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The joys of perambulation

Ditchling Road: a sobering walk

No particular reason

In the 1950s and 1960s, I used to walk everywhere. From my home in Roundhill, I would walk to the Downs Primary School and then, later to Fawcett School, in York Place. In between times I would stroll down to the beach and the Pier and back again – a round trip of about 3 miles. Sometimes, at weekends, I would somes take a constitutional through Brighton and Hove to Portslade (c10 miles, round trip). Why?  I had very little money and family life wasn’t good. The sheer pleasure of just walking for no particular reason was unbeatable. The French have a name for a person who just like to wander, with no aim in mind. Such a person is known as a  ’flaneur’.

Walking keeps you fit

Sometimes, my jaunts were more focussed. In the summer, I used to walk down to the seafront and then along to Black Rock swimming pool, swim and return the same way. As I remember, streets were fairly quiet – especially in the ’50s. There were few cars and I seem to remember the streets being a lot quieter.  Those of us who enjoyed this kind of exercise must have been a good bit fitter than many children and young people are now. 

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A halfpenny fare

Occasionally, I would take the 26a or 26b bus, to the Old Steine. I seem to remember that the fare, for a child, was a halfpenny. I particularly liked the trolley buses and liked them even more when one of the ‘arm’s at the top of the bus became detached from its electric wire. The driver would come out, get a very long pole out of a tube and the bottom of the bus and do the necessary replacement.

An antidote to alcohol

On the whole, though, it was walking – the best way, in those days, to get around. It was also useful, later on in the 1960s, as a way of dispersing the effects of a night out on the town. If you were drunk on the seafront, you would be sober by the time you walked up Ditchling Road. 

Comments about this page

  • I walked a fair bit as a young person, too. I often walked home from the town to Hurst Hill in Hollingbury. Ditchling Road was long and straight, and it was less than three miles, but it was a fair climb. The sense of achievement at journey’s end was very satisfying. Learning to drive in my early thirties put paid to a lot of my “perambulation”, but I really should walk more. I would say, however, that, as a woman, the benefits of health and enjoyment are somewhat offset by fears of personal safety. The streets of Brighton aren’t what they were, unfortunately. 

    By Janet Beal (06/11/2016)

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