Saturday, May 22, 1999

Walk 7 -- Newhaven Town Station, via Seaford, to Cuckmere Haven

Ages: Colin was 57 years and 14 days. Rosemary was 54 years and 156 days.
Weather: Mostly sunny and warm, but a strong westerly wind which cooled things down considerably in exposed places.
Location: From Newhaven Town station to Cuckmere Haven, via Seaford.
Distance: 7½ miles.
Total distance: 57½ miles.
Terrain: Some sandy beach, some concrete promenade, some grassy clifftops and some grassy river bank. Undulating.
Tide: Out.
Rivers to cross: No.4, the Cuckmere at the Exceat Bridge.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: No.7 at Cuckmere Haven.
Pubs: 'The Golden Galleon' at Exceat Bridge where we drank Biddington's dry cider.
'English Heritage' properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We caught three trains to Newhaven Town Station via Barnham and Hove.
At the end, we caught a bus from Exceat Bridge to Seaford Station, then caught three trains back via Worthing and Barnham.

It is now exactly four months (seventeen weeks) since I broke my leg, and nineteen weeks since I injured my arm on walk 5. After hours of intensive physiotherapy, a lot of cycling and oodles of swimming, I can now move my arm easily in all directions except outwards where it gets stuck halfway up and I can walk easily with either a limp or a stick. I chose a stick today! I have had numerous tests of my brain, heart, lungs, blood, you name it and they’ve tested it; but the men in white coats can find no reason for me to have suffered three serious accidents (I bashed my thumb as well, and after four months sporting a black nail it fell off--the nail, not the thumb!) in such a short space of time--except that I have a very low tolerance to alcohol!! I protest! I honestly only used to drink two units of alcohol a day, and on each of the days I had an accident I had not had a drink since the day before. However, at this time of my life my health is the most important thing for me, so I am now down to two units a week. When we visit ‘real ale’ pubs, Colin has the ale and I have just a taste.
We left Newhaven Town Station and walked down a very boring road to the east of it to Newhaven Harbour station. The whole area has a rather desolate, neglected air about it. ‘Hoverspeed’ started up a daily service to Dieppe a month ago, but there was no one about today and nothing seemed to be doing. Car parks were closed, and we were amused by one ‘long-term’ car park where the exit road was blocked by a huge lump of concrete!
We crossed the railway by a footbridge, then another footbridge took us over what looked like the original course of the River Ouse before they diverted it through the present harbour. We were on the beach, so we walked along the eastern harbour wall to a wooden lighthouse-type construction at the end. It was only being used by birds for nesting. Back to the beach where the tide was exposing nice firm sand. It was only 10.30 but we were ravenous after our early breakfast so we stopped to eat a couple of sandwiches.
We walked along the sand as far as we could. There was no one about except us and a man in waders who was pushing a big net through the waves. We don’t know what he was catching. When it got to a choice between walking in the sea or on shingle, we climbed up the shingle bank and found a tarmacked path which looked as if it had been laid between railway lines. There had obviously been several gun emplacements along this bit of coast during the War. The only time I had difficulty in walking all day was climbing up that shingle bank with my stick, but Colin helped to pull me up.
Soon we were in Seaford which seemed a very sleepy place. Even here there were very few people about. We walked along the prom and stopped at a shelter where we could sit in the sun but out of the wind to eat the rest of our lunch. There were lots of new houses being constructed there, but they all had a high wall blocking out most of the light from the downstairs rooms! We walked down a concrete boat ramp, where there was a lone fisherman, before starting to climb the chalk cliffs.
It was a steep climb, but I didn’t find it any more difficult than I would have done before the accidents. We looked over the edge at one point at lots of kittiwakes nesting on the cliffs. The smell was atrocious--definitely fishy!Sometimes we were out of the wind entirely and it was very hot, and sometimes the wind was so strong it pushed us along--but fortunately not towards the cliff edge! Colin was amused at the antics of some of the golfers, for the path went between a golf course and the edge of the cliff. The wind certainly affected their shots. Colin also noticed smoke trails way back Brighton way in the sky (which looked very black behind us at the time, but no bad weather caught us up). I remembered hearing on the local news yesterday that Brighton was celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the Palace Pier this weekend. We reckoned the ‘Red Arrows’ were putting on a display.
Eventually we got to the top, and one of the most famous views in Sussex opened up before us--the ‘Seven Sisters’! The white cliffs looked very handsome in the sunshine, and it was lovely walking down the gentle grassy slope with that beautiful view in front of us. It is moments like these that make these Walks so worthwhile. We could see Birling Gap, and the lighthouse on the top near Beachy Head which has so recently been moved back from the cliff edge so it is not lost. It was all very clear today.
On reaching Cuckmere Haven, we walked across a bit of shingle to the river, and Colin recalled the time he brought the Scouts here in their canoes from the camp at Alfriston--fifteen years ago! (Now we know why we always feel so old these days!) One of the lads, called Richard, started drifting out to sea and said, “I can’t do it, Skip, I’ll have to capsize!” Colin knew that he would be in grave danger of drowning if he didn't stay in his canoe, so he threatened to bash him over the head if he capsized, bullied him into paddling a lot harder aginst the current and probably saved his life in the end. (Richard was slightly brain-damaged at birth and had an IQ of below 70.) I don’t think anybody ever really appreciated what Colin did for those boys for all those years he ran the Scouts. It turned sour in the end, for both of us.
We walked along the river bank towards Exceat Bridge, and we saw several different types of butterfly despite the wind. We also saw twenty-two swans, some with cygnets, a couple of herons, and three families of Canada geese with fluffy goslings! We stopped at the pub and Colin claimed it was the best part of the day, but then the cider he was drinking did have a strength of 8.0. We crossed the Exceat Bridge and got on a bus to Seaford.

That ended Walk no. 7, we shall pick up Walk no. 8 next time at Exceat Bridge. We returned home by train from Seaford.

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