Sussex Coastal Culture Trail: The De La Warr Pavilion and Beach at Bexhill-on-Sea (And the Upcoming 'Ladybird by Design' Exhibition)


Weren’t the few days of crisp sunshine between Christmas and New Year such a respite from the sedentary, food-filled few days either side? Charged with energy by the orangey sunshine and sharp focus of everything, my very dear friend (and mother of my sometimes-daughters), and I headed down to Bexhill-on-Sea with our children, leaving our other halves to fester at their desks.


We were in search of a leg stretch for all, a chance to turn our faces towards the warm sunshine, and – most importantly for us mothers – some culture. This is where the Sussex Coastal Culture Trail is such a treat. Never mind London, we’ve got it all on this here coastline: art AND beaches! Comprising the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill-on-Sea, the Towner in Eastbourne and the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings, it’s a 20-mile stretch of coastline that caters for all.


We chose the De La Warr because it was the final few days of a rich and varied photography show called ‘Magnum Archives: One Archive, Three Views’. Although we only managed to skim its content (thanks noisy, restless kids), it was well worth the trip. Some of the images were totally arresting and there was plenty of everyday Martin Parr-esque shots to luxuriate in. But when the kids made an activity of spotting bums and boobs, we knew we were outta there.


The beach at Bexhill is huge – and we timed things right tide-wise for some very thorough rock pooling
. My family and I have been to Bexhill many times, but I’ve never known you could rock pool there – there were flats just to the left of the Pavilion and a hop over a few groynes, when facing the sea.


In fact facing out to sea is the easiest way for me to describe what to find at Bexhill beach-wise. From the De La Warr, you can walk for miles to the right (as above) along a promenade that is amazing for a bike and a scoot, or to the left, past boats pulled up on the shingle (see below, and be warned: there is dog shit EVERYWHERE around these, so watch your step – and theirs) and along the pavement edging the beach which again goes on and on.


But before all this we headed straight into the Pavilion to settle into squishy leather sofas in the upstairs café (it was post-Christmas and cold – too much cooking had happened in the days before to allow for a packed lunch). The only complaint about this spot is that the sofas are in the full beam of the sun, so we were roasting – but since it was freezing outside, this was nice. Lunch was pretty good – large doorstep sandwiches for us of posh smoked salmon and some wasabi scenario, and a kids’ meal at £6.50 of fish and chips, a juice, and two HUGE scoops of ice cream. My two both had a cheese sandwich at £2.50 and I paid a little extra for the ice cream scoops.


(If you’re after other eating options, one reader told me via Instagram that she and her family always eat at Minnie Bertha’s for fish and chips, which is at 47 Marina. There are also two italian cafes on the road side of the Pavilion, one called Di Paolo’s.)


After eating we were straight out on the aforementioned beach, where the eldest three scampered off, leaving my sometimes-baby to dip her toes repeatedly in the surf. We didn’t stray far from the Pavilion, because of the rock pooling (see way above). Try as we might to get the four children to embark on a bracing walk, they just wanted to find ‘sharks teeth’, the legless husks of crabs, and smooth, chipped pieces of flint.



I have to mention the little row of houses to the left of the Pavilion that faces the sea here includes ones trussed up like a Christmas tree, with brightly coloured (but now sun-faded) nets, shells, signs about a grumpy dog, and buoys. All the children loved this and were desperate to get through its gate – amazing how something even vaguely offbeat has such child appeal. I guess that’s what happens when they’re used to Farrow and Ball’d house facades and neat black-tile frontages!

Starting this weekend: ‘Ladybird by Design’ at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill

We’ll be back within the next few weeks for the ace-sounding ‘Ladybird by Design’ show of 200 illustrations from the late ’50s to early ’70s in celebration of 100 years of Ladybird Books, which opens this weekend and runs until May 10th. The exhibition will focus on images that reflected the way the reader lived. Here’s some blurb:

‘Affordable and accessible, Ladybird books hold a significant and affectionate place in the collective psyche of the nation, conjuring up, through written word and illustration, life in Britain in more innocent times.’


