One can understand why Brighton is so popular with Londoners being a mere one hour from Victoria, and offering much of the same trashy cultural fare, with the Sea and some pebbles thrown in as well. Yet given that this was a bank holiday Monday, the train down there was surprisingly quiet (perhaps everyone had gone up there on the Saturday and was making a long weekend of it). Anyway self included there was a grand total of five of us IVC walkers who met at the ticket barriers of Brighton station.
The weather had not looked too promising when we left London, and heavy thunderstorms had been forecast for the South Coast. However whilst the weather was certainly overcast when we came out of the station, it was also very humid. Having made our way down through the town we turned left at the promenade and headed in the direction of the Pier. What immediately hits one as you walk along is not the Sea air, but rather the smell of fish and chips that seems to waft at you from all directions. So although lunch was out of the question at that early point, I certainly knew what I wanted whenever we did come to a stop. The Pier itself looks as tacky as one might expect walking by it, and no doubt needs to be visited to realise its full worth. We didn’t have time for such nonsense however, and pushed on alongside the road. To the other side of us, separating the pavement from the beach was the Volks Electric Railway which apparently has been there since 1883 and whose near continous sevice was only interrupted by the Second World War.
With the Pier some way behind us our next landmark was the Brighton Marina. As we approached it there seemed to be a very small caravan community set up in a car park, several of whom seemed to be either tuning up electric guitars or alternatively belting out Johnny Cash recordings. The Marina itself (approached from the Pier direction) looked an ugly concrete monstrosity, with as much charm and character as your average municipal car park. So after going through a small underpass we then appeared to come out by the arse end of it, with the most visual attraction being the loading bay and rubbish dump of an ASDA superstore. However having cleared that we then came to the more upmarket side of the Marina with an assortment of new build waterside apartments, and various parking spaces for the upmarket yachts and dinghys.
By this time we were now on what is called the Undercliff walk. Now basically this consists of: on the one side a cliff (you don’t say) and on the other side the Sea. What is somewhat artificial about this however, is the concrete walkway that separates the two for some four miles or more (see pictures). Apparently there is some danger of falling rocks along here and the local authority has put in various pegs and nets along the cliff face to offset that danger. However with the day getting ever brighter, and no end to this stretch in sight, I felt more in danger of suffering a form of snow blindness with the glare below me, in front of me, and to one side of me. Also somewhat disappointingly along this stretch, you literally have to lean over the wall to catch sight of the sea, although the occasional bit of spray did remind us that we were still in the right place.
Finally we turned off of this excitement at Rottindean in order to find somewhere to have lunch. There was plenty of pubs and places to eat available, which proved a problem for our two leaders who decided the right thing to do was to check out the menu of every establishment in town. This went on for so long I was then in danger of getting carbon monoxide poisoning (to go with my snow blindness) due to the narrow and traffic packed streets. With no real consensus reached we then split into two groups. Me and one other, joined leader number one in a local café. Leader number one seemed to have cost as his main consideration, so in this establishment fish and chips + half a pint of lager + chocolate fudge cake = £16.50 (Hmmm !).
Following lunch our two parties met up again at the concrete seafront, with the day now at its brightest, and set off again for more of the same. By the time we reached Saltdean however the two leaders were now in disagreement about how best to proceed. Leader one, who doesn’t like steep climbs wanted to continue on as we were. Leader number two however wanted us to go up onto the cliff even if it did mean walking alongside the road at the top. After a vote was held leader number one prevailed and we carried along the Undercliff walkway. However he didn’t prevail for long as we came to a dead end almost straight away, forcing us to go up onto the cliff in order to carry on.
Once up onto the cliff the road soon branched away, proving that this was probably the best time to join it. However replacing it was in effect a never end row of peoples houses. So whilst one could admire the sea view to the right, one couldn’t help feeling you were walking just along everyones front gardens to the left. The light had noticeably darkened at this point and the occasional rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance. Thus the conversation veered between how long before the threatened thunderstorms reached us, and how long before all these houses fell into the Sea. The objective was to make the (hourly) 1705 train from Newhaven Town, but when it had gone half past three, and one of the locals told us we still had three miles to go, this did not seem possible at IVC walking pace. By then however although we could not see Newhaven estuary, we could see much further along the cliff front to Seaford and the start of the Seven Sisters.
As we came to the point where we had to leave the cliff edge, I got spooked by a couple of flashes of lightning and some slight raindrops. Thus convinced that the thunderstorm was virtually upon us, I quickly got togged up in full sweat retaining waterproofs. Needless to say the threatened storm never happened. However with leader number two abandoning us at this point, I didn’t have time to remove any of it lest I lose leader number one at the trickiest part. Thus our now four man group then found itself walking down a mile long housing estate, togged up like wallys, whilst the local kids rode their bikes around in their usual football kits. By the time we came to the estuary time was rapidly running out, with no visible way to get over it to the station. However with an anxious quickening of pace, and with my redundant waterproofs keeping me nice and moist, we finally made the station at 1658. There we were happily reunited with leader number two who apparently had got there some ten minutes in front of us stragglers.
So overall a walk that had few points of interest, but was in its own way interesting enough to do. The consensus on the train back though, was that the walk was certainly a box ticked, but also one never to be repeated.