A Walk From Seaford To Berwick Station

With my gardening enthusiasm washed away by heavy rain, here’s a post about something else.

On a sunny Saturday in September, I walked into Seaford to meet my friend Tracy for a day’s walk.   Whereas I prefer walking alone, Tracy is sociable.  Not only has she recently joined The Ramblers but she now leads their walks too and, having plotted a new route on the map, she invited me along to check its suitability for a large Goretex phalanx.  (On the big day, a few weeks later, she led 36 people on this ten-mile walk.  36!!).

Seaford Head

We climbed the springy turf of Seaford Head at the east end of the beach and, swivelling, gazed over the town, Newhaven and, on the left-hand horizon, Brighton.

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Despite this beautiful coast lying on my doorstep, I haven’t featured it on my blog before.  Which is odd given that one of England’s finest views is about an hour’s walk from my front door.

Seven Sisters (1)

The Seven Sisters

And here it is.  The Seven Sisters – a line of eight (!?) chalk hills abruptly sliced by the sea.

Seven Sisters (2)

The Seven Sisters aren’t as famous as their Dover cousins but they’re whiter, far more striking and less built up.  As such they are often used as a cinematic and photographic stand-in for the (not as) white cliffs of Dover.  They also mark the beginning of the end of the South Downs Way, which hugs the cliff-tops for an exhilarating finale before Eastbourne.

Seven Sisters (3)

Haven Brow, the first sister

It does worry me if visitors get too close to the precipice though – like those two on the crest of Haven Brow.  The cliffs are blindingly white simply because of repeated land-slip, collapse and bashing from Atlantic storms.  The cliff-edge is crumbly and fatalities, not all suicidal, are quite common.

Seven Sisters (4)

The Sisters begin at Cuckmere Haven where the Cuckmere River cuts through the chalk to reach the sea beside a row of Coastguard Cottages.  No wonder it is a scene I have photographed before.

Seven Sisters (5)

In November 2011, I took a series of photos on an afternoon dog walk.

Seven Sisters (7)

For whatever reason I didn’t use the photos then.

Seven Sisters (6)

But when I came across them recently

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I thought you might like to see the cliffs under a softer light.

Cuckmere Valley (2)

Tracy’s route lay inland after Cuckmere Haven and we avoided the ups and downs of the Seven (or Eight) Sisters.   Turning our back on the English Channel, we followed the west bank of the Cuckmere River north toward Alfriston.

Cuckmere Valley (3)

Off to our right, on the far side of the valley, is enormous Friston Forest – a favourite haunt for me and my dogs over the years and where, as I have learnt, it’s all too easy to become embarrassingly lost.

Cuckmere Valley

Tracy planned a detour for her walk, off the river and up High and Over Hill – a steep climb followed by an immediate return to the river.  As I had seen the view from the hill countless times, I suggested it might be an unnecessary, arduous addition and muttered mutinously when she insisted.   Grudgingly, I conceded she was right as we gained height to slowly reveal the meandering river

Cuckmere Valley (5)

and ahead to Litlington.  I hate it when Tracy is right and I’m not.

Cuckmere Valley (4)

The view back to the Haven wasn’t half bad either.

Rathfinny Estate

Before we dropped back to rejoin the river we glimpsed the impressive Rathfinny Estate vineyard.  This is brand spanking new but, I think, a welcome addition to the South Downs.  Rathfinny is continuing a long tradition of Sussex wine-making but nearby Breaky Bottom Winery has the better name.

Litlington

Litlington, which we now aimed for, wasn’t on our itinerary today – and that’s always a regret.  There’s a decent pub, The Plough and Harrow, a great tea garden as well as an independent plant nursery.  I used to work in the gardens of a Manor House in Litlington owned by a well-known musician – but I’m not going to tell you who. Irritating, huh?

Alfriston Church and Clergy House

Now on the east side of the river we by-passed Litlington and reached Alfriston opposite St Andrew’s Church with, next door, the National Trust’s first acquisition, The Clergy House.

Alfriston

A handy bridge led is into the centre of the village.  Alfriston is as pretty a place as you could wish for – with the resultant crowds you might imagine.  But on a warm Saturday lunchtime it was surprisingly quiet and we grabbed a table in the beer garden of my favourite Alfriston pub:

The George Alfriston (1)

The George, of course.  Unusually, my food wasn’t up to much but, after three hours hot walking, I was happy enough with a pint of cold shandy.

