Off Season by Jim Holland

The West Pier, Brighton

I prefer walking along the seafront in winter. The sky is pale. The air is cold. There are no tourists. The sea air smells of brine, rather than the summer smell of coconut sun cream. I have time and space to think, or to avoid it.

This route is a favourite of mine: I reach the seafront by the café on Hove Lawns then head east toward the chimneys of Shoreham power station. Along the horizon, a black line juts out into the sea. I can just make out Worthing Pier silhouetted at the very end.

When I reach Hove Lagoon, I turn inland, slowly circling the pond shared by trainee windsurfers and swans, past the café owned by Fat Boy Slim, then back to the beach, heading west toward Brighton’s piers. The West Pier now is just a memorial to itself, leaving the Palace Pier to continue alone.

I hunker down in my coat and let my mind wander as I stride along the promenade. A seagull flies low into the wind and appears to hover at my side. I get a coffee at the cafe halfway along and crunch over the shingle beach, down to the sea to pause for a moment.

I remember when I was younger I’d walk along Southsea seafront – the Eastern side, by the small ex-naval swimming pool and the golf club – again when there were no tourists. When the summer season has ended, I walk down to the sea and pay my respects.

Singleton by Sue Birch

Weald and Downland MuseumYes, I remember Singleton-
The museum because one morning
Of late September warmth I drove there
Unhurriedly. It was Sunday.
The latch clicked. Someone checked my ticket
To rough-hewn buildings, lime wash cherished.
Boarhunt, Hangleton and Bayleaf fair.
Wisp smoked smell that clung like taste
From dampened hearth of Yeoman’s farmhouse
As along the jagged path I strode
To pagan holly, ivy and yew berry red,
Old man’s beard, beech masts and hawthorn hips
And Woodman’s axe tolling pure and true.
But no horse chestnut loomed so tawny proud
As that which sunlight kissed with gold
And as I lingered a minute more
Close by a blackbird sang with praise
And silence leant my soul sweet peace
And dappled shade my heart did lift.