Tag Archives: chalk

Sussex Day 2012: Part 8 – Fulking lime kiln

25 Jun

Sussex Day 2012

Part of the way up the side of the hill is a lime kiln. It knew it was here somewhere, I had seen pictures of it before, but didn’t really know exactly where it was, and if truth be known had forgotten it was here until I stumbled upon.

My experience of lime kilns comes from many visits to Amberley Museum & Heritage Centre, where their lime burning is on an industrial scale. The one I was looking at on the hill side was much smaller.

It has been restored by the National Trust, although I don’t know how much of the kiln exists behind the facade. Chalk, in plentiful supply here, was loaded in the top along with charcoal.

After burning, the resulting lime would be removed from the hole at the front to be used as a building material or for “improving” the nearby farmland.

Fulking lime kiln

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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A taste of the South Downs on the BBC

4 Mar

I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but occasionally a programme comes along that justifies taking time out to watch on BBC iPlayer. Such was the case with The Great British Countryside which saw Julia Bradbury and Hugh Dennis exploring the South Downs.

The hour long programme gives a wonderful taste of the South Downs, never lingering long in one place and covering the length of hills from the Seven Sisters on the East Sussex coast, through to the watercress beds of Hampshire.

There is some wonderful scenery, as one would expect, but also some explanation of how the Downs were formed and some of the properties of chalk and flint. Hugh Dennis climbs the chalk cliffs (presumably one of the Seven Sisters) and sees just how soft and crumbly the chalk is. We also learn how the chalk impacts on things like horse racing and growing grapes.

Subjects are varied, taking in the history, agriculture, industry and leisure aspects of the South Downs, in short a real cross-section of how man has interacted with the Downs over the centuries.

This programme is a great introduction to the South Downs and even those like me who have grown up in it’s shadow may learn a thing or two about this wonderful landscape.

This episode of The Great British Countryside is available to watch on BBC iPlayer until Thursday 15th March 2012.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Wandering: Over Seaford Head

3 Mar

I have been looking forward to this walk for a couple of weeks, no I tell a lie, I have been looked forward to repeating this walk since June 2010 when I last did it (although it was the other way round last time).

The weather conditions were much better back then, a little under two years ago it was a little hazy to start, but soon the sun came out and the conditions were glorious. Today we began with fog and rain and only much later did the weather begin to improve, but by then it was too late and we were on our way home.

Today’s walk was quite a short walk really, less than five miles, but conditions underfoot were less than ideal (yes, I did end up sitting in the mud on more than one occasion) which surprised me because we have been short of rain recently.

The walk started at Exceat Bridge in East Sussex (between Seaford and Eastbourne) and my wife and I followed the course of the Cuckmere River to the sea (this was the muddiest part of the walk) and we then headed west towards the town of Seaford. Because the tide was out the first part of this was along the foot of the cliffs, before ascending the steps at Hope Gap and continuing across the top of the cliffs and over Seaford Head, before descending into the town of Seaford.

The Seven Sisters, near Eastbourne, East Sussex (3rd March 2012)

The coastline in this part of the world is a truly incredible place to explore, even in the less than perfect conditions like today. We slowly picked our way along the foot of the cliffs (although not too close) and marvelled not just at the immense chalk cliffs, but also the variety of shells and stone scattered across the shore. From huge boulders of chalk with layers of flint running through them to the tiny little shells that litter the shore, it is a scene that must change every day as the tides work their magic.

Seagulls over the cliffs (3rd March 2012)

The cliffs are impressive in their scale, but once the sun comes out they take on an extra magic when their greyness is replaced by a dazzling whiteness, as seen below when we were descending into Seaford.

Seaford, East Sussex (3rd March 2012)

We spent a while in Seaford, perhaps an hour or so, certainly longer than I have spent before. I have ancestors from Seaford and of course Patrick Vaughan and his Canadian comrades were at Seaford during the First World War, so it is a place that I ought to explore further. However that wasn’t to be today, as the museum (in the wonderful Martello Tower) wasn’t open and the library is currently in temporary accommodation whilst a new one is being built.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Postcard Album: Birling Gap and Seven Sisters

5 May

This has nothing to do with family history, but lots to do with walking. This is a view of Birling Gap and Seven Sisters on the East Sussex coast, between Seaford and Eastbourne.