Alfriston Village Store

As if Alfriston isn’t quintessentially English enough, the Village Store underlines the point.  (I had to restrain myself from automatic weeding mode).

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The Cuckmere valley winds through the north escarpment of the Downs and after leaving the village, with no more big climbs ahead, most of our walk was done and the remainder easy-going.

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The ground flattened as we approached the tiny village of Berwick.

Berwick Church

We paused at the church and tried the door for a peek at Duncan Grant’s famous paintings.  Sadly it was locked (and remained so however much Tracy rattled).  I was disappointed as I wanted to see his murals again.  From a previous visit, I remember being underwhelmed but I wanted to check whether I hadn’t been mistaken.  (Duncan Grant was one of the Bloomsbury Group from nearby Charleston Farmhouse).

The Cricketers Berwick

Near the church is another favourite pub, The Cricketers Arms.  I say favourite but I haven’t visited for years and even though I demanded beer, held my breath, turned red and stamped my feet, Tracy grasped me firmly by the scruff of the neck and frogmarched me away.  Oh, well.  It was worth a try and it’s good to have an excuse to walk this way again and see those Grant murals.  (And visit The Cricketers).

The last couple of miles were fairly tiring across muddy fields, following a sometimes elusive path to the station.  Trains are once an hour and, if you arrive early like we did, there’s another pub The Berwick Inn next door.  It’s OK, I suppose, just not as nice as The Cricketers, Tracy.

(Trains to Seaford run from Brighton and Lewes; from Berwick, services are to Eastbourne or Lewes and Brighton.  Change at Lewes to return to Seaford).

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46 thoughts on “A Walk From Seaford To Berwick Station

  1. Stunning photos as always. A pleasure to read about a walk close to home for you and also so familiar to me.
    I must commend you on combining ‘goretex’ and ‘phalanx’ in the same sentence. Inspired!
    Caro

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A beautiful description of your walk. Some years ago I did some of this walk but in reverse. We started at the Long Man, somehow Alfriston was involved and we ended up at Cuckmere. My main memory is of the heavens opening in the last ten minutes or so and getting as wet as I could remember.

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    • The Downs can play that trick, Philip. I’ve been caught so many times up there in perfect weather only to be suddenly and completely drenched. Shame you didn’t get to see the views at the end though. Might be time to revisit? D

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Dave, many congratulations on your award this week. Blog of the year… wow! Very much deserved, I always enjoy reading your blog and your photos are always spot-on. Wishing you more successful blogging next year. Helen

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  4. Thanks for the lovely pics David, it was a fab day wasn’t it? When I led the walk for the Ramblers a few weeks later (huge group! HUGE!) it was also gorgeous weather and a good job we stopped in Alfriston where there was a choice of lunch venues including a very nice village green because otherwise some of the group would have been stuffed (not by lunch but in terms of no food- Ramblers complain about no food..). Seriously, if anyone wants to come walking in Sussex, the Brighton and Hove Ramblers Group (BAHR) are a nice bunch, even if I do say so myself. PS Dave, shame on you for making me sound like Ms Jean Brodie (brooks no nonsense etc) – words will be had..

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    • Oh dear. Sounds like I’m in trouble again, Miss (Jean Brodie). I’m doubly glad I wasn’t on your organised walk. Not only almost 40 people (yikes) but no pub stop either. Wot no beer? It was a smashing day though wasn’t it? Especially hearing Jim & George were crammed into a cattle truck on their way to Cardiff as we sat chortling in the pub garden. Planning another walk? Me, me, me! Dxx

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  5. Stunning photos and scenery. We visited various parts of the walk several years ago. We were actually staying in Camber Sands near Rye but fancied visiting further up the coast. I remember the day we walked out of Seaford it was blowing a hoolie. Always a bit disconcerting when you’re on a cliff. We loved Alfriston and Cuckmere Haven, and the Seven Sisters are such a spectacular sight rising above the beach. You live in a very beautiful part of the world.

