Eastbourne, Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters


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June 3rd 2021
Published: June 6th 2021
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MeMeMe

Beachy Head
Dear All

Greetings, and hello again from London. I am writing at the end of a lovely week-long half-term holiday, the Thursday of which I decided to head out and explore again, and am now writing up my blog entry for another lovely local day trip from London.

This time I headed southwards, to the south coast, to a lovely little seaside town called Eastbourne, and some nearby star attractions: Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters, both located in the south-eastern corner of the expansive South Downs National Park. It was a highly enjoyable day, and I must admit I saw what I believe to be one of England’s most spectacular natural wonders. While England, to my mind, is an adorable country, of rolling hills, cute landscapes and quaint villages, I believe there are not too many jaw-dropping, spectacularly beautiful sights here. On Thursday, I would say I saw one of them though – the achingly beautiful and dazzling white chalk cliffs of England’s south-east coast.

After having just bought a railcard, for a third off rail travel in the south-east of England, I purchased a discounted off-peak day return ticket from East Croydon to Eastbourne, for just
The Seven SistersThe Seven SistersThe Seven Sisters

South Downs National Park
less than £20. Once again, reminiscent of my trip last summer to Chichester, I pretty much had a whole carriage of the train to myself for the journey, and once again while passing Gatwick Airport’s long-stay car park, I was greeted with a forlorn sight of vast emptiness. I put to the back of my mind these sad reminders of the current situation, and determined to enjoy my travelling day ahead.

Around an hour later, we pulled in to Eastbourne Station, and the weather was notably cooler than in London, sunny, but with a very fresh breeze from the south-west. Clad only in shorts and t-shirt, I did find myself to be a little chilly during parts of the day, but judging from my tomato-coloured face at the end of the day, I had certainly still caught the sun! My first stop was a bus stop right outside the train station, to wait for the half-hourly bus listed as the “ESS” on Google maps. This ESS would take me to the distant Beachy Head coastline for the first part of my trip. The bus stop’s live screen, however, only showed your usual buses assigned numbers, and the unusually-named “ESS” bus was nowhere to be found. I asked a friendly local if she knew anything about the “ESS” – she was most friendly until that point, telling me about her lovely recent trip to the hospital and her current journey home, but looked at me as if I was mad when I asked her about this, and couldn’t board the next bus quick enough to get away! I was beginning to doubt the existence of such a strangely-named bus.

Fortunately though, not long after, the ESS bus did arrive, and it turned out to be an open-top, sightseeing bus which did a loop around the sights of Eastbourne and around – yay! ESS stands for “Eastbourne Sightseeing”, and I excitedly grabbed a seat at the back on the top deck, having bought a day-tripper pass, and eagerly became a tourist for the day. To start with, it was just me and a friendly-looking couple towards the front, but when the bus pulled in to the Eastbourne Pier bus stop, it soon filled up with local tourists and happy families. There was a very jovial atmosphere on board, and it was lovely to see so many people smiling and enjoying
Eastbourne PierEastbourne PierEastbourne Pier

Eastbourne
themselves given these recent times.

The bus set off along its route westwards across Eastbourne’s sea front, and then slowly climbed up into the adjacent beginnings of the South Downs National Park. It is here where the famous South Downs Way begins, winding its way 100 miles through the park north-westwards and ending in the city of Winchester. During the day, I spotted a number of backpack-clad hikers who presumably were doing this route. One of England’s 10 national parks, the South Downs is also the country’s newest, created as recently as 2010, and is mostly made up of high, rolling hills and sheep-filled meadows, sitting on top of a huge layer of chalkstone. As this chalkstone reaches the sea on England’s south-east coast, it gives rise to the country’s famed white cliffs, of which the White Cliffs of Dover are probably the most famous. My destination for the day was another famous area of white cliffs.

After rising high above the town of Eastbourne, I got off the bus at my first stop for the day – the amazing Beachy Head! After enjoying a small exhibition at “The Beachy Head Story” mini-museum, and taking note of a
Gatwick Airport Long-Stay Car ParkGatwick Airport Long-Stay Car ParkGatwick Airport Long-Stay Car Park

Still empty, nearly a year after I last passed
nearby building home to the “Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team”, I headed southwards across the open grassland and towards the amazing cliffline itself.

Beachy Head lies at the southern tip of an area of chalkstone jutting out into the English Channel, and the brilliant white cliffs rise to a mighty height of 162 metres, pretty much vertically out of the sea shore below. Very little of the cliff’s edge is fenced off, and where there is fencing, it is footling, and can easily be walked over. I did wonder as to how close one can get to the edge, and found my answer in that you can simply get to the edge itself, and those with a head for heights can casually peek over and look down over 150 metres to the sea below. It was spectacular, and my jaw dropped on a number of occasions.

