The town of Newhaven, with a population of about 12,000, is situated in an enviable position at the mouth of the River Ouse, surrounded by the South Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Best known for its ferry link with Dieppe in France (operated by DFDS Transmanche ferries), the harbour is right in the middle of the town, overlooked by residential housing on the hilly sides of the river valley on either side. Residents and visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of cliffs, Downs, river and sea.
Once, life in Newhaven very much revolved around the port and local people are still proud of this heritage. The town continues to have a real maritime feel, not only because of the daily comings and goings of ships in and out of the harbour, but also because many recent developments have deliberately been built in a style to reflect the town’s maritime origins. Prime examples of this can be found on West Quay where high quality modern housing can be found built in a style designed to evoke fishing lofts or in modern apartment blocks which evoke ocean going liners. Also found on West Quay are a modern lifeboat station, the Huggett’s Green open space where many community events take place and a riverside walkway. Another recent high quality riverside development is the conversion of the old maritime workshop buildings on the eastern side of the river which has recently opened as the state of the art UTC@harbourside, a college specialising in teaching maths, science, engineering and computing skills to 14-19 year olds. The recent designation of Newhaven as an Enterprise Zone is an exciting development which should lead to further regeneration of the town.
Although the port and the sea remain so closely connected with the identity of the town, economically the port declined in importance during the latter half of the twentieth century, as did so many other ports across the country. Today, Newhaven has evolved into the industrial heart of the Seahaven coastal strip, with over 360 businesses operating in the area, most of which have little or no connection with the port, and which include market leading manufacturers and cutting edge technology companies. There is extensive support available for local enterprise, including from the thriving Newhaven Chamber of Commerce and from the recently set up Newhaven Enterprise Gateway, a special network for entrepreneurs and young companies in the area.
Despite its status as a working town, Newhaven has plenty to offer the visitor. There are two major tourist attractions within the town – Newhaven Fort, a nineteenth century clifftop fortress, complete with ramparts, guns and underground passages, which houses fascinating displays and audio-visual presentations of life in wartime Britain – and Paradise Park, an attraction for all the family, which includes a dinosaur park, collections of fossils, minerals and crystals, wonderful indoor and outdoor gardens, crazy golf, a miniature railway and children’s amusements.
Visitors to the town can also enjoy the maritime atmosphere of the town. A walk along West Quay gives good views of the colourful fishing boats and fresh fish is sold here daily. As well as the ubiquitous seagulls, cormorants and even swans are often to be seen in the harbour. The Lifeboat Station on the West Quay is also open to visitors. Newhaven Marina, close by, offers excellent facilities for yachting, scuba diving and many other water sports, including boat hire for sea angling.
Up on the cliffs adjacent to Newhaven Fort is the Castle Hill Nature Reserve. This is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a lovely place to walk, offering marvellous views of Newhaven, the sea and of Seaford Head. The chalk grassland has a multitude of plant life and bird life, including the rare Dartford warbler and peregrine falcon.
Another interesting area to explore is the Ouse Estuary Nature Reserve, recently created just to the east of the town. This is an area of natural marshland and reed beds at the mouth of the River Ouse, through which paved paths have recently been built, offering opportunities for walking, cycling and bird watching. From here it is a short stroll to the lost village of Tidemills (see the Newhaven History section of this website). All that remains of this village, once home to about 100 people and centred around a mill operated by the tide, are low flint walls, but it is a fascinating place to explore. Information panels help visitors to interpret what can be seen.
There is an excellent local history museum in Newhaven, the Newhaven Local and Maritime Museum, situated next to Paradise Park in Avis Way. The Museum has a fascinating collection of relics, documents and photographs relating to the history of the town and is well worth a visit.
If you would like a copy of a tourist leaflet and map called “Welcome to Newhaven”, please contact the Town Council.