Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Seaford to Eastbourne – (East Sussex) – 16/07/08 – 13 miles approx – myself.
Having already filled up on my ‘Oats So Simple’ for breakfast (porridge for those who haven’t yet tried it), I was pleased to find a man outside Osterley tube station handing out bananas. Obviously he had come along specially to see that I was fully carbo loaded for the day’s exertions (alright then some lackey doing a promo for a health club). So that was a good start anyway, which soon went downhill on the train out from Victoria, due to some tiresome woman dumping two of her three brat kids onto the seat beside me (yes I know what she wanted me to do, but sorry if they are going to bring a curfew in for kids, then there shouldn’t be a lower age limit to it). Whilst that irritation did eventually resolve itself, I then found myself getting more and more concerned with the very threatening black clouds out of the window. In the event I needn’t have worried as the moment I stepped off the train at Seaford, the day turned into a lovely sunny 70 degree one.
Now this walk was straight out of ‘Time Out Country Walks Volume 2’, and the reason for doing it on my own midweek, was in order to check it out before leading the IVC group on it in a couple of weeks. Now I must say at this point that I found the book very accurate (once I got the hang of what they called 60 metres), and didn’t go wrong at any point. However I do have to temper that with the reality, that in the main this walk can be done easily without much guidance, if you can remember to keep the Sea to your right.
That is not to say everything went according to plan. Thus no sooner had I got out of the station and onto the cliff face, then I had to have an encounter with the village idiot. Alright that might be a bit harsh, as basically the guy was a retired fireman walking his two dogs who wanted to have a chat, and the thing is I am always happy to exchange a few friendly words with anyone. However this guy just went on and on and on and on about his life of sporting achievements on his bike and on his feet. The problem with boring twits like this you see is that they are not interested in having a two way conversation, but instead just want to download their entire life story on you. All I wanted was for him to draw breath long enough for me to say: “I have to go now”, but on and on he went. I kid you not he must have kept me there a good half hour. Fortunately and eventually some OAP’s distracted him and his dogs long enough for me to say “I have got to be going now” whilst I was literally moments away from having my entire life force bored out of me.
Anyway shot of him I was able to carry on and it wasn’t long before the (deceptively close) Seven Sisters came in sight. However once one had come down to beach level at Cuckmere Haven, the route ahead was barred by the Cuckmere River, necessitating a long inland diversion, crossing the river at the Exceat bridge and onto one of the suggested lunch stops at the Exceat farmhouse tearoom. This being around 4 miles and approximately a third of the walk. However having looked in there hoping to grab a quick dog roll or something, I found it full of OAP’s sitting at quaint little tables, whilst some sort of school party milled around at some sort of visitors centre a few yards away. I therefore decided there and then, that lunch was for wimps.
So having found my way back onto the South Downs Way cliff edge, this was where the walk and the Seven Sisters began in earnest. Thus no sooner had you got to top of one climb and in oxygen debt, you were then faced with a steep descent, and the opportunity to do it all over again on the next climb. This middle third of the walk being harder than the other two thirds put together. However seven notches on my rucksack later, and I was at the near 8 mile point of the Birling Gap hotel, where I decided I had earned a pint of Strongbow and a packet of crisps. Yet even then another school party of kids came out of nowhere, to harrass my sensibilities. What was worse, was that they were foreign kids as well.
So off I went again on the last and longest third of the walk. Whilst the section that took me on to Beachy Head (and another Ice Cream) was still rather up and down, it did not quite have the severity of the middle section, and from that point on it was an overall downward trajectory towards Eastbourne. Speaking of which, Eastbourne has a very underwhelming beach and promenade I must say (or maybe I was just getting tired), and the walk itself finished in a disappointing near mile trek through the local shopping area, in order to get to the station.
That quibble aside it was an excellent walk (though not one for a total beginner) and an excellent sunny day as well. What impressed me as much as anything, was the fact that there was public toilet facilities at miles: 0, 4, 8, and 10, as well as what you could find in the various cafes/pubs in Eastbourne (if you plan to lead a walk you need to know these things).