Beach Towns, Battle Grounds and Cliffs – Seaford (E. Sussex), 15-22 June, 2016

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June 22nd 2016
Published: June 22nd 2016
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We’ve been in the UK for 5 days now and so it’s time to start the blog before I forget the places we’ve visited. We started our holiday by driving from Heathrow to Seaford immediately after disembarking from our 24-hour travel from Brisbane - thankfully our flight had been uneventful and we’d managed to sleep on the plane. Our trip to Seaford was surprisingly stress-free until 10 minutes from our destination, at which point the battery in Terry’s iPad decided to die, thus taking our GPS and map capabilities with it. Once again we are using AirBnB listings for our holiday accommodation and eventually we managed to find our accommodation for the next week – a B&B on the outskirts of Seaford. Our host is a retired printer/typographer whose daughter convinced him to take up AirBnB hosting when he retired 2 years ago – she was concerned he’d be bored.

The reason that we came to Seaford is so we could walk along the clifftops that we now know to be the Seven Sisters. A few years ago Terry enjoyed watching a BBC documentary series called “Coast” and one of those episodes was set along this coastline. While watching the show he said that he’d like to walk along the clifftop paths so it was a good excuse for me to suggest a UK holiday. In fact, locations shown in a couple of BBC documentaries have defined much of this holiday but more on that as our holiday progresses. After a quick shower and chat with our host we headed off to find the cliffs and have a bit of a walk. We walked for a few hours, saw the Seven Sisters from a distance followed by walk into Seaford along more cliffs and the promenade.

Seaford is a town of 25000 or so and about halfway between the larger coastal towns of Brighton and Eastbourne. Unfortunately, Terry ended up with a painful hip after our first day’s walk and so a quiet day with a bus trip into Eastbourne was our Day 2 activity. Like many large English coastal towns, the front is dominated by an ornate pier that is home to tacky souvenir shops, ice cream stores and fast food outlets whilst the promenade/esplanade is lined with magnificent Georgian style hotels. Eastbourne must be where England’s pensioners come to holiday/retire as it seemed to both of us that most of the people on the promenade were using some form of mobility aid. Today we’ve been to Brighton and so can compare and contrast the two towns. Brighton also has a large ornate pier complete with fast food outlets and tacky games arcade, magnificent Georgian mansions and hotels line the streets close to the beach, the beach is eroded flint (large pebbles) and lots of timber groins cut the beach in an effort to stop erosion. However, that’s where the similarity ends as Brighton firmly caters to the other end of the age spectrum. I’m not sure what the correct terminology is but boho, retro, hipster all came to mind when wandering the streets and looking at the shops lining the quiet streets and lanes. Our reason for going to Brighton was to visit the Royal Pavilion, the “pleasure palace” built by the future King George IV when he was still Prince of Wales. Externally, the original building is Indian-inspired while the internal decoration is Chinese inspired. Queen Victoria eventually inherited the palace but considered it too small and lacking in privacy for her family and so sold the palace to the City of Brighton. The palace was gutted of all furnishings, chandeliers and wall papers and these were either put into storage or used at Buckingham Palace. During WW1 the palace was used as a hospital for Indian soldiers and later soldiers who had lost limbs. Since the 1950s Brighton has embarked on a major restoration of the palace with many of the original items returned on permanent loan from the Queen. The most impressive room to us was the Banqueting Room with its huge domed ceiling and enormous dragon-decorated chandelier – no photos unfortunately as photography was not allowed.

The highlight of our week here was our walk from Beachy Head hotel near Eastbourne to the Cuckmere Inn near Seaford. During WW2 Beachy Head was the point at which the RAF planes often crossed the coast of England on their way to bombing raids over Europe. Unfortunately, it’s also a favourite suicide spot and a number of crosses and memorials dot the cliff tops. The walking was very pleasant – mowed wide open paths marked the way and at this time of year they are lined by wildflowers. We were both surprised by the amount of birdsong from small finch-like birds hiding in the shrubs. Plenty of huge gulls sored on the updrafts above the cliffs. It was Father’s Day and a lovely sunny day was forecast so there were lots of other people walking also, often accompanied by their dogs. There were lots of other international tourists also but thankfully we never felt as if it was busy or congested. The total length of the walk was about 8 miles (12 km), most of it up and down and so we finished our day at the Cuckmere Inn with a couple of beers and early dinner.