I have no idea who published this card and it is not particularly old. It was posted from Eastbourne, Sussex on the 9th August 1934 and sent to a Miss Jeffery in Maidstone, Kent. The message is probably quite typical of thousands of postcards sent from the South Coast every summer:

Am having a glorious time. The weather has been good to-day & Sunday. A bit patchy otherwise getting quite brown. Have been to some shows, played tennis, been to Hampden Park & to-day went to Beachy Head. It was glorious up there. Took some snaps, hope they’re alright.

As such it is not a particularly remarkable or outstanding postcard, but it finds a place in my collection because it reminds me of the handful of times that I have walked across the top of the cliffs.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.

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Something Sussex: The Seven Sisters from Seaford Head

4 Nov

This view was taken by me on the 21st June 2010, the row of cliffs in the distance are the Seven Sisters and the path leads down from Seaford Head to Hope Gap, where a set of steps allow access to the shoreline.

This photo has been my desktop wallpaper since the day it was taken, but I think it is probably time I changed it now. Summer has well and truly passed and it is probably time to find something more seasonal (and I don’t mean dancing snowmen and bouncing Christmas puddings) to act as my wallpaper.

This picture embodies so many happy memories for me. Although this wasn’t part of my South Downs Way walk, it is part of the South Downs and the South Downs Way does run across the top of the Seven Sisters. My enduring memories of 2010 will be of my time spent walking the South Downs, making the most of my unemployment.

The walk on 21st June was quite a short walk, probably only four or five miles in distance and only a few hours in the afternoon. The weather started out quite dull, but the sun came out as I started to climb up hill away from the town of Seaford, East Sussex and it was absolutely stunning to see the white chalk cliffs shining brilliantly in the sunshine.

I spent probably an hour or so at the foot of the cliffs, picking my way among the rock pools, searching for unusual stones and looking up in awe at the towering cliffs. It was really interesting to see the cliffs up close (although not getting too close), it was like seeing a cross-section through the hills that I had spent so much time walking upon.

South Downs Way: Cocking to Queen Elizabeth Country Park

19 Jun

South Downs Way sign

I just can’t get enough of the South Downs at the moment, and although the weather was a little disappointing, it turned out to be one of the most memorable days for a long time, mostly for the right reasons.

It is getting more complicated to get to the start and get back from the end of these walks, but getting to the start provided the first surprise of the day, our train was held up because of a steam train! I knew there was a steam tour passing through Sussex today, but didn’t think I would actually see it. Not that I could actually see much, but it was unquestionably a steam train, a rare sight on the mainline this day and age.

After the train came a bus ride to Cocking Hill Car Park, and almost straight away a walk up Cocking Down. Halfway up the hill is a rather large chalk boulder (pictured below). Like a giant marble, it is begging to be pushed down the hill, but I guess it is probably fixed in some way (or too heavy to be moved). According to my guide book it a work by sculptor Andy Goldsworthy and is part of the Chalk Stone Trail.

Chalk boulder

Up on the top of the Downs the views are quite spectacular, unfortunately because of the combination of poor light and haze my photos don’t do them justice. To the south Portsmouth with it’s Spinnaker Tower was clearly visible, with the Solent and Isle of Wight beyond that.

Closer to the path the next point of interest was a cemetery, but not the sort of cemetery I am used to, there were no headstones at this cemetery. The Devil’s Jumps (part of which is pictured below) are described on the information board as being "the best example of a Bronze Age (2000BC – 800BC) barrow cemetery on the South Downs". The Downs are dotted with smaller barrows and tumuli but these certainly take some beating.

Devil's Jumps

Not far from the Devil’s Jumps is a much newer memorial, a nice flint built memorial to Hauptmann Joseph Oestermann, a German pilot. It seems rather unusual that a German pilot should be remembered in such a way, and the story is certainly worthy of further research, such as who actually put it there?

