Monday 15 August 2016
Seaford to Eastbourne
Bay View Park
I was late leaving Seaford as first I had to dry my tent and then I needed to stop for breakfast. The Seaford Sailing Club provided a passable breakfast and I was able to charge my phone.
It was shaping up to be another glorious day as I walked along the promenade next to the steeply sloping shingle beach. I read that Seaford was particularly susceptible to storms so tonnes of shingle had been added to the beach to protect the town. The beach now sloped steeply and reached the height of the promenade.
In Mediaeval times Seaford had been one of the South Coast’s busiest ports (before its harbour silted up) and its main export was wool.
On the edge of the town was Martello Tower 74, the last one to be built (1806) to counter the Napoleonic threat.
Seaford Head is the start of the Cretaceous chalk cliffs that stretch around Beachy Head to Eastbourne. I had a great all-round view; back to Brighton, inland to the South Downs and ahead to the Seven Sisters. I also looked down over Cuckmere Haven, the flat plain containing the beautiful, meandering Cuckmere River.
I had to walk inland to cross the Cuckmere River at Exceat Bridge. I stopped in the pub to shelter from the heat and enjoy a cold drink as I knew the next section would be tough because I’d walked it before. It is the walk to the finish of the South Downs Way.
The Seven Sisters are 7 peaks along the chalk cliffs to Birling Gap. They are separated by hanging valleys that were created after the Ice Age and left hanging when the sea cut back. They lie within the Seven Sisters Country Park and are as beautiful (and almost as brutal) as the walk over the cliffs to Durdle Door.
I was in for a treat, not only was it very hot I found myself keeping pace with a naked rambler (I can’t claim he was the naked rambler). Oh joy, now I had to think about where I was pointing my camera and whether I looked like I was looking! (I wasn’t.) He was creating quite a stir amongst the tourists and it made me chuckle. As we were keeping pace (I kept stopping to take photos and he was slower on the downhills in his bare feet) I thought it would be rude not to engage in a brief chat. He seemed very nice. I didn’t really look at him though, which I thought afterwards was a shame that I felt too embarrassed to look him in the eye (in case I saw anything else); he was only naked after all. I think the foreigners out that day will think the English are very strange!
After all that excitement I arrived at Birling Gap and it was very busy on the beach at the base of the cliff. I carried on.
I did notice the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team crisis prevention vehicle. Sadly it looked like this area requires a 4th emergency service.
Up another hill to the Belle Tout lighthouse (now a holiday cottage) then down again and up again to Beachy Head. The cliff is high and a leap would land you at the bottom.
There were a few memorial crosses near the top.
I could see Eastbourne and along the coast as far as Hastings. I walked off the South Downs Way and onto Eastbourne seafront. (Apparently Eastbourne was known as the Empress of Watering Places.)
The Eastbourne esplanade was, without question, the smartest I had walked along in the whole of Britain. It was flanked by palm trees and flowers, and even its shelters were freshly painted and had thatched rooves.
It was a long way along the esplanade and it became apparent that I’d just missed the annual Airshow at the weekend. The clear up was underway and the ‘exclusive seating’ was being dismantled.
I reached the pier and everything changed. There was a stark contrast between the Victorian grandeur of ‘West of the pier’ compared with the normalcy ‘East of the pier’. This was because in the late 1800s the Duke of Devonshire bankrolled building a resort “for gentlemen by gentlemen”, but only West of the pier. East of the pier was where the fishermen, tradesmen and domestic servants lived. West of the pier catered for the upper classes and there was even a published fashionable visitors list where one could announce one’s presence in the town. Amazingly, the seafront parades heading East and West from the pier did not even connect during this period.
I had to walk right through Eastbourne and around the Sovereign Harbour (which looked like a new-build marina full of apartments and restaurants as well as boats) before I reached my campsite.
The wind had picked up and I requested a sheltered spot. I wasn’t given one. I erected my tent and then collapsed it again before going for a shower. I spied a small patch of ground behind a bush and asked to move. Much better, although quite a faff. By the time I finished my chores it was 8pm and I had to walk 15 minutes back to the marina to get some food. It had been a long, and very beautiful day.