Friday, March 15, 2013

Walking the Seven Sisters, at last

Because of the weather, we haven't been able to do our usual walks. It was a relief yesterday to finally get out for a walk. We had a plan: The Plan: Get up early, eat breakfast, stay offline, catch an early bus to Cuckmere Haven, then walk east along the tops of the Seven Sisters, arriving at the end, the National Trust place in Birling Gap just in time for lunch overlooking the water. Then walk out to East Dean to catch the bus home. The Reality: Got up shortly before 10am, got online, shower, breakfast, realize the time and get down to the bus stop at 12:15. Moved to Plan B, which was take the bus directly to East Dean and lunch in the Tiger Inn, a favorite old pub. Then, walk to Birling Gap and go west along the tops of the Seven Sisters ending at Cuckmere Haven to catch the bus. It was actually kind of nice to have a hearty lunch before starting the walk. I had really underestimated the difficulty of the walk. Think about it - Seven Sisters means 7 very steep uphills and 7 very steep downhills. This isn't so bad in normal conditions but there was a lot of mud and some snow and nearly the whole way was slippery, which meant that every single step was more difficult than normal. It was a tough walk, but it was so fantastic to be out in nature, walking on the cliffs over the sea. I don't know what it is about walking like this, but it's so soothing to the soul, somehow. This first picture is looking back at the way we had come. That red speck in the middle, is a barn and it's about half way between East Dean and Birling Gap. You get some idea of the snow that remained in patches, particularly on the down side of the hills. There were two markers along the way. The first commemorated the gift of 'Michel Dene' to the National Trust by the landowner, a Mr. Robertson,to honor two brothers lost in WWI. The other was a 'Sarsen Stone' given by Viscount Gage of Firle and commemorating the gift that made another part of the South Downs Way public land in the 1920's. This is the 'Sarsen Stone' one. Viscount Gage of Firle is from the same Gage family as General Gage, who kinda lost the Revolutionary War. Just a small historical side comment, nothing to do with the walk. Also, kind of irrelevant is that a sarsen stone is some kind of glacial remnant. It's apparently something special, I don't know what exactly, but it's what Stonehenge is built from, partly. The next picture is looking back toward Birling Gap at one point we saw these falls of chalk. There have been a lot of warnings locally about the effects of this year's storms on the chalk cliffs. It's dangerous to go near the edge now and also the tides and especially storm tides are really dangerous to those walking the beaches below the cliffs. You can't see it well, but there's a little point of cliff that sticks out just below the falls and it had a deep crack in it, so it's going to fall soon. Another delightful moment on the walk was a circle of chalk we encountered. No explanation of who made it or why, but it was lovely to see, especially at a time when we had climbed what we thought was the last hill and discovered there was one even steeper and higher ahead. The chalk circle lifted our hearts at the right moment. This is looking back at the COG and the circle. The white in the photo is snow, not chalk, btw. All of these pictures can't capture the sound of the wind and the sea birds and the smell of the fresh air which together made the walk wonderful. Finally we reached Cuckmere Haven, with only 3/4 mile or so to walk out to the bus stop. We were very tired and sore because we are old and slow and the slippery slopes made it a difficult walk. When the COG checked his Fitbit pedometer, we had done 14,000+ steps and the equivalent of 84 staircases. A little disappointing because we did 17,000 steps (but fewer staircases) the day we spent in London and were much less tired then. But it was still a great day. Here's Cuckmere Haven, which has kind of an interesting history involving smugglers, Victorian engineering, World War II shenanigans, and modern Conservation - Ecology considerations.  But more about that another time.

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