Group of students on the seafront at Bexhill on Sea

A study visit to Bexhill’s urban greenspaces

Geography and environmental sciences students taking the specialist urban geography module Cities & Social Change recently travelled to Bexhill-on-Sea in East Sussex to learn about coastal towns in transition.

The group visited key sites of green infrastructure around the town which had received substantial regeneration monies over the last decade. And they were joined by local experts Adrian Gaylon, sports development officer, and Frank Rallings, former head of planning, at Rother District Council.

Students observed the innovative seafront planting scheme on Bexhill’s West Promenade. Beautiful herbaceous perennials provide year-round colour and structure that thrives with minimal maintenance in an aggressive coastal micro-climate.

They also visited the formal sports and recreation area at The Polegrove to discuss the conflicts and compromises that need to be made in managing a space for active lives and lifestyles in a residential neighbourhood. Across the road and into Egerton Park, students gained insights into planning for the variety of informal leisure activities that take place in the park, from birdwatching to pickleball. While Sidley Recreation Ground was their destination for the afternoon to see a new BMX, biking and skate facility, and hear about the challenges of making a socially inclusive space in a deprived neighbourhood.

Dr Paul Gilchrist, Subject Leader for Geography, Earth and Environment, led the field trip. He said: “Bexhill is the perfect location to understand the many challenges seaside communities face in adapting to climate change and maintaining quality public spaces that can satisfy the needs of residents and visitors of all ages. Funding dilemmas place real pressures on urban greenspaces – especially civic parks – but the sites we visited in Bexhill and Sidley show what can be achieved through working with community groups, charitable fundraising and strategic public investment.

We are grateful to have this field trip location virtually on our doorstep and to be able to see the work that goes into producing socially inclusive spaces that afford healthy lifestyles and which are clearly cherished by local communities.”

Students on Cities and Social Change are now completing their studies by looking at further international examples of urban green and blue infrastructure and analysing their reported socio-environmental benefits.

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