A boy and his dog....
A 15-minute drive later that day took me to my Mother's where I stayed the night and spent the following day with her. We were off to the garden centre to buy some evergreen shrubs for her garden. Mission accomplished a quiet evening ensued.
And on Sunday, I went to East Sussex to visit a very good friend of mine who had had a "significant" birthday on the Friday.
So where to for some scenery, wildlife and exercise? OK - the sun was almost shining as we headed off for Birling Gap. After climbing up high on to the top of the South Downs, we enjoyed stunning views from the top. We turned off the main road and descended to sea level.
This part of the coast is very chalky, as witnessed by the white cliffs rising high above the sea-level and, gradually like other areas, the land is being eroded by the sea. The land undulates for some way and this series of chalk cliffs is known as the "Seven Sisters".
Looking Eastwards a small shingly beach
and looking Westwards, the 7 Sisters stretching towards Cuckmere Haven
We decided to have a sandwich before heading off and patronised the local "coffee shop" as opposed to the bar of the hotel. The hotel at Birling Gap describes itself as being "Victorian colonial style with its furnishings being of the 1930s". We felt that was a very accurate description. It was like stepping back in time. In my view it wasn't attractive enough to live off its history and the "coffee shop" was a bit uninspiring in its fare, but it was fascinating in its oddity!
Some of the cottages that existed before have already become victims of erosion and no longer remain. Those that do, equally will also disappear before too long sadly. It is estimated that the cliff face is being eroded at the rate of .75 metres (2.5 feet) per year. The whole area is owned and managed by the National Trust but there doesn't appear to be any plans to save the area or the homes that currently exist. However, given the enormity and rate of erosion, what could be done without scarring the coastline?
The remaining four cottages now so close to the edge
We walked on and upwards to the Belle Toute Lighthouse. In 1999, the lighthouse was moved - in its entirety - away from the crumbling cliff edge. It's now a private house and there's obvious signs of building going on. The views the residents will have will be stunning on all sides from far out to sea to over the South Downs and beautiful East Sussex countryside and farmland.
Looking out to sea as the sun decided to disappear
As we climbed, we looked back to the hotel and cottages which we'd just left
As we walked along, the cliff edge dropped away to our right. I'd intended to take a shot looking down on the sea....but even though I was lying down on the grassy cliff edge, I bottled out and couldn't look down!!!
Finally, at the top, we discovered the Lighthouse. There's also an ice cream seller there but we resisted. By now the sun had gone, the grey sky had invaded and the strong wind was tad chilly!
This is Belle Tout Lighthouse (without it's light now a private house) and, in 1999 it was moved back from the edge of the cliff where it was in danger of dropping into the sea. It is anticipated that it will need moving again in the next hundred years, but I suppose the present occupants will not be too concerned at this point in time!
It looks so new but that's as a result of the lighthouse being moved!!
There was much evidence that building works are still taking place
Standing and looking Westwards to where the lighthouse used to be!
There is an existing, and very much working lighthouse, which is located at the bottom of the chalky cliffs. And this can be seen looking to the east
I also took a B&W but not sure that it works though..
and finally, somewhat windswept we made our way down to sea level once more.
During our walk up to and down from the lighthouse the skies became very grey and threatening. Wanting a different angle, I was flat on my stomach (flat?? stomach?? - thought I'd get that in before anyone else lol) in the springy grass to take this shot.
The grassy slopes show much evidence of wild flowers. Mostly they are now dying back and going to seed. But here and there we spotted colour and these tiny flowers growing very flat to the ground, were sporting beautiful blues and pinks.
I don't know what they are, but if anyone does???? I'd be pleased to know.
(Edit: and my thanks Steve, Roy(Fenland Walker Birding & Countryside Blog), and Richard for IDing this plant for me as Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare) )
Back in the car park, the sun nervously poked its head out from behind the clouds and we continued our coastal journey to Cuckmere Haven. This is the most beautiful spot and heavily patronised today. We're going to return later on and, hopefully, there will be a bit more bird life about. Cuckmere Haven is where the River Cuckmere joins the sea in an area of flood plains.
We walked down to the coast and on one of the large pools I saw three Little Grebes - that was a lovely surprise. Several herring and other gulls about but on the seaward trip that was about it for bird life.
One variety of Sea Kale (I believe) that was a cheery sight.
Edit: This is Yellow-horned poppy (Glaucium flavum)
and my thanks to Robert, Richard and Steve (North Downs and Beyone) for the ID
We passed a notice (as we neared the sea) that asked walkers to "take the lower path" as there were "roosting birds". Frustrating, apart from a large flock of Starlings, there was no indication of what the birds are. I'm sure this must be a good place for birds (and particularly waders), so hopefully I shall go back in the Autumn to see what I can find!
Where the river joined the sea the river was very fast flowing. No doubt caused, in part, by the narrowing of the river just as it joined the sea. The currents would be dangerously strong here and the sea was obviously turbulent as in the incoming sea met the outgoing river. On a rough day, I would imagine, it would be very dramatic!
Standing near the edge of the sea and looking north up river.
After 180 degree turn to face the sea, the waves caused by the river meeting the sea can be seen. The tide had been going out for about two hours - it must look quite dramatic when it's coming in!
Having spent some time watching the sea and enjoying the scenery, we walked back through the plains. More bird activity this time. Passing the spot where I'd seen the Little Grebes, I could now see four Cormorants sunning themselves as a 5th fished in the pool. A lone Canada Goose was standing about and then a mute swan came into view. "Ah, there's another ....." I started to say but, delightfully, it was a Little Egret. Far to far away for a picture so I started walking towards it - unfortunately some other walkers (oblivious to its prescence) unwittingly scarred it away and it flew off - only to land too far away for me to get closer to it. Lovely to see it however :)
A couple of hasty shots heavily cropped but good to have record shots at least!
Finally back to the car and then to take my friend home. My journey back took me along (amongst other roads) the M23 and M25 - fortunately being Sunday this was an uneventful journey.
So a great three days away in Sussex in good company. Thank you all :D
And thanks finally to John Masefield for this old favourite that sums up my feelings for the sea and water so well.
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,And finally, thanks to you if you've made it to the end of this very long post!
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.