12th March 2016
Seaford to Eastbourne – 20.72 km (12.87 miles)
A day of ups and downs it was and certainly the toughest part of the coastal walk so far, they call it the Seven Sisters but i’m sure i went up and down a lot more hills than that.
The day started in Seaford and we was to be a little delayed in setting off as just as i had got out the car and onto the promenade a little old lady called Jean fell over in front of me, i rushed over to help pick her up only to find out that she had a lot of pain in her hip and wasn’t able to get up, another couple had also stopped to help, so i decided to call an ambulance and ended up waiting about 45 minutes for it, shortly after arrival they started to deal with her so at that point i left them to it and set off.
The first of many hills was Seaford head a climb of 80m, not a massive climb but quite steep and tested the knees straight away. At the top the beauty of the days walk was to become apparent, we were leaving the flat coast of Seaford behind and entering a dramatic landscape of undulating chalk cliffs.
Dropping down from Seaford Head took us into Cuckmere Haven, the estuary of the River Cuckmere, this meant that we were going to have an inland walk of about 1.5km to cross at the road bridge. The path that led us inland was quite muddy which meant a lot of slip sliding about. On reaching the road we crossed over to the Seven Sisters Countryside Centre which had details of the area and local walks, there was also coach loads of tourists too all walking down the beach trail path to the sea, so from here the rest of the trek was not to be alone as there would always be others walking to or from the same direction. It was probably the glorious weather that tempted everyone out as although it was a little hazy it was blue skies all round.
From Cuckmere Haven i followed the South Downs way back up to the cliff tops and started on tackling the Seven Sisters, a series of hills that have been cut in half with rolling downs one side and sheer drops on the other. There seemed to be more than seven hills and after many ups and downs and testing of the knees we dropped down into Birling Gap
Billing Gap has for a long time now been one of my favourite spots as it can be so peaceful, but today it was absolutely packed with people. It also gives you some fantastic views back towards the Seven Sisters. The coastguard cottages built here have been used in many films Birling gap is also subject to a great deal of coastal erosion as currently there are only a few cottages left compared to 1905 when there was four more. Now for me a decision needs to be made, Do i turn inland to East Dean and catch the bus or do i head on over Beachy Head to Eastbourne, the latter would be the choice, so uphill i set off once again.
The hills up to Beachy Head are higher but not so steep as the Seven Sisters. It was a more gradual climb out of Birling Gap up towards the ‘Belle Tout’ Lighthouse, now disused and converted into a luxury bed and breakfast, the light house was moved back 17m in 1999 as it was becoming to close to the crumbling edge, the whole building was raised up and put on rails to gradually move it back. A little further on we were then able to see ‘Trinity House’ the current Beachy Head Lighthouse that stands prominently in the sea at the base of the cliffs. This lighthouse has been manned for 80 years and since 1983 has been totally automated. The walk continued upwards to Beachy Head itself which stands at 164m above sea level, the highest point of the day, there is another visitor centre here and lots of tourists wandering around and some very close to the edge. From here it is to be downhill all the way into Eastbourne which i thought might be easy, but this was even more of a killer on the legs as the first bit following the south downs way was really steep. On the descent we were to get our first glimpses of Eastbourne and the pier in the far distant, the goal was in site. The end of the South Downs Way and ultimately the South Downs came abruptly to a road which was to lead us into the town, we dropped down off the road onto the Western Parade promenade. The promenade walk took us past another Martello Tower and the bandstand, that claims to be the most used in the UK, i must admit that it was quite impressive and just past this was the pier, looking good and fully open albeit with a building missing following the fire that it suffered in 2014.
The bus stop was right outside the pier and after a ten minute wait i got on the number 12 that would take me back to Seaford. It stopped in the town centre and i’m sure every foreign student in Eastbourne got on and then at Exceat loads more foreign students got on, now i was beginning to panic as i was right at the back with a dog and rucksack and needed to get off soon…….doh.
Back in Seaford i was really pleased with myself regarding the achievement today and overall, it was great to see a beautiful sunset over the English Channel. Now home and to the pub.