As an aside, I have a vague recollection about something to do with water fountains or features that kids can play in being built in Bexhill in 2013, because I think a few readers emailed or tweeted me about when it was being installed. I didn’t see this this time, but we were rooted to a small area of the beach by tiny legs, a two-hour (I kid you not) sunset, and the need to be near an indoor retreat because of the cold bite of the day. If it is exists, it’ll be something to return for in summertime, for sure.

Also I gather Bexhill Museum is worth a visit but is currently closed until February 2nd.

We stayed all day until nightfall!


White, crisp and clean-lined, the modernist De La Warr Pavilion was opened in 1935, remembered in the foyer on a plaque laid by its namesake Earl De La Warr, which says:

“A modernist building of world renown that will become a crucible for creating a new model of cultural provision in an English seaside town which is going to lead to the growth, prosperity and the greater culture of our town”

A Grade I listed building, it was refurbished in 2005 and has since been visited by over three million people, who come to see its innovative art and culture exhibitions and events. It remains one of the most important Modernist buildings in Britain.


Drive: 37 minutes (parking is at the Pavilion and is Pay & Display, whatever day you’re visiting)
Train: 40 minutes from Lewes, sometimes with one change
Address: Marina, Bexhill, East Sussex, TN40 1DP
Tel no: 01424 229 111
Hours: Daily, 10am-5pm
Price: Largely free! Some gigs, family shows and special exhibitions may be charged for
Ladybird by Design: runs from 24 Jan to 10 May 2015; free

Disclosure: No compensation, financial or otherwise, was offered or accepted for the writing of this post. 

 // If you’ve enjoyed this post, why not join our adventures by hitting ‘subscribe’ in the side bar. You’ll get the inside scoop on when new posts go live //

Posted by

I’m Kate, a copywriter, brand consultant and editor who creates messages that are clear and clean. I create these for brands and agencies both big and boutique, in areas including design, homes and interiors, travel, fashion, lifestyle, beauty, food, and kids and families. I believe clear, clean messages bolster brands and businesses. They evoke emotion and ignite inspiration, and when written well, they’re easier to absorb – and respond to. I live in Copenhagen and am half-English, half-Danish. I write as comfortably in American English as in British, and behind the scenes I'm also studying Danish. Need help getting your message out? Contact me.

7 thoughts on “Sussex Coastal Culture Trail: The De La Warr Pavilion and Beach at Bexhill-on-Sea (And the Upcoming 'Ladybird by Design' Exhibition)

  1. I love your blog and the topics you are covering – keep them coming. I’ve have shared your blog with so many friends over recent months and they love it too!

    1. Tara thank you SO much for the comment, I’m so pleased you like it. Also really grateful to you for sharing it around – since leaving Facebook it tends to suffer from the blog not being discovered, so it’s always good when people tell their friends about it and they start subscribing! Thanks again for taking the time to leave such a nice comment. I’ll try to keep them coming! Kate x

  2. Great post! I will definitely add Bexhill and the Ladybird exhibition to my list. I moved to the Brighton area last year and I find your blog very useful for day trip inspiration 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for the comment Kate, and I’m SO glad that the blog is useful to you as someone who is living near Brighton. I’m keen for word of it to spread, so please let others know about it if you like it as it would be really helpful to me. Without Facebook it’s hard for it to broaden out for readers outside Lewes, despite running for 18 months! Do add Bexhill to your list – it’s totally ace! Kate x

  3. Thanks for the LadyBird exhibition recommendation – that’s one that has completely passed me by! I will have to make the trek over to Bexhill and Hastings more often!

    1. Really hope you like it Jessica – we are excited to check it out too. Ladybird Books’ illustrations blown up big – what’s not to like? x

  4. I liked reading your blog, thank you! Someone in the Keane community posted the link on Twitter. May I suggest joining Twitter if you are not already on there? I’m in no doubt you will be able to broaden your reading scope if you do so, lots of people are interested in reading about Bexhill and surrounding areas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s