (I think the Aldi is new). I wouldn’t recommend a visit.
I suppose I should feel honoured that my family’s ancestral hall has been commentated with this fine information board. However the building itself has seen better days and is not quite the fine palace I was imagining.
The heyday of our family beach hut
… and today’s sorry state
It’s just along the coast from Rye Harbour, which is somewhere I’ve visited many times, but I never saw the “ruin” before.
Mary Stanford lifeboat house
This is the “Mary Stanford” lifeboat house named after the lifeboat that used to be based here which tragically sunk in 1928 drowning all 17 crew.
Chongming island 崇明岛 is a large island on the north of the Yangtze estuary. And while it’s technically part of Shanghai it’s actually very rural and makes for an interesting day out.
Ferry to Chongming island
Getting there from the city is a bit convoluted. The quickest way is to take subway line 3 to Baoyang Road and take a bus to the ferry terminal of the same name. The ferry takes about 50 minutes and costs 16 RMB. Make sure you get the one to Nanmen 南门 as that’s the most touristy part.
Walking along the Yangtze river
I walked along the bank of the Yangtze river for a little way from the ferry terminal. It was really hazy. Might have been pollution but the air quality report that didn’t seem too bad…
Next stop was Chongming Academy, an old Confucian school. Nothing spectacular to look at, but there’s some interesting exhibits (in Chinese) in several of the buildings about the history of Chongming island. Apparently it used to be an important centre of cloth production, and now it’s trying to reinvent itself as an ecotourism destination.
After that I took the bus to the wetland park in the north of the island. The bus trip is around an hour, which I wasn’t expecting, but the view along the way was interesting. One thing you’ll notice straight away is almost everyone on the island is old (quite common in rural China). The other noteworthy thing was the number of churches – I counted at least two plus some crosses on walls – which I hardly ever see on the mainland.
Harvested grass in the wetland park
With all the time spent travelling I only had time for two attractions but there’s also some temples and a forest park, so maybe you could make a weekend of it.
Here’s a pro tip: the last boat back to the mainland is at 6pm. If, like me, you miss this it’s also possible to take a long-distance bus back to the mainland via the bridge at the south of the island. The bus leaves from the bus station near the ferry terminal and takes about 1.5 hours to reach a subway station on line 6.
A double day of sightseeing today in Qingpu district, which is in the far west of Shanghai. My first stop was Zhujiajiao ancient town. I didn’t have very high hopes considering the other old towns in the Shanghai suburbs have been over-commercialised and not very interesting, but this one was surprisingly quiet and well preserved. There are a couple of small paid exhibits including a garden, temple, and a craft museum.
Zhujiajiao ancient town
Next I rode all the way to the end of line 17 to try to get to Dianshan lake, Shanghai’s largest lake. I was going to walk there but thought better of it and got on a bus. The place you want to go to is called Xicai 西蔡 and there’s a long path around the lake with great views.
Years ago when I used take the train to Suzhou I was always fascinated by this massive skyscraper built seemingly in the middle of the countryside. I saw it again today on the other side of the lake. I still don’t know what it is. Only in China I suppose.
Here’s another one of those “ancient” towns in the suburbs of Shanghai. This one is called Zhaojialou in the south-west Pujiang area. It’s a bit so-so. Usually these towns are significantly better if they have some attraction you can visit like and temple or a garden, but this one is just some old houses and shops.
I walked there from the end of line 15 and across the river on a ferry. The best bit was the industrial area under the bridge where the ferry runs.
On the other size is Pujiang country park which is quite pleasant for a walk too.
Last week I went for a walk around Nanxiang another one of these “ancient” water towns. It’s not really a separate town, just a few old streets in Shanghai’s Jiading suburb. You can reach there easily on line 11.
The best part is definitely Guyi garden which is the classical-style garden pictured above. I went on a weekday and it was pretty quiet. There’s also an extensive Buddhist temple which is free to get in. Definitely recommend this one over Qibao, but there’s much nicer old towns if you go to Suzhou or somewhere a bit further away from the city.
Got out of Shanghai for the first time in 2021 last weekend. Not far though, just to a little island off the coast. You can get there quite conveniently with a combined coach and ferry ticket from Nanpu Bridge tourist coach centre. The ferry actually leaves from another island, Yangshan island, which is home to a huge container port and connected to the mainland by a long sea bridge.
There’s enough small attractions to spend a weekend, including beaches, temples, and a lot of cliffs, which you can see pictures of below. I liked the relaxed style of the little fishing villages.
Eventually I reached the Huangpu river, which I believe is the southern boundary of Minhang district. There’s a small park here called Minhang Riverside Park, which isn’t particularly notable. However the view of the river is dominated by a large single-span suspension bridge. Unfortunately Wikipedia, my usual source of bridge knowledge, failed me on this one. The words on the tower read 闵浦二桥 “MinPu 2nd Bridge”. Some web searching reveals that it was opened to traffic in 2010, the tower is 148 meters tall, and the deck is 40 meters above the water. It’s a rather prosaic concrete structure: they didn’t even bother to paint it. However it is notable for having two decks. The lower deck carries the metro line 5 extension to the Fengxian suburb, the only place the Shanghai metro crosses the Huangpu river above-water. You can just make out a train crossing the bridge in the picture below. They have to drive very slowly for some reason.
Minpu II bridge with metro train crossing
Speaking of metro lines, Shanghai’s brand new line 15 opened just last month and the southern terminus is a few miles from this spot. This line is generating a lot of excitement because all the trains are driverless, like London’s DLR. (Actually Shanghai already had driverless trains on the Pujiang line but it’s so out of the way not many people knew about it.) Obviously I ran straight to the front of the train and stared transfixed at the passing tunnel for the whole journey. I made a short video so you can experience it too.
I’ve got a week off for Chinese new year so it seemed like a good opportunity to go out for a walk. I planned to explore westwards along the Dianpu river which I’d walked before, but I didn’t get very far as the path along the river is intermittent at best and the big roads aren’t pleasant to walk along. So I took a detour to Sijing old town, which I found by chance while looking at the map.
The main attraction is probably Futian temple, a medium-sized Buddhist temple dating from the 18th century. There weren’t many visitors so it was very peaceful, much more so than other temples I’ve visited in China.
Outside the temple
The old town itself has seen better days. I’m not sure if it’s in the process of being demolished or renovated. Anyway most of the buildings are boarded up although there’s a free architecture exhibition that’s worth a look. I actually preferred wandering around here compared to some of the more over-comercialised old towns I’ve been too.
The waterfront view is more attractive
The pagoda was closed too although it seemed operational so that might just be because it’s the new year holiday.