138. Rottingdean to Seaford

October 2005

After the dearth of cliffs on the previous walks, it was chalk cliffs galore on this walk, though it was not all cliffs as I did also have a port and estuary to walk around, in the shape of Newhaven. I ended in the quiet but beautifully located town of Seaford.

For this walk I was travelling from home. I drove down via the M23 and A23 and B2123 to avoid the centre of Brighton. I parked in the sea front car park I had found at the end of my last walk.

My walk last time had been under sunny skies, sadly today it was grey and overcast, and the sea front at Rottingdean did not look especially welcoming, with the concrete sea wall and some dreary flats.

The sea front at Rottingdean

The sea front at Rottingdean

Once again I had a choice of routes, since there seemed to be a lower path at the base of the cliffs (part of the coastal defences, I expect) as well as a cliff top footpath. I opted for the top, as the views would be better and I wanted to make the most of having cliffs to walk on again!

The coast west of Rottingdean

The path followed the grass along the top of the cliffs, though the A259 was close by. There was a gentle climb out of Rottingdean but then the path was more or less level, with fine views of the cliffs ahead. It was only about half a mile though before the path was descending again, this time into Saltdean, though it is not that easy to work out where Rottingdean ends and Saltdean begins.

Saltdean

I don’t know a lot about Saltdean other than it has an historic Grade II listed Lido, though it has only been open only intermittently over recent years (it is currently closed). It was October I suppose, but the sea front here was practically deserted.

The coast at Saltdean

A track, wide enough for cars, ran down to the track at the bottom of the cliffs here, but this also marked the point where the lower path ended and the only option was the cliff top path (or perhaps making your way along the shingle beach).

I soon reached the end of Saltdean where there was s short stretch of undeveloped coast. A sign warned me that “Nudism allowed on this beach”, though there were few people about and they all seemed to be clothed from what I could see.

The coast at Saltdean

The coast just east of Saltdean

At the western edge of Telscombe there was track down to the shore line. I followed it and there seemed to be some sort of works here. A pumping station or sewage outlet perhaps, as there was a deep channel of water here and a building behind it. Still the beach was quite nice now and the land seemed to be layered, with the cliffs quite yellow at the top, but the white chalk at the bottom.

The beach at Saltdean

The beach at Saltdean looking east

Clearly the cliffs were eroding though as I could see the cliff top fence partly hanging down the cliff face, the posts having eroded off the cliff top.

The beach at Saltdean looking east

Back up to the cliff top I continued with a good grassy path along the cliff top, though a new fence had been built a bit back from the old one that had fallen off the cliffs. It is rather a shame this whole stretch of coastline, from Rottingdean, seems to have been fenced.

The coast at Telscombe

Ahead the area of grass became much narrower, as houses were built on the south side of the A259 now, too. Thankfully the path continued behind the backs of the gardens, so I did not have to head inland. Soon I came across what I thought was a memorial but when I got closer I saw that it was in fact a marker for the Greenwich meridian, and it was erected in 1936. So I’ve now crossed from the western Hemisphere to the eastern Hemisphere!

Greenwich Meridian marker at Peacehaven

I got my GPS out to check and it did indeed show I was (almost) at 0 degrees east (the accuracy of a GPS is such I couldn’t get it to exactly 0.000).

Greenwich Meridian marker at Peacehaven

Onward past the meridian marker there was soon another car wide track cut down into the cliffs to give access to the beach. I headed down wanting to be closer to the sea. East from here there was a concrete wall below the cliff face again. It was not clear from the map how far it went, but I decided this time to follow it for a change.

The coast at Peacehaven

It was quiet and in places the sea had been splashing over the top, so I had to be careful.

The coast at Peacehaven

I left the path when I came to the next access point and returned to the cliff top. I continued on the top of the cliffs, once more on a good grassy path passing through Peacehaven which did indeed seem to be peaceful.

The coast at Peacehaven

In the distance I soon could see the small lighthouse that marked the western mouth of Newhaven harbour but the rest of the town was out of sight.

