I celebrated my return to walking after moving to South London, by a trip to Eastbourne and one of the most popular views of the chalky white cliffs of the South of England.
It’s a short walk from the railway station to the sea front at Eastbourne.
At the western end of the promenade the cliffs rise from the sea. Better signage to the start of the South Downs Way would have been appreciated. I’m spoilt by the Thames Path and Capital Ring. OK it’s obvious which way to go and sections of the path have either dropped into the sea already or become dangerously near the cliff edge, but more indication of just where the path was supposed to be would have been helpful.
Still only half way up!
Looking back towards Eastbourne
I bought ‘The South Downs Way’ by David Harrison. My guidebook warned me not to attempt the South Downs Way without mobile phone or whistle. As it happened I had neither on that particular day but I’m sure the large numbers of tourists visiting Beachy Head would have helped me out in case of difficulty. I wouldn’t take a pushchair up there, though. The South Downs Way goes all the way to Winchester and, from the map, looks to have some pretty isolated and exposed sections. After a steep climb, the cliff top walk presents spectacular views. Beachy Head is from the french ‘beau chef’ or beautiful headland, according to David Harrison.
On this June day the chalk downland supported an abundance of wild flowers. Could these blue ones be a form of orchid?The cliffs stretch out beyond Beachy Head
Here at least, the path is clearly marked.
I headed for the lighthouse of ‘Belle Tout’.
This is what undulating means
I was surprised by how strong the wind was. It must be very tough going indeed in autumn or winter. I came to the lighthouse, which, according to the guide book, has been superseded as a lighthouse by the one at the bottom of Beachy Head and has been lifted up and moved back from the edge of the cliff. Here, leaving the spectacular ‘Seven Sisters’ walk for another day, I turned round and retraced my steps.
On the way back, I had the wind behind me and from this direction you can see the sheerness of the drop into the sea.
The p0ignancy of this place is that so many choose this beauty spot to end their lives .
Skylark, gorse, and even peewit, reminded me of summer holidays, when I was a teenager, on the moors of the Cheshire/ Derbyshire border. I had a good view of a stone chat on a bush.
At the top of Beachy Head, I heard French, Italian, Spanish and a Chinese language. A group of Germans were drinking champagne. A boy asked me if I spoke German, remembering only later the German for ‘sorry’ , I replied ‘Nein’.
Passing the remains of the Lloyds signal station, I descended to Eastbourne.
I wonder what direction the prevailing wind blows here?
I returned to Eastbourne railway station and made it back to London in time for my evening engagement. I hadn’t got wet and had added 9.69 miles to the total. However, June 4th, Charlotte’s birthday and my original target for completion of the second tranche of 400 miles of the journey to Rwanda had come and gone, leaving 177.15 miles to go. What is more, two months of glorious unusually dry walking weather had passed too. Nothing to be done but to set a new target: by December 28th, the eleventh anniversary of the attack on the Titanic express, in which Charlotte died in Burundi, would be a suitable date. Perhaps by then some movement will have been made in bringing the perpetrators, the FNL and their leader, Agathon Rwasa to book.