On November 3rd the sky was clear, the weather mild and we were in the mood for a walk – so we took the number 12X bus to the village of East Dean and walked back via Birling Gap and along the top of the cliffs to Eastbourne.
Managed by the National Trust, Birling Gap has a large tearoom, shop and interpretation centre telling the story of coastal corrosion, wildlife and history. The coast is retreating steadily, as photos show. A shrinking terrace of houses has become famous as every now and then another house falls victim to the collapsing cliffs.
The sea was rolling in and the reflection of the sun on the chalk cliffs was wonderful. I couldn’t resist enhancing it a little…
From Birling Gap it’s a long low climb up to Belle Tout, a former lighthouse, now a very nice-looking B&B, with a little shop selling refreshments and souvenirs embedded beneath the former base of the lighthouse. The lighthouse tower was actually moved inland in 1999, and the man in the shop told us the current owner has plans to move it again. Quite a feat of engineering the first time, and looking at the landscape it would be even harder to do it again, but who knows.
As you approach Beachy Head it’s a while before the lighthouse reveals itself. It’s very dangerous to get too near the edge because it’s so unstable. And yet people do so. I think it’s partly because you’re unaware as you walk the path just how close you are to a precipitous drop.
The ‘Beachy’ bit of ‘Beachy Head’, by the way, derives from the French ‘Beau Chef’ (beautiful head). So actually it should just be called Beachy.
It was such a lovely day. We stopped and picnicked very happily looking out to sea. Picnicking in November!
The last upward bit of the path leads towards the Beachy Head Pub (yay!) and some lovely views back towards the Seven Sisters and beyond.
I confess that by the time we’d climbed down into Eastbourne my feet were too sore and legs too tired to walk the last half a mile home, so we called a cab! Perfect.