The stunning scenery at Birling Gap, by the white Seven Sisters cliffs, belies the ferocious waves that can beat against the chalk here. This re-visit revealed ongoing erosion, as the steel steps down to the beach had become free-standing and an extension platform was being added for access. The National Trust cafe and associated buildings remain, a great vantage point on a stormy day. This is a beach and setting that stay in your mind’s eye long after any visit.
The restorative effect of the beach for Jo and David.
A magnificent vista on a misty morning at Birling Gap.
This is a stunning natural setting for a beach, under the high, white Seven Sisters, one of the longest stretches of undeveloped coastline on the south coast. Moving to the coast from ancient downland, you can find yourself rock pooling below towering cliffs of chalk. Spectacular, unspoilt views of the sea emerge from all angles. There’s a National Trust café and bar on the cliff top, while the beach below is a great example of a marine nature reserve. The cliffs are eroding at up to one metre a year. On this visit, the stormy sea was tearing at the cliffs on a high tide. If you venture inland to Crowlink, the area is rich with butterflies and downland flowers. Nearby sites of archaeological interest, like Belle Tout neolithic enclosure, have much to tempt families too. Highly recommended.
It was a fine scene at Camber Sands for this spring re-visit, with warm weather and bright skies to complement the natural arc of the bay. Sometimes there’s a harmony among people that you can feel palpably in a natural environment and this was such an occasion. So thank you to my open interviewees.
The free-spirited Lynsey, Kristen, Jo, Andrew and Laura at Camber Sands.
A sense of the beach by the water.
Camber Sands is a popular sandy beach, with picturesque dunes and interesting wildlife, near to the village of Camber itself. The marram grass that you see covering much of the dunes has a deep root system which helps to hold the sand in place. Traditional chestnut fences along the beach help sand to build up more quickly. It’s this combination of plants and fences that prevents the dunes from moving and burying the village. There is plenty of wildlife and vegetation to see, including the brown-tail moth caterpillar, skylarks, sea spurge and the lethal berries of the black nightshade. The tide was full for this visit, running right up against the dunes.
A benign spell of weather made this a bright morning at Selsey Bill, with the inshore boats bringing whelks, crab and lobster ashore as I arrived. I asked a retired fisherman, Norman James Woodland, what the beach means to him. Before the interview, he told me traceable generations of his family had been fishing at Selsey Bill for 932 years, an unbroken chain that other families can also claim. It was therefore a great pleasure to hear his recollections of time spent aboard and on land with his father.
The western shoreline at Selsey Bill is being protected and managed in two ways, with the West Sands Coastal Protection Scheme guarding the beach at the Holiday Park and the Medmerry Managed Realignment Scheme being developed by the Environment Agency. That beach is on Manhood Peninsula, the most southerly tip of West Sussex. This visit was to the eastern beach. It’s a base for inshore fishermen and well known for Selsey crab, as well as hosting the Lifeboat Station. The current station will soon be replaced by a new boat and launching system, as explained by coxswain Martin Rudwick, below.