My Post

Stacy, over at Microcosm, recently wrote about breaking free from the confines of the garden and enjoying some Big Views and Big Sky, “Skies that soar without hindrance and landscapes that stretch to the ends of the compass rose“. Well if it is good enough for Stacy …

On a gloriously sunny if cold Saturday morning Jim, Solo – the Stinky Terrier – and I hopped in the car and rattled east along the coast road towards Eastbourne.  We drove through the sleepy seaside town of Seaford, down into the beautiful valley of Cuckmere Haven and up the other side and, a short while later, arrived at an expanse of open Downland called Crowlink.

This is land owned by the National Trust and, I believe, leased out to a sheep farmer as pasture.  Nevertheless, it is open access land for walkers.

And what an impressive and exhilarating place it is.  The soft, springy turf (kept close-cropped by rabbits and those sheep) is a joy to walk on.  The views are vast, the sky close by and, directly to the south, lies the English Channel.

Not many shrubs and trees grow here; it is after all exposed to the full fury of storms rushing up the Channel from the Atlantic.  But there are a few stunted pines, gorse and …

… hawthorn; clipped by the prevailing southerly wind.

Near the car park is a perfectly ordinary strained wire fence.  If you walk along that fence, after a couple of hundred yards, you’ll come to a kissing gate between two straining posts.  And it is one of these posts that I wanted to see.  Because I put it in.  Yeah, me.

That one there.  The braced post to the left of the ‘gate.  In the summer of 1999, I was enrolled in a forestry course and ploughing my way through one of the many modules that we had to complete in order to graduate.  Strained wire fencing.  Ugh, those three words still make me shudder.  What a tedious task strained wire fencing is.  Digging post holes, hammering in posts, attaching wires and netting and, every so often, erecting a braced post (a straining post) that will stand up to the enormous pressure exerted when pulling the wires taught.  Can’t say that I fell head over heels in love with SWF, especially as we seemed to do so much of it.  There are several lengths of fencing dotted about Sussex; in Heathfield, in Uckfield and just outside Lewes, as well as this one here at Crowlink.  Fencing that I have muttered and cursed over, spilt blood, sweat and tears over. The ground at Crowlink is an inch or two of baked soil above solid chalk and flint.   Imagine digging a post hole in to that!  I haven’t done any fencing since 1999 and I don’t suppose I ever will again.  And do you know what?  Good riddance.

Me and my post

But I did want to see whether the straining post at Crowlink, my straining post, was still there.  I hadn’t seen it in almost 13 years (sorry, I’m welling up) and I had wondered whether I had put it in properly.  Whether I had done a good enough job.  So to see that post of strong sweet-chestnut, still solid as a rock and looking like it has been there for decades, was pleasing.   It’ll probably outlive me.  My post.  I felt quite proud.

Anyway, we’ll leave the fence behind now and continue walking south toward the sea.  You will shortly begin to catch glimpses of flashing white to left and right.

Because here, between Brighton and Eastbourne, the South Downs break through to the sea.  And the ceaseless onslaught of the Channel has sliced into the chalk to create the famous, dazzling white cliffs of South East England.  (Further east, where the North Downs reach the coast, are the White Cliffs of Dover).

To our left, eastwards, a pair of walkers head off toward Belle Tout lighthouse; a building that relatively recently was moved.  Yep, ‘they’ moved it because it was in danger of falling into the sea.   Hauled it 165 feet inland.  How impressive is that?  (If you’re interested,you can read more about that feat – here).

Look westward and you realise how easy it would be to stumble over the cliff-edge.  No warning signs here, no fences or protective barriers.  No crowds either.  Head a few miles further east to Birling Gap or Beachy Head and, on a day like this, you’ll struggle to park your car and likely be picked up and carried against your will by hordes of day trippers.

But here at Crowlink you have the sky and the Downs,

the cliffs and the sea pretty much to yourself.  And nearby is the pretty little village of East Dean with its smashing pub, The Tiger.

They brew their own beer at The Tiger, you know.  Good stuff too.  Time for a spot of lunch and a pint, I think.  Shall we head back up to the car?

20 thoughts on “My Post

  1. What a great paddock to lease(although i wouldn’t want to be a sheep not much cover) and an amazing spot for a wee walk. Pub for lunch………can’t get much better. 10/10 for the straining post, i do know how hard they are to do as i have helped hubby many a time with the crowbar as we have volcanic soil and lots and lots of large rocks to move before the posts go in.

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  2. So alien….all that chalk. I often think when (if) I retire, I might go and live on chalk or limestone – anything to get away from the clay. Interesting that your straining post is chestnut. Here, fencing is almost always larch – which rots less fast than the available alternatives. Don’t tell me you dug the post hole by hand? In advanced countries, such as Scotland, we use tractors with one of those corkscrew things attached.

