18 October 2014

England: A stroll with Seven Sisters

Let’s go for a stroll … a rather long stroll that might take all day so bring a hat, sunscreen, water and a picnic lunch. You may sweat a little but the effort will be worth it because the countryside is stunning and the panoramic views sublime.

We’ll park the car at Birling Gap, where serious erosion threatens and frequently causes huge sections of the cliff to fall into the sea. 

Now, let’s walk up to the top of the hill on our left to check out that lighthouse and the view from the top. This is part of the South Downs Way

Looking inland, we have wonderful views over the South Downs.

When we get to the top, we could stop for a coffee at Belle Tout lighthouse, now a café and very luxurious B&B, but no, let’s check out the view along the coast. That’s the Beachy Head lighthouse way down below – it’s been warning seafarers about the dangerous coastline here since 1902. 

When we do an about-turn, fighting to keep upright in the teeth of a fierce southerly wind, we can see quite a long way along the coast in the other direction. They’re the Seven Sisters, the seven peaks of the white chalk cliffs that stretch between Birling Gap and Cuckmere Haven. We’ll be heading to the Haven next.

Let’s live dangerously and walk out onto that viewing platform before we get back in the car for the short drive along the coast.

What a stunning sight as the car rounds the bend! You can instantly see why this is called the Cuckmere Meanders

We’ll leave the car at the Seven Sisters Country Park, check out the visitor centre there, walk up the hill behind for another view over the Meanders (where the kayakers are enjoying the waters), then head off along one of the tracks leading down to the sea (see the map).

The Cuckmere River flows into the English Channel here and we get our first close-up glimpse of the famous chalk cliffs called the Seven Sisters.

These are the coastguard cottages we could see far in the distance from Birling Gap. Let’s have our picnic lunch and sit a while enjoying the fresh sea air.

We’ll follow the South Downs Way up past the cottages a short distance towards Seaford Head.

And then we can enjoy spectacular views like these. But don’t go too close to the cliff edge!

When we zoom that camera lens in, we can see Birling Gap and the Belle Tout Lighthouse in the distance.

Heading back to the road, this time we're walking along part of the Vanguard Way, and it’s easy to see which way the prevailing wind blows.

The car’s parked near those buildings in the distance. Are your feet sore yet?

No? Then let’s go down to the sea again, along a different track on the other side of the Cuckmere River.

Getting closer. There’s plenty of bird life hereabouts and lots of sheep grazing in the fields.

Here on the beach, it’s easy to see the gleaming white chalk that formed millions of years ago under the sea from tiny marine organisms and, if the tide’s right, there are plenty of rock pools to explore.

Seeing people at the bottom of the cliffs helps get an idea of their height.

Heading back inland again, the Second World War defences are a bit of a surprise. Dragon’s teeth tank obstacles and pillboxes dot the landscape as this place would have been an ideal invasion point. 

Let’s take one last look back towards the coast before we farewell this amazing countryside and head home for a hot shower. I hope you’ve enjoyed our stroll as much as I have (and my photos have inspired you to visit in person).

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