I looked down straight over the cliffs and was interested in the patterns in the beach. Below the cliffs are areas of chalk, in fact this is the base of where the cliffs once were and have been eroded away.

The coast at Peacehaven

The coast at Peacehaven

Part way through Peacehaven there was again access down to the beach. So I took this and again found the concrete wall had started again. So I followed it below the towering cliffs. the cliff face was very straight, perhaps where the sea wall had prevented further erosion.

The coast at Peacehaven

Below me though I was fascinated by the areas of chalk revealed as the tide went out.

The coast at Peacehaven

This is what I was seeing from the cliff top, but it was much more interesting at sea level where there were random bits of chalk left, mixed in with the shingle. This is the base of the once towering cliffs, eroded away into interesting patterns. I took some “arty” photos of the white rocks, the reflections in the pools of water and the shingle.

The coast at Peacehaven

The coast at Peacehaven

It was lovely down there and the sun even made a brief appearance. But soon I had reached the end of the lower path. Thankfully at the end there was at least access back to the cliff top so I did not have to go back. When I reached the cliff top I realised I had reached the end of Peacehaven, too. Perhaps this is why the wall ended, with now town above the cliffs ahead to protect from erosion.

The coast at Peacehaven

At last too, that annoying fence along the cliff top had ended too, and the coast ahead was now quite rural.

The coast east of Peacehaven

The chalk cliffs gently undulated ahead with a lovely short grassy path over it, making for easy walking. There was a caravan park along here but it was at least set far enough back it did not really mar the view much. In places the cliffs were eroding fast and you could see whole areas that had slumped. It seems there are layers to the coast here, with softer clay on top and chalk further down.

The coast east of Peacehaven

The coast at Newhaven Heights

This was a glorious stretch of coast, with beautiful views ahead to Seaford head in the distance and soon of the harbour at Newhaven.

The coast at Newhaven Heights

The path took to the coastal side of the village of Harbour Heights ahead and beyond this was a very eroded area. The path went up and down over eroded parts of the cliff in quite a few places. This is Newhaven Heights and there is also a fort, Newhaven Fort, another of the Palmerston forts. Below me was the breakwater of Newhaven Harbour and I soon came to the remains of some World War II gun emplacements on the cliff top, as clearly defending the port was important during the war.

The coast at Newhaven Heights

The coast at Newhaven Heights

They were now slowly rotting away and I hope they are never needed again.

Old World War II buildings at Newhaven

Ahead I had come to Newhaven Fort so had to take paths along the inland walls of this to head down overlooking the harbour. Newhaven is a port and still (just about) sustains a ferry service to Dieppe in France. This has been through various operators and periods where no ferry operated. Last year the ferry was again under threat after Eurotunnel started a court case claiming that the subsidy of the route was unfair competition for their services. Thankfully the service is to continue for another 4 years, this time operated by DFDS though at the time of this walk it was operated by a company called Transmanche Ferries and I could see their bright yellow ferry in the harbour ahead.

Newhaven harbour

The path joined Fort Road and I was soon passing alongside a boat yard at sea level again.

Newhaven harbour

The next challenge was to get over the harbour mouth and to do this I have to had about a mile inland to the A259 road. Beyond the marina I followed beside the rather grotty road alongside the harbour. I soon came to the A259 and crossed the busy road, which also seems to have a swing bridge to allow ships further inland though I am not sure that it still swings.

Once over the river there was an area of industry and docks to my right so I continued ahead to cross the railway line at the level crossing alongside Newhaven Town station. Once over it, I turned right along Railway Road. This part of Newhaven seemed particularly run down and it was not an area I wanted to linger. I continued past the access to Newhaven Harbour station on the right. Although still in use the port area felt very derelict.

