Hastings sits where the High Weald meets the sea. The High Weald is a ridge of sands and clays created by the deposition of sand and silt by rivers and estuaries millions of years ago, raised up by movements in the earths crust and eroded by ice and rain over thousands of years to the shape it is now. It extends south from Tunbridge Wells down to the English Channel here in Hastings.
The coast of Hastings is a cross section of the High Weald cut out by the sea, the best example of this being the sandstone and clay cliffs at Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve. Similar soft rock cliffs also occur at West St Leonards and Glyne Gap. Soft rock cliffs made of sands and clays are one of the richest habitats for wildlife in Britain, especially for insects and spiders. They are also home to a number of specialist cliff breeding birds such as black redstart, fulmar, peregrine and rock pipit.
The shingle beach that extends along the coast is created mainly from the deposition of flints moved eastwards from the chalk cliffs further west at Beachy Head and also deposition of more local sands. At Glyne Gap the shingle beach is undisturbed and stable enough for vegetated shingle to develop. Vegetated shingle is a globally scarce habitat and is home to a range of nationally rare and scarce species such as sea kale and the jumping spider Sitticus inexpectus. Some of the best examples of vegetated shingle in Europe can be seen further east along the coast at Rye Harbour and Dungeness.
In the intertidal zone (the part of the beach that is exposed at low tide) the underlying sandstone bed rock is visible in places such as Goat Ledge and Lee Ness Ledge but most of the intertidal zone is covered by sand and mud which is very rich in invertebrates that provide food for gulls and waders at low tide.
As the sands and clays that make up our coast were land down in riverine and estuarine deposits millions of years ago when dinosaurs walked the planet these rocks are full of dinosaur fossils and the fossils of other animals and plants that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs. The cliffs from Hastings to Pett Beach are one of only a handful of sites around the world that have produced early cretaceous mammal fossils. Another feature of the coast here are dinosaur footprints that have been preserved in the sandstone that is exposed at low tide. They can be difficult to find and can only be seen if the overlying sand and mud has been washed away by the tide.