Maybe it was because it was Airbourne, which is one of the busiest periods of the summer season for the town – but even there it was, according to all the staff at the hotel, the busiest they’d ever seen it.
Maybe it was because the weather was generally good and a sunny summer’s day will always draw people to the beach.
Or maybe it is that the town has a fighting spirit that its neighbours on the coast have lacked in the past, but it was clear that Eastbourne and its population was determined to make sure the loss of a large part of its pier to a “suspicious” fire a couple of weeks earlier wasn’t going to harm the town.
By the time I visited barely a fortnight after the pier was ablaze on the TV news there were already guys starting restoration work, with the owners aiming to have at least the decking open by Christmas, and a real buzz in town that it wasn’t going to be hurt by this.
It is a stark contrast to Hastings just along the coast which has always felt a little bit down at heel and when it’s pier was almost completely destroyed by fire (again another “Suspicious” fire) appeared to have had the wind completely knocked out of it. There have been appeals, and the whole site is now in the custody of a trust that is determined to rebuild, but it’s still been nearly 4 years that it’s just been a rusting hulk.
And then there’s Brighton’s West Pier battered, burnt, battered some more and then finally another suspicious fire in 2003 (you’d almost think there’s someone out there deliberately going round setting light to piers – see also Western Super Mare and Southend for other pier fires) destroying any attempts to recover it.
So it is comforting to see a town so quickly start to put things right.
At one time there were over 100 piers around the coast of the UK, today it’s barely 50. Hopefully the speed with which Eastbourne has acted will help keep that figure above 50 for long to come.