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Monday, 24 December 2012

Walk 86 Eastbourne to Cuckmere Haven

Walk  86 Eastbourne to Cuckmere Haven (East Sussex)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 199
Distance: about 10 miles or 15km.
Difficulty:  Challenging in parts especially the Seven Sisters Country Park 
Terrain: footpaths including cliff paths and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends (off A259 at Cuckmere Haven)
Public transport: 12, 12A and 13 buses run between Eastbourne and Brighton past Cuckmere Haven.

Start at Eastbourne pier and walk westwards. A number of rather splendid buildings adorn the seafront; these include The Grand which was built in 1875. The white façade is often compared to a wedding cake. The town became a fashionable resort from about 1780 when the children of George 111 stayed here. Further well kept, attractive, buildings (mostly 19th century) are clear evidence of the areas popularity. Near the seafront is the art deco bandstand which is still regularly in use during the season.

The wide promenade out of Eastbourne allows a good view of Beachy Head. On the promenade is a statue of the Duke of Devonshire who owns much of the land in the town. The walk continues up the cliff and an impressive panoramic view of Eastbourne and beyond can be enjoyed. Early Venetian sailors called the head Devil’s Cape because of the treacherous shallow waters. A sign marks the top of Beachy Head which is 534 feet above sea level.

Beachy Head is a beautiful and a sad place. The iconic red and white striped Beachy Head Lighthouse is 144 feet tall but is dwarfed by the surrounding cliffs. It was built in 1902 and is now fully automated. Near to this point is Lovers’ Leap. About 100 people a year jump or attempt to jump from here; the crosses and floral memorials are a poignant reminder of this. A chaplain is stationed at Beachy Head; his vehicle is clearly marked.

From this point The Seven Sisters Country Park can be seen stretching westwards towards Cuckmere Haven. The seven cliff hills provide some challenging walking – I’m sure I counted eight! The walk from Beachy Head continues to The Belle Tout Lighthouse. This was built in 1834 but was made redundant when fog blocked its light. It is now a home and B&B. A few years ago it was in danger of falling into the sea because of cliff erosion. The owners had it moved 55 feet inland using hydraulic jacks – quite an operation.

Beyond the lighthouse is Birling Gap. There is a café in the Gap and rock pools to enjoy – care needs to be taken with the incoming tide. The cliff edges of the Seven Sisters are unprotected and it is essential top keep to the path. The views of the coastline here are spectacular.

 After tackling the seven or (eight) hills is the attractive estuary of the River Cuckmere (pronounced Cookmere). It is one of the rare UK river mouths to have no industrial or domestic settlements. In the 1800s it was used by smuggling gangs to carry French brandy up the river to Alfreston. As the path moves inland the meandering of the river can be spotted together with examples of oxbow lakes in the flood plain. It is very popular with school geographical field trips.  

Continue the walk back to the A259.
Snaps show: The Grand, Eastbourne; Bandstand, Eastbourne; Belle Tout Lighthouse; Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Walk 85 Bexhill to Eastbourne

Walk 85    Bexhill to Eastbourne (East Sussex)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 199
Distance: about 12 miles or 18km.
Difficulty:  Easy – mostly flat
Terrain: footpaths, pavement and beach.
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Rail and bus links between the two towns.

Start at the De La Warr pavilion in Bexhill. A mile or so to the west is Cooden Beach. You can get here by walking along the beach or by road. If the tide is in, clambering over the groynes can be tiring. Cooden has a long sandy foreshore and is popular with kite and windsurfers. Take care – they can get up a fair speed.

The walk to Norman’s Bay can be partly on the road but the remaining half mile needs to be on the beach. The shingles near the top of the beach are hard going so opt for sand near the shoreline if the tide is out far enough. Norman’s Bay is generally accepted as the place where William the Conqueror landed on 28 September 1066. King Harold was 250 miles away defeating a Norwegian invasion at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire at the time. When he heard this William is supposed to have fallen as he jumped ashore and said that he had seized the very soil of England. Which he had!

To the west of Norman’s Bay is a rather dilapidated Martello Tower – one of many such buildings on this coast. (Erected to defend the coast during the time of the Napoleonic Wars and based on a tower in Mortella, Corsica which the British forces found difficult to capture in 1794). 

The walk passes the private beach estate at Beachlands. Rightly or wrongly, I continued walking on the lower part of the beach near to the groynes without being shouted at. Soon after Beachlands is Pevensey Bay. This is now a pleasant small resort which originally provided a safe haven for the Norman fleet in 1066. William the Conqueror built Pevensey Castle and the ruins can still be seen. In the 18th and 19th centuries smuggling was rife as it was an easy  place to land contraband.

The walk continues along the beach and paths into Eastbourne. Further Martello Towers can be seen before arriving at Sovereign Harbour. This whole area has been redeveloped with housing and apartments which look out on a new harbour, it is expensive to live here but not very attractive in my view. Some map navigation is needed to walk inland and follow the cycle route towards Langney Point on the other side of the harbour.

Follow the promenade into Eastbourne. The Dotto Train runs along here – the only problem being it is not strictly a train (no railway) but a vehicle pulling carriages along a road.

On the walk into Eastbourne you can spot that the groynes have been numbered for easy location – a good idea for emergencies. Eastbourne has been a popular resort for many years mainly because of its sheltered position and sunny climate. Its population dipped during the Second World War when it was badly bombed. Nowadays, it retains its popularity as a quiet resort and many pensioners now live in or near the town.

Continue along to the pier along one of the promenades (they are at different levels). The pier is Victorian and is held up on cast iron legs. The walk finishes here.

Snaps show: Beachlands; a 'desirable property' near Norman's Bay; Sovereign Harbour; Martello Tower; Dotto Railway; Eastbourne Pier.