Our other activities have involved driving to various historic sites/homes in the area. We’ve visited Chartwell House, the family home of Sir Winston and Lady Churchill. Sir W purchased the Estate when his wife Clementine was pregnant so she had no input into the decision. Apparently she was horrified by the purchase, both by the price paid and by the amount that would need to be spent to renovate the home to make it comfortable. Churchill loved the views down over the garden and the new rooms that were added looked out over those views. Eventually, the Churchills attempted to sell the home as they could no longer afford it. They were unable to attract buyers and in 1945 a group of friends clubbed together and purchased the property from them. The Churchills stayed in the house as tenants until Sir W’s death, at which time Clementine decided she no longer wished to live there and the property transferred to the National Trust. There were also displays of Churchill’s paintings (I didn’t think them very good), gifts from various countries in appreciation of his war effort, his uniforms and his Nobel Prize for Literature (1953). I was very surprised to learn that he had been a writer, let alone one that had won the Nobel Prize.

We also visited Hever Castle, the childhood home of Ann Boleyn, 2nd wife of Henry VIII. In 1903 the derelict castle was purchased by William Waldorf Astor of the hotel fame. He spent a fortune renovating the castle to turn it into his family home ($100 million I think they said) and it is this “version” of the castle that is on display. Our walk through the garden was cut short by a thunderstorm and so we adjourned to the nearby 12th Century pub for a beer and early dinner before returning to Seaford in the rain.

Our second day of drives involved a trip to the family home of Sir Rudyard Kipling – lots of narrow roads to get there. Kipling was the JK Rowling of his era, incredibly prolific, the highest earning author of his time and another Nobel Prize for Literature winner. We followed this by a walk around the historic town of Rye and a visit to Battle Abbey, the site of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The abbey was built by William the Conqueror as penance for killing so many people during the battle and the high alter is supposedly built where King Harold died. Apparently the Benedictine monks wanted to build elsewhere as they believed the site too sloping but Willy C ordered them to build here. Part of the monks’ dormitory is still visible but in ruins, the abbey itself no longer exists and the abbot’s house is now a flash-looking day and boarding school.

Well, it’s now 2 days since I wrote the paragraphs above. Our final day in Seaford was yesterday and once again we went for a drive to visit nearby villages. Our first stop was the “chocolate box town” of Alfriston. Alfriston is just a few miles from Seaford and on each of our previous day trips we drove through the town, and on each of these trips through the town I held my breath and silently prayed that we wouldn’t meet anything bigger than a Mini as we drove along the narrow main street - I’ve been doing all of the driving so far. Alfriston is also the location of the Clergy House, a thatched cottage dating from about 1350 and the first property purchased by the National Trust - in the 1890s from memory. The house was quite substantial and had originally been built by a yeoman farmer who had a side business in smuggling. I now know why some people do not want a thatched cottage – this small cottage was partly re-thatched in 2005 for £100,000. The cottage was surrounded by a small but picturesque garden – lots of old rose bushes were in flower and their perfume filled the air and there was also a very attractive kitchen garden. From Alfriston we travelled to Lewes, another old town, and then to Herstomonceux. Herstmonceux was the site of the Royal
Seven Sisters coastlineSeven Sisters coastlineSeven Sisters coastline

We walked the entire length of the coastline visible in the photo
Greenwich Observatory, after the observatory had been moved from Greenwich because of light pollution etc in London. The observatory has since been moved to the Canary Islands because of light pollution in E. Sussex but a couple of telescopes remain in the old domes, there is an interesting museum on site and the complex, including the adjacent Herstmonceux Castle, is now owned and run by the Canadian Queen’s University.

Today we left Seaford and travelled west to the town of Budleigh Salterton in Devon. This was a surprisingly long trip and took much longer than the nearly 4 hours estimated by our GPS. We stopped at Portsmouth on the way across so that we could visit HMS Victory – Nelson’s ship in the Battle of Trafalgar. The display was pretty interesting and I was surprised at the size of the ship - it was larger than I expected but still pretty small for the 850 sailors that manned it (821 at the Battle of Trafalgar). There were cannons everywhere, even in the state rooms and cabin of Nelson and the other officers, and the ordinary sailors were packed in like sardines with only 15 inches of space allocated for their hammock.

Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25


Seven Sisters walkSeven Sisters walk
Seven Sisters walk

The beach at Burling Gap - a few kids were "swimming"
Seven Sisters walkSeven Sisters walk
Seven Sisters walk

Mouth of the Cuckmere River

North Lanes area
View from Brighton PierView from Brighton Pier
View from Brighton Pier

Note the surfers
Brewery wagon at LewesBrewery wagon at Lewes
Brewery wagon at Lewes

Lewes is home to Harveys Brewery
HMS VictoryHMS Victory
HMS Victory

One of the gun decks
HMS VictoryHMS Victory
HMS Victory

Nelson's cabin

23rd June 2016

Beautiful coastline!
It looks lovely and I am envious of you both as you explore this part of the U.K. Enjoy yourselves!!!
27th June 2016

Interesting part of UK
An amazing account and photos of your trip so far.

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