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    • Blimey, Mr K from one extreme to …… Stick with your clay – it’s more versatile. My garden is on chalk – it’s terribly, terribly dry. Though perhaps take one step down on the clay ladder, don’t have such extreme, full-on clay next time? Yep, sweet-chestnut is the favoured fencing material down here but I doubt much of it grows up with you which would explain why you use larch? A tractor? With a corkscrew thing? Namby pamby or what? Down here we like to dig post holes by hand and by the sweat of our brow. (In all honesty I think we were just free labour for the National Trust)!

      D

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  3. What beautiful scenery and weather. Thanks for the brief travel guide. We’re visiting East Sussex this summer for a week so it’s good to see what the area is like. That pub looks pretty. Will have to make a note of it. Hope the skies are as blue as that when we visit, although I hope it’s a tad warmer!!! I love the hawthorns sculptured by the wind. They reminded me of the trees near my favourite beach in Cornwall.

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  4. Stunning photos and sceneries David, I would have loved to do that walk myself, gorgeous part of the country! And all those blue skies, sigh! Dreaming of warmer times already…

    I only realised until recently that your blog is not automatically updating on our blog roll, hence a delayed reply. I’ve deleted and retyped your url on our page and it seems to have rectified the problem. Nice jacket btw!

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    • Despite the sun and blue skies – it was perishing, with an icy wind from the North.

      I had realised that links on other people’s sites hadn’t updated (I had thought they would) – must get round to telling them!

      D

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  5. What lovely photos. We used to visit your neck of the woods often and know the Cuckmere fairly well, although I’m not sure about Crow Links. We are hoping to get to Middle Farm at the weekend, although that will depend on my mother-in-law’s health. She used to live in Seaford until she needed to go into a home a couple of years ago. She’s not great at the moment. She seems to be slipping away, but it’s hard to know what the exact time scale is likely to be.

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    • Driving across the Cuckmere valley on Saturday was quite astonishing in the bright winter sun. Sorry to hear your news, Karin – it must be a very hard time for you.

      Enjoy Middle Farm (you must still be quite local).

      Dave

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  6. Dave, do you know what an absolute sweetheart you are? You just made my day–thank you. What a glorious day you picked for an outing–wow! Hard to improve on that sky. Or the sea, or the cliffs, or the downs… The colors are so vibrant and alive. I actually gasped aloud at some of your photos. I’ve been almost opposite on the other side of the channel before (at Dieppe, with my Mom), but it was a drizzly, low-clouds day and we certainly couldn’t see the English side (or really, much of anything). But we insisted that we were enjoying ourselves (as we picked our away along the slippery, pebbly beach in the wind and bone-chilling damp) because gosh darn it, there we were.

    Lovely post, Dave, in more ways than one. Even Solo looks approving (if that’s possible).

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    • Aww. Very pleased to have pleased you, Stacy. And yes, Dieppe is pretty much opposite us (you can catch the ferry to it from nearby Newhaven – and we have, several times) – funny to think of you there, being New Mexican and all!

      It is a beautiful stretch of coast. I’m a terror for not appreciating what’s right on my doorstep. I’m going walking for a few days soon, in Yorkshire and the Lake District, and am so excited, and yet here where I live is some of the very best walking country. Right in front of my nose!

      I think Solo looks approving because she could smell a dog biscuit in my pocket!

      Dave

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  7. If I hadn’t known better, I would have said you were in Orkney with all these big skies and sculpted trees. And putting in fencing… some of our first attempts fell over… We obviously didn’t have your training or expertise.
    Wonderful photos of the cliffs and the sea and you and the dog. Good to see they let you out from time to time.
    PS Did you carve your initials in the straining post first time around?

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    • No initial in this post, Janet. But there is another I did that I might have to go and visit (gosh, but I know how to live) that is initialled. They don’t let me out sadly – I ran away … but got caught and dragged back.

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  8. Gulp! Still trying to swallow lump in throat ater that emotional ‘post shot’. You must be very proud…
    ‘Mahoosively’ jealous of your location…quite stunning.

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  9. I’m sure the straining post alone made the walk worthwhile, but thank you for sharing that fabulous landscape, there is something about being able to see lots of sky that is always uplifting, and couple it with the sea, and you make me very happy indeed. Did the pub allow you to enter with your smelly terrier?!

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  10. Wow – wonderful scenery and big skies – I seem to recognise that pub and monument from a television drama series about a doctors’ practice between the wars! I bet you felt quite invigorated after your great walk in stunning surroundings. Great straining post by the way.

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