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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.

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