South Downs


We are in East Sussex, at a hotel spa and golf complex meting up with Lyn’s Uncle, Ray and his wife, Sue for a couple of days exploring the area.  The hotel complex lies about 8 miles south of the town of Uckfield and we are about 30 minutes drive from the south coast, Eastbourne, Beachy Head and the famous Seven Sisters.

We met at Sheffield House, a National Trust property about twenty minutes drive from our base.  There is a rather grand house (closed to the public) and a large garden and woodland walk which was lovely to walk around in the warm sunshine.

Sheffield House National Trust Garden – Clockwise from top left:  Japanese Maple by the Lake; Lakeside view; Ray and Lyn pose in a woodland sculpture; Old shrub.

Some of the flowers on view at Sheffield House

Our first full day was blessed with glorious sunshine, as we headed for Birling Gap.  We had planned a circular walk from Birling Gap up to Beachy Head and beyond towards Eastbourne, before turning north and heading back down the valley towards the start point.  When we arrived at the car park several large coaches had already arrived and were busy disgorging their young passengers. who were heading noisily up the hill towards Beachy Head.

Beachy Head walk Clockwise from top left: Sue, Ray and I take in the view; The Belle Tout Tower; Looking back towards Birling Gap; We escape as the hoards appear over the hill!

Top:  Panorama from Birling Gap; Bottom:  We pose for pictures

We followed but were soon left alone to enjoy the views, and the walk along the cliff top. The route continued until just above Eastbourne before turning north and then west back down a valley.  We ended up at the Cafe at Birling Gap for a well earned coffee and cake.

Four views of the famous Beachy Head Lighthouse

Top left:  Flowers right on the cliff edge; Top right: Wind blown tree on Beachy Head; Bottom:  Two boats create art in the water.

Top:  Lone tree; Bottom left; Lunch on the cliff top; Bottom right: Curious lambs.

The second day of our stay, we awoke to a miserable grey sky, very cool, with dark clouds covering the Downs to the south of us.  We decided on a visit to Eastbourne but parking away on the cliff top, to give us the opportunity of a walk along the last part of the South Downs Way onto the Esplanade. We parked at the Beachy Head car park and walked the cliff path down to Eastbourne in drizzly rain.  Low grey cloud hung over the town giving it a slightly drab and run down look.

Contrasting days in Eastbourne.  Left: Our first days walk; Right: One day later – a typical English scene!

The walk along the esplanade to the pier was quite pleasant, considering the the poor weather creating a drab grey atmosphere. The pier, despite some tacky souvenir stores at the entrance, was surprisingly smart, if a little short compared to others we have visited.

The architecture on the sea front was typically English Seaside, but looked a little jaded and careworn.  When we eventually turned away from the esplanade walk towards the town in search of a coffee shop, the buildings appeared even more scruffy and unkempt, another sad reflection of the gradual decline of the English seaside resort.

Left: Start/end of the South Downs Way walk (Depending on your direction of travel); Right: Me, Sue and Ray on the Esplanade.


Top and Centre: Two views of the Pier; Bottom:  Panorama of Eastbourne seafront from the Pier.

More images of the Pier

After coffee and lunch we retraced our steps along the esplanade and up the hills back to the car park and home after a short walk around a nearby nature reserve.

Heading back to Beachy Head car park

The final place to visit for our meet up was to Standen House and Garden, another National Trust property near East Grinstead.  The garden was excellent, with views across the lovely Sussex countryside.  Well established Azaleas and Rhododendrons  with colourful and varied borders made this a wonderful place to walk around and relax in.

Some of the colour at Standen House Garden

Top: Two Irises in flower; Bottom left: Not sure but very pretty flower; Bottom right; a pause in a Wisteria covered Arbour 

After coffee and cake it was time to part.  We had the longer drive home whilst Ray and Sue elected to visit the house which by all accounts had a very interesting history, something for another day.

Despite the changeable weather (nothing unusual for the UK) we had a lovely few days catching up.  The south coast is an area of the country we do not visit enough and I hope will one day return.


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