Just past the station I could pick up a footpath alongside the railway line with a view over to the old ghost station of Newhaven Marine on the other side of Mill Creek. This station was once served by special “Boat Trains” (pre the Channel Tunnel) from London Victoria to connect with the ferries over to Dieppe. Although the ferries no longer run from this part of the port and the terminal is now derelict, incredibly the train does still run every weekday – except that no one can got on and no one can get off (not even the driver and guard)  because the station is derelict and fenced off. You can see it in this video (not mine).

Newhaven is certainly an odd place! Soon the path crosses the railway line and is then squeezed in between the old Mill stream and the railway line.

Mill Creek at Newhaven

I was now following the route of the Vanguard Way, another long distance footpath (this one begins in Croydon) though the path did not seem well used and I felt a little apprehensive.

Mill Creek at Newhaven

In fact I later realised there does seem to be another more coastal path I could have followed but I missed the turning for it. The path soon headed away from the railway line, over flat lands which I suspect were once industrial.

A train soon passed and I was surprised to see it was one of those horrible old slam door trains. At the time I was working in central London and had had to commute on the same trains every day, but they had withdrawn (thankfully) from my line a few months earlier. Rather than have a couple of sets of doors in each carriage like most trains, these trains had doors next to every single set of seating bays. This means everytime someone wanted to get on or off they have to walk past you, often banging into your knees or standing on your feet to get to the doors. The seats were bench seats, supposedly with room for 5 passengers across the width of the train, but there wasn’t really room for 5, so they were very cramped when full. Then in order to get off you had to slide down the window, lean out of it and use the handle on the outside of the door in order to open it and get off the train as the latches on the inside had been taken out for “Health and Safety” on most of the trains. Inevitably, those getting off would then leave the windows open so if it was winter the train would get very cold. Some passengers getting off would even leave the doors open, so the guard would have to walk up the platform and close them again before the train could leave, as they were manual. Another “feature” was the luggage racks which were above the seats and just a wire mesh. Not so good if someone put an umbrella or a wet coat up there and it would then drip on you. I hated those trains!

Past the old tide mills (now little remains) I could then pick up a path down to the shingle beach east of Newhaven.

The beach at Bishopstone

I stopped for a rest here, enjoying the sound of the sea on the shingle and pebbles. For a while I walked along the shingle, but soon found a path, partly covered in shingle, but easier, at the back of the beach. I could follow this to Bishopstone, the western suburb of Seaford, where there was now a road and promenade along the shore. It was now quite busy, but I was enjoying the views back to the chalk cliffs at Newhaven behind me and at Seaford ahead.

The Seven Sisters

The beach at Bishopstone

The beach at Seaford

When I got to Dane Road I headed inland to the main road by the station.

I had debated whether to catch a bus or train back. However on the train I would still have to take a bus from Brighton and since the next train was not for 20 minutes, I decided to take the bus. This worked quite well as I only had a few minutes to wait and from the top deck of the bus I had a good view of the coast I had been walking earlier in the day.

It had been a lovely walk. I enjoyed the chalk cliffs east of Brighton through Rottingdean, Saltdean and Peacehaven and also liked having the choice of a cliff top path or a path along the base of the cliffs for much of the way. The coast east of Peacehaven was lovely and unspoilt. Sadly the walk through Newhaven was not pleasant, it was a run down and rough feeling town, with a lot of dereliction and industry so I was glad to be passed it and reach the quiet little town of Seaford. I was looking forward to the next walk too, as I knew that the scenery ahead would be spectacular.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. I recommend using the bus (details below) which runs regularly from Seaford to Rottingdean. It is also possible to take the train from Seaford to Brighton and then a bus the short distance from Brighton to Rottingdean. However at the times of writing the trains have not been running on this line for a couple of months.

Brighton and Hove buses route 12 (Coaster) : Brighton (Churchill Square) – RottingdeanSaltdean – Peacehaven – Newhaven – Seaford – Seven Sisters Country Park – East Dean – Eastbourne. Every 10 minutes Monday – Saturday. Every 15 minutes on Sundays. It takes around 35 minutes between Seaford and Rottingdean.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

 

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