Flint memorial

The path continued in a north-westerly direction, before turning westwards near Mount Sinai and climbing up Pen Hill, there once again the were some spectacular views, this time mainly to the north-east. Dropping down from Pen Hill, you are confronted by the bulk of Beacon Hill. The South Downs Way actually goes around the side of Beacon Hill, but I took a quick detour up to the top to visit the trig point and admire the views.

Looking east from Beacon Hill

As you can see from the pictures, there was plenty of cloud about. There were larger gaps in the cloud which allowed the sun to briefly spotlight certain favoured parts of the landscape. For most of the walk though it was still pretty warm, despite the lack of sunshine.

The biggest surprise of the day came after retracing my steps down Beacon Hill and walking around it to the other side. I was just beginning the climb up from Bramshott Bottom to Harting Downs when I heard the sound of a plane, or was it a helicopter? It certainly didn’t sound right, not a normal light aircraft, something bigger perhaps? Suddenly a big black shape appeared above the trees, no wonder it didn’t sound right, it took me a few seconds to realise it was a Lancaster bomber, passing a couple of hundred feet above my head!

I quickly pulled my camera out, but only managed to catch it disappearing to the east. There is only one Lancaster bomber flying in this country, with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, but what was it doing over the South Downs?

After the physical and emotional high points the rest of the walk became rather disappointing, heading west from Harting Down the path entered a thin strip of woodland and the temperature seemed to drop dramatically, and I was glad to get out into the brief spells of sunshine again.

The path westward from Harting was quite a challenge, not so much physically, but mentally. I had been going for nearly four hours without a break, I was starting to get hungry, my legs were beginning to ache, but worst of all the South Downs Way was becoming boring.

There were no real views to speak of, the path was pretty flat and mostly farm tracks and roads. Worst of all it seemed to go on for miles, although in truth it was only a couple of miles. Then came the county boundary, leaving West Sussex and entering Hampshire, this should have been an occasion worth celebrating, but there was no sign marking the border and it wasn’t easy to tell I had crossed it. The only noticeable indicator was a slight change in the style of signposts.

It was a real struggle to keep going, I needed to find somewhere to sit down and have a bite to eat, ideally somewhere in the sun, preferably with a view and a bench, and definitely soon. But there wasn’t anywhere, finally as I came to a bend in the road, I seized the opportunity. There was a length of wood acting as a step up to a footpath, that would have to do for a seat.

Not your usual picnic spot

It wasn’t much of a picnic spot, but I set off after only ten or fifteen minutes rest with spring in my step. I had looked at the map, there were only about four miles to go, the end was almost in sight. Suddenly I heard bells, they were loud and clear, I thought for a moment it was a mobile phone ringtone, but no it was definitely church bells, presumably carried up on the wind from Buriton Church.

It didn’t take long to finish of the last four miles. The last two were through the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, with nice wide paths and lots of signposts. In the end it took me about five hours to walk the fourteen miles and was glad to finally sit down in the bus shelter, by the side of another busy road as usual.

Getting home wasn’t easy: bus to Petersfield, train to Havant, train to Horsham and finally a bus home. Although I didn’t have to wait long at each change of transport, it still took me about two and a half hours to get home, but at least I was sitting down all the way.

So now I am in Hampshire, with only two sections to go until Winchester, the signpost at the country park said 23 miles to Winchester. The next section is going to be interesting, it should finish in Exton, Hampshire the home of some of my MITCHELL ancestors. I am really looking forward to having a look around the village and at the church where some of them were baptised and buried. The problem is that I still haven’t worked out how I am going to get home from there.

Litlington White Horse

11 May

I warned you last week that there were more hill figures to come, so as promised (or threatened) here is a photo of the Litlington White Horse, taken under cloudy skies last Wednesday.

Litlington White Horse

This hill figure was cut into the chalk on the side of Hindover Hill (or High and Over Hill) in 1924. It is situated about a mile and a half south-west of the village of Alfriston in East Sussex, just of the road to Seaford. It looks down into the valley of the Cuckmere river below.

White Horse close-up

The current horse apparently replaced an earlier horse on Hindover Hill which had been lost (overgrown). According to The Hillfigure Homepage, horses represent the largest category of hill figures existing in this country.

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