Interview: the authors of The Cheeky Guide to Brighton
PUBLISHED: 01:17 25 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:32 20 February 2013
The writers of the popular Cheeky Guide to Brighton have turned the traditional walks book on its head, with a new guide that takes the intrepid rambler past cemeteries, lunatic asylums and even famous suicide haunts. Words: Angela Wintle
Strolling through the Sussex town and countryside may never be the same again. Theres a new walks book in town and it has ripped up the rambling rule book. Gone are the customary routes over scenic hill and dale. Gone are the purple passages extolling the lesser-spotted woodpecker and Birds-foot Trefoil. Gone, even, are directions to those all-important watering holes the dedicated ramblers reward for all that sweat and toil.
Instead, David Bramwell, Tim Bick and John Ashton, co-authors of
Cheeky Walks in Brighton & Sussex, promise strolls spiced with a little adventure, a dab of mischief and a pocketful of intriguing stories. And they dont disappoint. Contained within the pages of this humorous and irreverent book are 21 themed walks in town, country and even a bit of both.
There are art, alleyway and heritage trails; walks through Brunswicks boozy backstreets and lusty saunters past Brightons sex shops and strip joints; strolls beside the stark banks of the River Ouse at Rodmell where arch miserabilist Virginia Woolf decided to end it all not to mention a nocturnal werewolf wander along the South Downs Way near Firle, taking in an old coach road where highwaymen once plied their trade.
Katie Price fans will even find a celebrity-themed walk soaking up old haunts such as Poynings, the country village near Brighton where she lived in peaceful seclusion until a persistent fan began hounding her with suggestive letters, a stretch of the A23 where she was stopped for speeding and an old donkey wheel said to have inspired her best-selling range of childrens pony books.
But theres more. Those eager to retrace the last steps of Lord Lucan before he supposedly boarded a ferry for France and a life on the run, might wish to tootle down to Newhaven, where his blood-stained car was found abandoned in 1974. The route also takes in Newhaven Pier, where two fishermen swore they saw him the morning after the murder, and the cliff-side spot where his best friend, John Aspinall, alleged his old chum had scuttled a motorboat before meeting a watery end.
So what, I ask David Bramwell, was the spark for this quirky little book? Middle age, he jokes. You get to the point where clubbing grows less and less appealing, and a gentle ramble on the Downs infinitely more so. All three of us are keen walkers. And were also interested in psycho-geography the idea of reading stories from your landscape. We wanted to create a walks book that was really different that took people to places where they wouldnt normally venture.
There are stretches through Newhaven that would probably have Prince Charles weeping into his herbal tea, but where else would you find a walk dedicated to the elusive Lord Lucan? And you dont really need to be a football fan to enjoy our Albion trail which might take in football stadiums past and present, but also incorporates a national lilac collection, woodland walks, quiet villages and, um, a chance to visit Toys R Us on Brightons Old Shoreham Road. Were not afraid to mix urban desolation with greenery and beauty.
In fact, the only thing this book doesnt contain are 18-mile hikes because those are the ones nobody ever does unless theyre on a school trip led by a sadistic geography teacher.
If Davids name sounds familiar, its probably because hes also the brains behind the hugely successful Cheeky Guide to Brighton, which has sold 50,000 copies since it was first published in 1999.
Peppered with cartoons, games, spoof adverts and photographs, the book offered a celebration of everything unusual, entertaining and saucy the city had to offer from how to attend a sance to where to eat egg and chips at four in the morning. Its offbeat humour quickly earned it a cult following and the authors were offered substantial book deals from two major publishers, keen to roll out the format across the country.
But fearing their lack of knowledge of other places might weaken the brand, David and his team stuck to what they knew best Brighton and its environs though it was a painful decision. It didnt dampen their enthusiasm, however, and this new walks book has been an
Im particularly proud of our Brighton twittens trail because I would never have traipsed down those alleyways without conceiving that walk, says David. I saw a lot of the underbelly of Brighton and some surprisingly beautiful parts, too particularly around Seven Dials and the station where residents have softened the alleyways with Mediterranean plants
Were also pleased to have included a musical walk, dreamt up by Brightons inimitable musical duo Grasscut. The journey descends through rolling downland and traverses the abandoned village of Balsdean, near Rottingdean. But to do the walk, you need to listen to their album en route, a musical romp through the Sussex landscape incorporating electronic, dance, folk and classical music, sprinkled with spoken-word passages from the likes of Ezra Pound
and WG Sebald.
As for curious sights, our Shoreham walk takes in not only Shoreham Airport, but the strange houseboats on the south side of the harbour, which includes the extraordinary boat resembling something from a Jules Verne novel, made from an Isle of Wight ferry, the wings of a Red Arrow and a Seventies coach. And on our Brighton art trail, we encourage people
to knock on the door of 92 Gloucester Road, the home of artist Chris MacDonald, whos happy for visitors to have a little nose around his house and art collection.
All the walks, circular and no longer than nine miles in length, have been exhaustively tried and tested by the authors, who have packed the book
with quirky details reflecting their intimate local knowledge. Much of this know-how has been gleaned in conversation over 20 years, says David, though we did some hard-core research, too, delving into old documents, maps and local history books.
But there are always nit-pickers who delight in finding some inaccuracy, no matter how obscure. One reader emailed us in the early days of the Cheeky Guide to correct the name of a cat wed mentioned in a Brighton pub review, he laughs. They said: I think youll find the cat that leaps into peoples pints in the back garden of the Sir Charles Napier in Hanover isnt Bob, but Todd. And I should know its my cat.
Cheeky Walks in Brighton & Sussex, written and researched by Tim Bick, David Bramwell and John Ashton, is published by Cheeky Guides at 8.95. To find out more, visit www.cheekyguides.co.uk