More wandering, starting the South Downs Way

27 Apr

As if walking the North Downs Way wasn’t enough, I have started walking the South Downs Way (SDW) as well. I say started, but I don’t know when I shall finish, or indeed when I shall walk the next part, but I have at least made a start.

Start of the South Downs Way

The photo above shows the start (or end) of the SDW, in Eastbourne, East Sussex. It is right on the western edge of the town, and is about 1½ miles from the railway station mainly through residential streets.

I have decided to do this walk alone, in fact it was partly the solitude and time to think that I wanted to experience and was my reason for starting today. It also means that I can go at my own speed and stop at places of interest on the way, without having to worry about inconveniencing anyone else. I know that when I get further west I will be in ancestral territory and my pace will no doubt slow down dramatically.

This first section was according to the guide book 7½ miles, from Eastbourne to Exceat, by way of Beachy Head, Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters. I have been to all these places before, but have never walked them all in one go.

There is so much history in this landscape. From prehistory to the Second World War. The cliff top at Beachy Head is littered with monuments and other features that attest to this rich history.

My pace today wasn’t particularly fast, partly because I haven’t done much serious walking yet this year, but mainly because I kept stopping the take photos. I had forgotten how beautiful and striking the landscape was. The photo below is of one of the most striking features, Beachy Head lighthouse.

Beachy Head Lighthouse

Birling Gap is a small group of buildings that have gathered around an access point to the beach. The buildings are gradually disappearing into the sea as the cliffs slowly erode, but whilst they remain they act as a honey pot to tourists and visitors to the coast.

Heading west from Birling Gap are the Seven Sisters, a range of cliffs with which I have something of a love-hate relationship. I love the challenge of tackling the rise and fall of the hills, and admire the fabulous views, but once I get started I usually regret it, when my legs start to complain. Every year they seem to get steeper!

Seven Sisters

The best views are of course not from the Sisters themselves, but from Birling Gap (shown above) or Seaford Head (on the far left of the photo). It is possible (although I am not sure that it is advisable) at low tide to walk along the foot of the cliffs.

Last year after my holiday in South Devon I thought that the Sussex coastline was quite dull in comparison to that of South Devon, but today I have changed my mind. I think I have definitely fallen in love with chalk!

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