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    • Thanks Lou (though I had to look up hoolie!). Camber certainly has its charms but doesn’t quite compare to the Seaford – Eastbourne stretch in terms of drama. Now that I don’t have dogs any more I walk along cliff edges more often. I always worried that they would shoot over the edge in hot pursuit of a rabbit. It is a very beautiful part of the world but the West Country is still calling to us. D

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      • I spotted on Soren’s Flaneur blog you might be moving. Might that be to the West Country? I don’t blame you. We’d love to move there, if Wellyman’s work would allow. Maybe we need to try harder to find a way to make a move there work. We’re lucky to be only two hours away from Dorset and Devon. When the call of the sea is proving to strong we have been known to go for the day. Really bad for the environment but good for the soul. Good luck with everything. Fingers crossed you and your family get to where your heart is calling you. Hope you’ve haven’t got too sore a head after last night’s celebrations. Lou

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        • No Lou, we’re staying down in Sussex for the time being until our boy finishes school in a couple of year’s time. But Gloucestershire (west from us!) is looking pretty likely thereafter. We don’t know anyone in either Devon or Dorset and would fear the isolation of living somewhere we know no-one. But who knows where we might end up? The Lakes? Isle of Skye? Berlin? I think of you living in the West Country but then you’re near the Wye, aren’t you, so perhaps that doesn’t count. No sore head, ta – at least not yet. Dave

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    • Thanks Amelia. Seems like Tracy could’ve had 37 ramblers with her (I’m not sure she would’ve been happy though. She normally has half that number). I’m sitting by the phone waiting for the Tourist Board to call as I type. D

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  6. Quintessential, idyllic English countryside! Thank you for sharing this beautiful scenery with your stunning photos, David, each one is like a postcard. Maybe this could be a sideline and you could peddle them at the Village Store. 😉

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  7. Love it! And I think it’s much better to review the public houses on the way rather than caravan sites (which pre-occupy the mind of a certain walker around the Welsh coast who I will not name other than to mention that he rhymes with a watering can!). Shame that you weren’t allowed to experience the insides more. I wonder if I’m alone in having a naughty little snigger at that finest view though you seem to have Photoshopped the feet out!

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    • I’m happy to say that there are no caravan site on this walk, John and so Charles would be disappointed. And I did shed a few tears over the lovely pubs I wasn’t allowed to visit – but then I suppose my walk would have been all the shorter if I had. I’m delighted you had a naughty snigger but I’m afraid I don’t quite understand the photoshopped feet!? Sorry, I’m glacially slow on the uptake. Still, a laugh’s a laugh. Dave

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  8. What a spectacular landscape….Your photos are stunningly beautiful, and as usual, very much enjoy your observations. Wish you led tours yourself,(subtle hint), but am going to look into perhaps joining the Ramblers, if they accept out of country members. Really agree with Lyn. Very inspiring,,,Thanks : )

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  9. Grey here too in Aberdeen. I too really enjoyed your walk with the wonderful photographs. I always love the countryside down there, having been brought up not so far away near Portsmouth. I was surprised to see you have a Berwick and I started wondering how many there were in the UK and what the name means. I couldn’t easily find the answer to the first question, but apparently it means Barley Farm so there are probably quite a few! Thanks Google.

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  10. Gosh, I am feeling so excited about our move. I just watched my first TV programme in months, on Great Dixter, this evening and now these incredible photos. What an amazing country it is. Just really think you should have given the Post Office a bit of a hand. How could you have left those weeds there?

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    • We are planning (long term) on moving away from Sussex, Janna but there is so much I’m going to miss about this corner of England – Great Dixter included. And now I feel guilty about those weeds, so thanks for that ;0

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  11. You’ve just written about one of our favourite walks. We spent the night at Rathfinney in the summer and had a good supper in The Ox pub just the other side of Alfriston. We walked long and hard both days and had fantastic weather so it felt like we’d been on holiday. Your photographs are a tonic on a November day.

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    • Hi, I know The Sussex Ox at Wilmington well. (There’s a bit of a theme going on here with Sussex pubs, isn’t there)? They do a good Sunday roast! I’ve been meaning to visit Rathfinney – and not just walk past it – but didn’t realise you could stay there too. What a treat and I’ve made a note. Dave

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