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For various reasons we don’t have much time today and we want to keep it simple. So we spurn the siren call of Newhaven Fish Festival. Instead we decide to visit a coastal village that doesn’t actually exist, a true lost promenade.

Tide Mills is a derelict assemblage of ruins and water, on the edge of the sea in Sussex. It was abandoned in the 1930s when it became uninhabitable, due to the residents’ habit of emptying their toilets onto the beach at low tide. The buildings (which included a hospital, a railway station, a large mill and a pioneering Marconi radio station) were destroyed during the war when the area was used to train future soldiers in guerilla street fighting.

Linda's Store

Linda's Store

The nearest railway stop is Bishopstone, a cute 1930s station surrounded with Enid Blyton bungalows, as silent as a cot death. We pass The Buckle, a monstrous house built on the ruins of a 16th century fort that helped see off the Spanish Armada. Now it features ornamental lamp posts that look like they came from Argos, and a simpering plaster cat. By contrast, Buckle Holiday Park, with stone lions guarding its entrance is much more tasteful.

The Buckle

The Buckle

At the head of the beach sits an odd little boat-club-cum-cafe, a prefab with a mast and rigging. Inside are red velvet banquettes and table tops papered with old maps. The owners have lived in the area since the 60s and love it. It never rains in Bishopstone and they love the sea views. ‘What more could you want?’ they say.

newhaven & seaford sailing club

newhaven & seaford sailing club

After omelettes, salad and a Fab ice lolly for the road, we stroll along the beach. The ecosystem is faintly reminiscent of Dungeness; with greens and pinks and purples lolling out through the scree. In the distance is the industrial silhouette of Newhaven harbour.

tide mills

tide mills

The Tide Mills site is only 10 minutes walk away, and there really is hardly anything there. Just some foundations, like pygmy Inca pillars, some rusty metal shapes and a muddy creek and derelict sluice from the old mill. And lots of dog walkers, but strangely and happily, no dog shit. There’s also a small cave where someone seems to have been sleeping rough. And a general feeling that this would be just the sort of place to stumble upon a corpse. We spend time wading in the mud and photographing dead crabs and punctured oil drums. Bits of twig bend over in the mud like misshapen figures in a Dali-esque landscape. Nhung feels uninspired but Tamsin likes it.

sleeping rough

sleeping rough

We decide to walk across the fields to Newhaven, passing a strange homemade sign saying Bongville, where we wait for ages for a train to approach so Nhung can get a photo of a loco steaming in. After a bit of countryside, we get to Newhaven Harbour and wander through deserted wastegrounds past the incinerator and a scrapheap, and still with murder in mind have a cheery conversation about all the people we know who have found dead bodies or been witnesses in murder cases. It’s very quiet around here…

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But not as quiet and dead as Newhaven itself, which despite its fish festival is silent. We walk through a land of placid, grey warehouses, finishing at the station with its peeling, decaying houses, their paint flaking off like ogre’s dandruff. We plan to return to Newhaven again and we’d better make it soon. Tide Mills is lost, Newhaven isn’t yet, but it’s fading fast.

newhaven harbour

newhaven harbour

Lost

The whole destination, Tide Mills

Found

A body. Only joking.

tide mills

tide mills

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