Very sadly though, Beachy Head in the UK is actually synonymous with suicide, and in 2010 it was recorded as being the third most common place in the world for the self-taking of lives, after the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Japan’s Aokigahara Woods. Around 20 people jump or drive their
Empty Train CarriageEmpty Train CarriageEmpty Train Carriage

A nice bit of peace and quiet
cars off the cliffs every year. This felt very sad, and I cannot begin to imagine both the despair someone must experience to wish to go through with such a thing, and the devastation it must cause to loved ones. The nearby and afore-mentioned Beach Head Chaplaincy Team is actually on call 24/7, and workers at the local Beachy Head Pub and taxi drivers are trained to be able to spot potential jumpers, and to notify the Team if they do. I recall some very sad stories from this place in the news over the years.

Aside from this sad side to the Beachy Head story, the cliffs are really quite spectacular, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I only noted after my visit that in fact 80 people or so die here each year, “only” a quarter of them are suicides. The other numbers are apparently made up of murders and accidents. It didn’t occur to me at the time, perhaps foolishly, that the area is under constant erosion from the sea, and tourists have been known to fall whilst looking over the edge or having their photos taken there.

Anyhow, I shall move on from this rather morbid subject, and continue to express how amazing and beautiful these cliffs were. My plan for the day was to walk two miles westwards from Beachy Head, and its photogenic lighthouse, along the spectacular coast, past the Belle Tout lighthouse on the next promontory over, and on to the similarly spectacular Seven Sisters cliffs at Birling Gap, from where I would pick up the ESS bus back again to Eastbourne. The walk was exhilarating, and thoroughly enjoyable, both due to its dramatic vistas of white cliffs, sea and rolling South Downs National Park to the north, as well as the bracing wind and sunny weather. The walk got busy at the Belle Tout lighthouse, apparently Britain’s most famous inhabited lighthouse due to its appearance in film and television, including the James Bond film “The Living Daylights”. The lighthouse was built at this notorious shipwrecking place at the end of the 17th century, and in 1999 it was remarkably moved 17 metres inland to protect itself from the ever-eroding cliff face edge. Today it operates as a (rather expensive) Bed and Breakfast.

After the Belle Tout lighthouse, my walk headed further westwards, and downhill, towards the famous Birling Gap, a small village so-called as it sits at a low-point in the cliff face with access via a metal staircase to the beach below. It was popular during my visit with day-trippers and families, heading down to the beach for a bit of sun and rock-pooling. Looming in the distance to the west stood the majestic Seven Sisters part of this amazing coastline, a series of seven extremely photogenic cliff heads, ranging from between 50m and 80m above the seashore below. When the White Cliffs of Dover are supposedly shown in films such as “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and “Atonement”, it is actually these Seven Sisters cliffs that are used. Because of the iconic nature of the White Cliffs of Dover, they are preserved and protected from erosion, and thus the white brilliance of the chalk has faded over the years, and is covered over in parts by green vegetation. At the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head however, the cliffs are left to erode naturally, and thus with each section of chalk falling into the sea below, a new, gleaming layer of whiteness is revealed behind. The cliffs were certainly amazing in their brilliance and gleaming splendour.
The Eastbourne Sightseeing BusThe Eastbourne Sightseeing BusThe Eastbourne Sightseeing Bus

Before the crowds arrived at the pier stop

After a short while at the Birling Gap, I boarded the next ESS bus to return back to Eastbourne via a loop through the hills and fields of the South Downs National Park to the north, on the top deck once more, surrounded by similarly giddy and excited tourists. Once back in town, I decided to stay on board, and do the whole loop again, to see my walk again from the comfort of a bus, and also because I wanted to get the most out of my ticket. The whole loop lasts an hour or so, and I very much enjoyed seeing the whole thing again from the comfort, yet great breeziness, of the open-top bus once more.

An hour-and-a-half of sitting on a plastic bus seat later, I got off with a rather sore behind at Eastbourne Pier. I had a couple of hours to spend in Eastbourne before I planned to catch the train again back to East Croydon, and very much enjoyed exploring this calm, seaside town. Unlike its counterpart, cosmopolitan and very busy Brighton 20 miles to the west, Eastbourne is very much a mature and refined lady of the British coastal resort scene.
The Eastbourne Sightseeing BusThe Eastbourne Sightseeing BusThe Eastbourne Sightseeing Bus

After the crowds arrived at the pier stop
It is home to a large retired population, and is not filled with amusement parks or slot machines. Eastbourne has a population of around 100,000 people, and although it dates back to Roman times, it really took off as a town and a seaside resort in Victorian times, when the local Duke of Devonshire laid out a plan to build an entirely new town, a resort built “for gentlemen by gentlemen”, in 1859.

