Tag Archives: cuckmere

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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Picture Postcard Parade: Seaford from East Cliff

17 Sep

If I were to create a top-ten of  my favourite postcards (now there’s an idea) this one would almost certainly be in it. This is an excellent quality photographic card which features, in incredible detail (click on the image if you don’t believe me), the coastal town of Seaford, East Sussex and the countryside beyond. The card was posted in Seaford on September 1910, although I can’t quite make out the exact day.

Seaford from East Cliff

My copy of the eleventh edition of Black’s Guide to Sussex and its Watering-Places (published in 1898 by Adam and Charles Black of London) describes Seaford thus:

In a break of the cliffs, where the Ouse enters the sea, Seaford displays a growing assembly of red and gray houses, the new ones running rather to the bungalow style, nearly all offering accommodation to the visitors who throng this place in the holiday season. Its nucleus as a health resort may be considered the Convalescent Hospital, a well-known London charity, to which has lately been added the Surrey Convalescent Home, taking advantage of the “tonic” properties claimed for the air, and of the frequent sunshine with which Seaford is blessed, not to speak of some little shelter from the east wind. The drainage and the water supply have been seen to ; then it has an esplanade, a shingly beach, bathing machines, rowing boats, sailing yachts, and cricket field. The great factor in its recent prosperity is the Golf Links stretching over the Downs to the east. The scenery around has admirers. For our part, we are disposed to pronounce it somewhat monotonous in its expanse of bare green tableland ; but there are hidden hereabouts some pretty nooks ; and two or three of the quaintest villages in Sussex nestle along the course of the Cuckmere, which falls into the sea 3 miles eastward.

I have several reasons for valuing this card so highly, aside from the quality and level of detail. Of course I have ancestors that came from Seaford (or at least passed through), and it also provides an excellent cross-section of Sussex landscapes, with a beach and chalk cliffs side by side, and a backdrop of the rolling hills of the South Downs.

Perhaps the strongest reason for my love of this card is the personal memories it conjures, and hopefully will continue to do so for years to come. One of my most enjoyable days this Summer started out with a climb up the hill from Seaford to roughly the same spot, where I paused and took in the view across Seaford to Newhaven and the hills beyond.

It was not long after that day that I returned to full-time work and my Summer of exploring was brought to an end, but I still have happy memories of that short walk from Seaford up over Seaford Head and down to the mouth of the Cuckmere River. Lots of memories and lots of photographs, like the one below, which was taken almost 100 years after the postcard above was sent. Happy days.

Seaford, East Sussex 21 Jun 2010

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.

South Downs Way: Exceat to Southease

6 May

South Downs Way sign

Yesterday I walked another section of the South Downs Way (SDW). I have no walk planned for the coming weekend and the weather looks to be getting worse, so I thought I would seize the opportunity and get another section of the SDW under my belt.

This section of the SDW began at Exceat between Seaford and Eastbourne in East Sussex. There is a visitor’s centre at Exceat, with a shop selling souvenirs (including postcards!), a restaurant/tea shop, cycle hire and toilets. The SDW heads north from the centre, with a steep but short climb up to the edge of Friston Forest. The views looking south towards Cuckmere Haven (see below) are well worth the effort.

Cuckmere Haven from Exceat

About three miles north of Exceat is the village of Alfriston. It has been quite a while since I last visited Alfriston (probably due to the infrequent bus services), and as I was only passing through I didn’t spend long there yesterday, just long enough to get a couple of bottles of water and explore the independent bookshop Much Ado Books.

Much Ado Books It is a wonderful bookshop selling both old and new books, that had a nice selection of Sussex books on it’s shelves, including a copy of Thomas Geering’s Our Sussex Parish, it always pleases me to find a copy of that “out in the wild”. It was a shame that I didn’t have long to browse, but I did come away with a copy of Walking the Triangulation Points of Sussex by David Bathurst.

From Alfriston the SDW heads west and then north-west up to Bostal Hill, another steep climb. Sadly by this time the weather had become decidedly overcast, the sunshine had vanished behind a thick blanket cloud and there was a cold wind blowing across the hills.

I wasn’t alone on the hills, apart from a few other walkers and paragliders (jumping off the top of the hill), it was good to see flocks of sheep on the hills. Aside from the cuteness of the lambs, it was so re-assuring to see sheep on the Downs where they should be, and have been for decades, if not centuries.

What ewe looking at?

Continuing west across the top of the Downs took me across Firle Beacon, Beddingham Hill and Itford Hill, taking in two trigs points on the way. From Itford Hill the SDW descended into the river valley (River Ouse), but crossing the river will have to wait until next time, because at the foot of the hill was Southease railway station which was the end of my walk and the start of my journey home.

Lewes from Itford Hill

The view above was taken from Itford Hill and is of the town of Lewes under cloudy skies, with the River Ouse and the Lewes to Seaford railway line in the foreground. It is such a shame that it turned into such an overcast day, compared to the view at the top of this post.

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