Alex van Terheyden
I wonder if this is Englands greatest coastal walk...
Time allows you to wonder about life and the universe and yet sadly the time we have, is never enough. I recently found myself wondering if the Seven Sisters Cliffs could be England's most magnificent coastal walk. Does one have the time to discover this wonder? Well, I recently discovered that The Seven Sisters Cliffs can be appreciated in less than a day and they make for the perfect day trip out of London. No wonder why so many people now go seeking them out in the 2020s.
However, before we proceed some truths about what they are. The Seven Sisters are a series of chalk cliffs by the English Channel. They form part of the South Downs in East Sussex, between the towns of Seaford and Eastbourne in southern England. They are the remnants of dry valleys in the chalk South Downs, which are gradually being eroded by the sea. The Cliffs are white because the chalk was formed in the Late Cretaceous epoch, between 66 and 100 million years ago, when the area was under the sea. During the Cenozoic Era, the chalk was uplifted. When the last Ice Age ended, sea levels rose and the English Channel formed, cutting into the chalk to form the dramatic cliffs along the Sussex coast.
To visit the Seven Sisters, I and many others who have taken in this natural wonder would advise simply taking the train from Central London to Eastbourne. Of course one could always drive there but why get stuck in traffic for hours upon hours? When, instead you could be in Eastbourne from Central London (Waterloo, Clapham Junction, East Croydon) in just over an hour. Those who understand how Britain's rail networks work will know it always makes sense to plan your journeys in advance. If you use Tainline.com to book a ticket, days in advance. You will save a small fortune, over the price the rail operators will charge you if purchased on the day.
Recently I found myself on the train to Eastbourne for the reason that I had never taken the time to explore this part of England. You can fly thousands of miles around the world and yet when a place is on your doorstep you may find you won't take the time to visit it. Thankfully I'm trying my best to see every wonder on this planet and that includes those to be found in the United Kingdom and especially England. I think because I have lived for most of my life in London I had no motivation to visit the Seven Sisters before. I ignorantly associated it with its namesake in Tottenham London a place more famous for Ikea and knife crime than natural landscapes. Thankfully I changed that sheltered perspective and now I urge all those who haven't visited this part of the world to take a moment and wonder if you should also.
Perfect for a day off, a weekend break or a random escape from the big smoke. A journey to Eastbourne, followed by a long walk to the medieval English seaside town of Seaford. Will, I can assure you, not disappoint - even the most cynical of England will fall for its charms upon making this tour.
Of course, choose your day wisely. Pick a cold wet day and you may not see the glorious landscape that will engulf every step that you could take. Pick a sunny weekend and the place may be overrun by those who seek that same adventure just like you. You will all have one thing in common and yet all will be strangers to you. They will be the ones blurring the landscape as they glide past you in either direction - some will nod in old England ways as once did. While others will exploit only caring about their needs and no one others.
As you leave manicured and quaint Eastbourne behind you and set forth in a westerly direction the South Downs will present themselves to you in their rolling fashion. Ascend up the sloping hills and discover the acres of pasture bought for the locals of Eastbourne by a very generous wealthy individual, when the people of England without a doubt were almost all English. As you rise through the pasture you will find yourself on England's highest Cliff edge - that of Beachy Head.
The cliff is the highest chalk sea cliff in all of Britain, rising to 162 metres (531 ft) above sea level. The peak allows views of the southeast coast from Dungeness in the east to the Isle of Wight in the west. Its height has also made it one of the most common suicide spots in the world. And, yet any visitor in their right mind will witness this spot and I hope will only think how life is too wonderful to ever contemplate jumping.
These chalk cliffs are in my mind even more exceptional than the famous White Cliffs of Dover east of there. And certainly more accessible. While the White Cliffs of Dover look mighty and glorious as you sail out to sea or into port as you return back from France. Walking along them pales in comparison to those in East Sussex. The Seven Sisters that are found east of Beachy head all the way to Seaford and something really to behold.
Wave action contributes towards the erosion of cliffs around Beachy Head, which experience frequent small rock falls. Since chalk forms in layers separated by contiguous bands of flints, the physical structure affects how the cliffs erode. Wave action undermines the lower cliffs, causing frequent slab failures - slabs from layers of chalk break off, undermining the upper parts of the cliffs, which eventually collapse. In contrast to small rock falls, mass movements are less common.
A Geologist or an individual fascinated by Physical Geography of our planet will have a more monumental day than those who simply enjoy the scenery and a good walk in the fresh sea air. The signs of weathering, attrition, longshore drift, the power of Glaciers and plate tectonics can be seen for miles and all around you as you head west towards the seven sisters and its various peaks and troughs. I must say, it brought those Geography lessons flooding back to me, that I remember so fondly.
Regular viewers of this channel will know no trip would not be complete without a YouTube video documenting the day's adventures. I would like to present to you:
"Walking the Seven Sisters"
If you are considering making a weekend out of it or simply think it wise to stay at least one night in the town of Eastbourne, Seaford or one of the many villages that dot the South Downs. There are a number of options to choose from to suit all budgets. Over the years, I've had the fortune to stay in an array of hotels, apartments and various forms of accommodation while travelling. For the majority of travellers, I recommend Booking.com - yes there are hotel comparison websites such as Trivago and Kayak. However, from my years of travel experience, I've discovered both of these comparison websites do not have all the hotels, hostels and apartments listed. The reasons behind this could be some premises simply do not pay the comparison sights a fee or the reason could be something else. If you know of the reason do leave a comment below. However, I have discovered no matter what the location Booking.com will 9/10ths of the time have the most competitive deal and generally the most choice. However, if you are super keen to get the best deal- use Booking.com, Kayak, Trivago, Lastminute.com and Hotels.com in separate browser windows.
An alternative which I do recommend for your accommodation is Airbnb. The authorities still allow Airbnb in the UK (it hasn't been banned just yet). I've booked a number of apartments via Airbnb. If you have not used them before (you have probably been living under a rock). But if you use this referral link you will get many Dollars, Pounds or Euros off your first booking and I'll get a very small referral kickback. I'm an Airbnb host as well as a frequent Airbnb traveller. I love Airbnb because not only does it make travelling more affordable but it also allows you to stay off the beaten track. Staying with a local or in your own cottage is far more unique than staying in a generic hotel you could find anywhere in the world. Use the map below to search for the perfect Airbnb stay within walking distance of the Seven Sisters Coastal walk.
I hope you have a great time at the Seven Sisters should you visit. I am not sponsored by the British Government or any Travel Group, I simply have written this post as I enjoy travelling. Please do check out this blog for more independent travel ideas and my YouTube Channel.
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Thank you - Alex van Terheyden AKA The Wondering Englishman