The town still retains its lordly air, and has a pier, a bandstand, a classy big wheel, a pebbly beach and a lovely prom for strolling, populated with small, foodie-based market stalls. I whiled away a good hour or so walking around, and enjoying the refined beach scene of Eastbourne. I also happened upon a “Harry Ramsden’s”, England’s upmarket fish and chip shop chain, specialising in hearty English traditional fare such as, well, fish ‘n’ chips, along with fish cakes, jumbo sausages and mushy peas. Here I had a takeaway portion of chips, which I was careful to eat on the streets in a covered doorway, as the seagulls around there are notoriously brave at flying into and stealing food out of walkers' hands. After a pleasant walk along Eastbourne’s shopping streets, and its more modern mall “The Beacon”, I caught my busier return train back to East Croydon again just after 5.30pm.

Arriving home, I contemplated what a wonderful day trip I had just had, exploring a very nearby, yet previously unknown to me, corner of the country which was spectacularly beautiful and laden with geographical and historical interest.

I am currently planning a four-week trip this summer, and given the current situation, I thought it wise to remain in Great Britain. Whilst local, I would still like to explore somewhere a bit more exotic and different to England, with its own history, culture and language to delve into. Thus, I have come up with the plan to spend four weeks travelling around Scotland, and hope to be writing about this trip on the go as I travel. So, until the next time, hopefully Scotland, hopefully this summer, I shall bid farewell for now.

Thanks for reading, and all the best 😊

Alex


Additional photos below
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The Start of the South Downs WayThe Start of the South Downs Way
The Start of the South Downs Way

A hundred-mile walking route from Eastbourne to Winchester, through the South Downs National Park
South Downs National ParkSouth Downs National Park
South Downs National Park

Towards Eastbourne
Beachy Head Chaplaincy TeamBeachy Head Chaplaincy Team
Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team

Beachy Head is a notorious suicide spot
Lunch SpotLunch Spot
Lunch Spot

Beachy Head
Cliff EdgeCliff Edge
Cliff Edge

Beachy Head
Looking DownLooking Down
Looking Down

Beachy Head


6th June 2021
Eastbourne Pier

Eastbourne Pier
This is lovely. Nice angle.
6th June 2021
Eastbourne Pier

Eastbourne Pier
Thanks Merry :)
6th June 2021

East Sussex
Once again, you taken us exploring a local treasure. Our philosophy has always been to travel far while we are young and do the closer things as we age because we may not want those long flights and jet lag. COVID has us exploring close by sooner than expected but these treasures are worth seeing. I didn't know about the Seven Sisters. I'll have to do some reading. We like those tourist buses to give us an overview of an area. We generally get introduced to other things we'd like to see and they provide some history and background that is always useful.
6th June 2021

East Sussex
Thank you as always for your lovely comments Merry, and for reading my blog. Yes, this was my plan too, to travel far while young, and near when more mature. I didn't realise it would come as soon as this...! Hopefully there'll be long travels for us again soon. I don't normally do the tourist buses, but I may be swayed after this experience - it was indeed great for an overview, and the views were impressive :)
6th June 2021
Eastbourne Market Stall

Food stalls
I'm always impressed with the quality of food in these places.
6th June 2021
Eastbourne Market Stall

Food Stalls
Indeed, I thought of you when I saw these stalls, I thought you would have enjoyed them :)
6th June 2021
Quiet Contemplation

Serenity
A nice one.
6th June 2021
Quiet Contemplation

Serenity
Thanks Merry, it was very peaceful and beautiful.
6th June 2021
Rather a Precarious Photo Spot

Falls abound
An easy tumble.
6th June 2021
Rather a Precarious Photo Spot

Falls
Indeed, and I took a selfie on this - I didn't think how foolish it was until after. And I didn't like the picture I took, so I haven't published it, lol!
6th June 2021
The Seven Sisters

A Lovely Day Exploring!
Alex, as you know, I admire your local explorations and Eastbourne, Beachey Head and the Seven Sisters were obviously a wonderful choice for your latest foray. The view of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs was spectacular and what perfect weather! It is very sad to think about people so desperate they took their own lives at Beachy Head. Eastbourne sounds lovely, and I like the pier. Could really go for some Harry Ramsden's fish & chips right now! Glad you had such a rewarding day exploring. Wonderful blog and photos!
6th June 2021
The Seven Sisters

Exploring
What a lovely comment, thank you so much Sylvia! And thank you for reading :) I had a lovely day out at Eastbourne and around. Indeed, there are some sad stories from Beachy Head - I admire greatly the work of the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team. The pier was lovely, and a slap-up fish 'n' chip meal certainly hits the spot when one is hungry!
6th June 2021

Off to Scotland?
Dave here.....one of our favorite places. Would love to go back as there is still much we've not seen. Looking forward to your missives of this great place!
6th June 2021

