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Sunday, 20 January 2013

Walk 88 Newhaven to Brighton

Walk   88 Newhaven to Brighton (East Sussex)

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

Map: L/R 198
Distance: 10 miles or 15km.
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: footpaths including cliff paths and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Several buses between the two towns and a rail link.

Follow the road on the west side of the River Ouse south out of Newhaven. The road and a path link to the cliff top, or, further down, nearer to the fort, there is another path which links to the cliff path.

Peacehaven is a fairly short walk along the cliff path. In 1916 the land was sold off as individual building plots and a competition held to name the new settlement. As a result it was called New Anzac on Sea although this was changed to Peacehaven after the Gallipoli campaign (WW1) resulted in heavy losses for Australian and New Zealand troops. The community grew after the First World War with a variety of dwellings including converted old railway carriages and army huts. It is now mainly bungalows laid out on the original planned grid of roads.

The Greenwich meridian runs through Peacehaven and a monument or obelisk on the cliff records this. A plaque shows the distances from here to various places in the Commonwealth.

The walk continues to Telscombe Cliffs then there is a short gap before arriving at Saltdean. Two buildings are of note here. The first, Saltdean Lido, built in 1938, is a fine example of the architecture of the time. It was in danger of being closed recently but has been saved. In the background and dominating the skyline is the ex Grand Ocean Hotel built at the same time as the Lido. This was used as a fire service centre during the Second World War and after this it was owned by Butlins. From 1999 until 2005 it became a hotel again and has now been converted to apartments.

About half a mile further along is Rottingdean. The black Rottingdean Windmill can be seen high up on a hill near the village. It was built in 1802 and has been restored with the help of a lottery grant. It is worth a break from the walk to have a look at Rottingdean village. For most of its history it has been a farming community but from the 18th century it attracted visitors who came here as an alternative to Brighton. Rudyard Kipling’s old house can be seen and the artist Sir William Nicholson’s residence has been converted into a museum and library. If you ever watched the bizarre and funny TV series The League of Gentleman you might be interested to know that The Old Customs House Shop was the inspiration for  – ‘a local shop for local people’.

Returning to the coastal path, which is close to the main road, the next landmark is Roedean School. This famous private school for girls was founded in 1885. During the Second World War the girls moved to Keswick when the Admiralty used the building for training naval cadets. Girls from 11 -18 years old attend the school. Up on the hill near to this point is the famous St Dunstan’s Training Centre for the Blind.

A little further along is the impressive Brighton Marina which is the largest in Europe with 1600 berths. It was built between 1971 and 1979 but has grown since with a number of facilities and attractions added over the years e.g. a supermarket, restaurants, cinemas, bowling alley. 

The walk along Brighton seafront features many impressive buildings. At one point you can look up the hill and see the grandstand of Brighton Racecourse. If you like horse racing it is worth a visit during the summer meetings.

Near to the promenade is the famous Volk’s Electric Railway which runs from the Palace Pier to the marina. Built in 1883, it was Britain’s first electric seafront railway. Magnus Volk, the son of a German clockmaker, was the designer and builder.  At one stage a tall contraption called Daddy Long Legs ran along a special track and gave excursions out into the shallow water of the sea. A storm and some financial problems in the early twentieth century meant that this project had to be abandoned after a few years. Further details can be found on the company’s website:

The next landmark is the Palace Pier where this walk ends. In its original form in 1823 it was a Chain Pier which was used for passenger ships arriving from Dieppe in France. Following storm damage it had to be completely rebuilt. This took ten years and other attractions such as amusement machines and palm readers were introduced from 1905. A theatre and bandstand were opened soon after this. It remains very popular with updated rides, games, food outlets etc.

Snaps show: view of Rottingdean; Brighton Marina; Saltdean with old Ocean Hotel in background; Saltdean lido; Volks railway; Palace Pier.


Monday, 7 January 2013

Walk 87 Cuckmere Haven to Newhaven

Walk   87 Cuckmere Haven to Newhaven (East Sussex)

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

Map: L/R 199 and 198
Distance: about 6 miles or 10 km.
Difficulty:  Moderate – some cliff walking
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 and Newhaven.

Start at Exceat Bridge and follow the path along the western side of the Cuckmere River down to the coastal path which is part of The Vanguard Way. This path was developed in the 1980s to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Vanguard Rambling Club. They adopted this name when they had to travel in the guard’s van of a train after finishing a walk. The path starts in east Croydon and ends in Newhaven.

On the hill overlooking Cuckmere Haven is a small memorial commemorating the dead in World War 2, presumably this includes those killed by German aircraft which bombed army tents camped here in 1940. The walk continues along the cliff top past Hope Gap and along to Seaford Head. There is a good view of Seaford and the cliffs near Brighton. When I walked this stretch the Isle of Wight could also be seen in the distance.

The path descends to Seaford sea front. The beach here faces south west and violent storms sometimes hurl shingle on to the road. The cliffs back to the east provide a stunning back drop. The large, impressive white building on the land side is Corsica Hall. I was told that this was originally built on the proceeds of smuggled Corsican wine – hence its name.

Seaford was an important port in the middle ages but declined when it silted up in the sixteenth century. The River Ouse, on which it used to stand, was rerouted to Newhaven. A little further along the front is a smart looking Martello Tower which has a cannon on its roof; this building houses the town’s museum.

About a mile out of Seaford is an area called Tide Mills. A mill and some cottages were on this site. The foundations of the former Chailey Heritage Hospital are still clearly visible and the whole area has been tidied up by offenders as part of Community Punishment Orders. The hospital was built in 1924 for boys with physical disorders to recover after an operation. The mill used tides to grind flour and supported a thriving village in the 1800s. A brief history of the now deserted village of Tide Mills can be found on information boards and in the local museum.

The walk inland to Newhaven has to be navigated carefully alongside the industrial buildings and involves crossing the railway line. There is a good view of the River Ouse and harbour from the bridge linking the two parts of Newhaven. On the west side of the river are some expensive looking residential buildings.  Newhaven is a busy port with area of light industry and a ferry service to France. Look out for the toilets near Newhaven FC which claim to be the last before France!  At one time Newhaven had an unusual trade in flints (often called boulders) which were gathered from the beaches and sent to the potteries in the midlands.

No visit to Newhaven is complete without a visit to the famous fort on the cliff top. This virtually impregnable building was originally constructed to repel the French in Napoleonic times and was later adapted to rebuff the threat of a German invasion in the Second World War. 

The walk finishes at this point.

Snaps show: Martello Tower at Seaford; the 'last toilets' Newhaven; Tide Mills - hospital foundations; The site of Newhaven Fort.