Scotland
Hi Dave. Indeed, Scotland is calling me this summer. I think Merry mentioned that you have both been and enjoyed it. This is very encouraging for me to hear 😊 I'm looking forward to travelling again, as I'm sure you both are too. Good to hear from you 😊
7th June 2021

Off to Scotland...
You will probably get there before I do. We arrive in Edinburgh on 24 Aug...but will only be there two weeks. Have a great trip!
7th June 2021

Scotland
Ah, I remember you are also planning a Scotland trip this summer. I leave Glasgow back to England on 17th August, so it looks like we'll miss each other by a week unfortunately. I do hope we can meet up at some point though, it would be good to swap travel stories and adventures. I look forward to reading about your trip to Scotland soon. Have a great trip too! :D
7th June 2021

Scotland
G'day Alex. I live in Oz but my parents used to live in Rottingdean, just down the road from Eastbourne towards Brighton. Thank you for reminding me what a beautiful part of the UK it is. If you are going to Scotland in July/August make sure you book your accommodation in advance. Sylvia and I went there without booking ahead and finding somewhere to stay was painful and expensive (but we loved it anyway).
8th June 2021

Scotland
Hi John. Thanks for your comment and for reading my blog :) Rottingdean looks like a nice place, and indeed, what a lovely part of the UK it is around there! Thank you very much for the top tip about booking accommodation in Scotland in advance. I'm actually now all booked up for all of my four weeks there, and I found it a bit tricky to find accommodation in some places even this far in advance. I guess many people in the UK are doing a "staycation" this year. Thanks again for your comment, and all the best to you both :)
8th June 2021

England
Glad to see you've taken advantage of the beautiful weather we are having after a miserable month of lots of rain. On a beautiful sunny day by the coast its hard to believe you are in England and your photos really reflect this. I look forward to hearing about your Scotland adventure, it is something I've also thought about as I am lucky enough to have a car to tour around myself. I think its sensible for now to limit overseas travel in these uncertain times and a positive to explore your local or neighbouring areas :)
8th June 2021

England
Thanks Alan for reading my blog entry and for your comment, good to hear from you :) Indeed, we do live in a beautiful country, and it is easy to forget that there are still plenty of sunny days here! I'm looking forward very much to Scotland, I haven't explored there much, and there certainly seems plenty to see. Good that you have a car - I hope you are able to get out and about and explore a bit also this summer, even if it may be just within the UK. All the best to you :)
8th June 2021

Spectacular!
What a great day trip Alex! You are so lucky to have such a spectacular location so close to you. The cliffs reminded me of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, especially being able to get right up to the edge (I never ventured too close!). Scotland sounds wonderful, and I look forward to your blogs!
9th June 2021

Thank you!
Thank you Lori! Indeed, the cliffs reminded me also of your trip to and the photos from the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland - somewhere I hope to visit also at some point in the future. I imagine it was also a bit scary to go up to the edge there! Thank you, I'm looking forward very much to Scotland :D All the best to you both :D
14th June 2021
Eastbourne Pier

I think I have visited Eastbourne
In July 2005 my parents, my sister's family and I visited UK. As it happened I went there a few days before anybody else and that gave me a chance to travel by myself. That allowed me to see things that fascinates me. I then visited three places where there are so called chalk figures because I find them pretty cool. Another thing I really like is the recreation piers. I had already seen the one in Brighton so I went to Eastbourne to see that. I would actually love to make a "British recreation piers all in" trip one day. I am sure that would be good fun. /Ake
14th June 2021
Eastbourne Pier

Eastbourne
Wow, small world! There is indeed something quite special about a typical British seaside resort - the pier, prom, amusements and fish 'n' chip shops 😊 I'm glad to hear you also had a good time there, and were similarly impressed by the pier and chalkstone landscapes 😊
14th June 2021
The Seven Sisters

That's awesome
So spectacular! /Ake
14th June 2021
The Seven Sisters

Seven Sisters Cliffs
Indeed, really spectacular landscape. Thanks for your comments Ake, and for reading my blog 😊
28th July 2021

Edge of the Downs
Hi Alex - a great read yet again. I know this area well as have a friend whose home overlooks Belle Tout lighthouse - in fact I was sat in bed yesterday morning looking out over the lighthouse!! The severn sisters is such a scenic area but of course as you say it also has some very sad stories. Sadly also there have been many deaths by people getting too close to the edge and I watched yesterday's two young girls taking selfies right on the edge of the cliff - so silly particularly after the heavy rainfall we are currently experiencing. That being said it is a beautiful area and yesterday the downs were full of Chalkhill Blue butterflies as well as an amazing array of wildflowers. Look forward to reading you Scottish blogs soon. x Sheila
28th July 2021

The Downs
Wow, small world! And what a wonderful view for you at your friend's house! 😊 Indeed, a beautiful area, but as you also say, some sad stories from there. Lovely to read about the butterflies and wildflowers. Greetings from Scotland 😊

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