140. Eastbourne to Cooden Beach

December 2005

It had been a few weeks since my previous coastal walk, for various reasons, so I was keen to get back onto the coast. It was a beautiful sunny day but as it was also December it would also be a short day hence this is a shorter walk. After the lovely previous walk I had high hopes for this walk, although the map suggested it would largely be flat and largely be urban.

I headed down to Eastbourne via the M25 and A22. The latter road is marked on the map as a trunk road so I assumed it would be the fastest route to Eastbourne (where it ends), but it turned out to be a very slow route to follow, almost all 30 and 40mph speed limits as far as Uckfield and also taking me through the centre of East Grinstead. I parked at the station car park as I intended to return by train.

So it was a bit later than I’d have liked by the time I arrived at Eastbourne. Nevertheless Eastbourne was looking good. A cloudless sky and a virtually deserted beach.

Eastbourne Pier

I was also surprised to see a strip of sand near the shore line, as I always though this coast was all shingle and pebbles. The damp sand gave some nice reflections.

Eastbourne Pier

Following a route from the station I had emerged a bit to the east of the pier, so I followed the promenade down to the pier.

As I reached the pier I headed down onto the sand under the pier. I was interested to see how the line of shingle seemed to immediately give way to a line of fine sand, with barely a stone on it!

Returning to the promenade I continued along it.

The beach in Eastbourne

Eastbourne was for the most part an attractive town, with some grand Victorian buildings lining the sea front.

Eastbourne Pier

All used to be hotels I suspect, although many still were.

The promenade in Eastbourne

I passed one hotel going by the name of the Hilton Hotel. But it was clearly not part of the chain so was being rather cheeky using the name I thought.

Hilton Hotel

By now the sand at the shore line had ended and the beach ahead was shingle and ridges could be made out at the high tide line.


Soon the promenade went the coastal side of an old military fort, now the Redoubt Fortress and Military Museum. It was built in 1805 as part of anti-invasion preparations. It was used for military purposes until World War II. I couldn’t spare the time to visit however so I continued on the promenade.

However the promenade was now coming to an end and soon became a road with a large car park alongside. I was soon passing the lifeboat station decorated in numerous “No Parking Lifeboat Crew only signs”, sad that many people would be so selfish as to park here when it could have fatal consequences if it delayed the lifeboat crew. Beyond this the promenade continued again and the road ended, I suspect it is only road to give access to the lifeboat station and a few other buildings. The promenade was now raised a little so I could look inland over Princes Park with it’s ornamental lake though it being December there were not many flowers around.

Princes Park, Eastbourne

This park seemed to mark the end of the resort. The beach huts ended and now inland were blocks of flats though separated from the promenade by large areas of grass. Boats now dotted the back of the beach to my right, presumably high enough that the tide did not reach them.

The beach at Eastbourne

Ahead I reached an interesting looking brick building. It was clearly fairly modern but seemed to have been built in the style of an old fort. It turned out to be the Eastbourne Waste Water treatment works, which is not what I expected – but at least they had tried to make the building more interesting.

Sadly just past this the promenade ended, but I walked over the rough shingle area at the back of the beach to the old Martello Tower. It looked rather forlorn and unloved (some have been converted to houses).

Langney Point Martello Tower

Ahead was a small harbour, Soverign Harbour. It seemed a recent development and I could see new build blocks of flats stretching along the coast on the other side. Perhaps the harbour had been built to serve this though it was entirely devoid of any boats and since the tide was out was mostly sand and mud.

Soverign Harbour, Eastbourne

Thankfully at the end, by the Martello Tower, I could turn left and rejoin a promenade in front of these new flats.

It was not a very pretty sight. Mud flats and rocks backed by flats, some built, some still being built and with cranes dominating the skyline.

Soverign Harbour, Eastbourne

I could follow the path along to lock gates which gave access to an inner harbour. Ah, that’s where all the boats are. It was packed full of yachts and other pleasure craft.

Soverign Harbour, Eastbourne

The route ahead was not clear as there  were no footpaths marked on the map, but the lock gates ahead were open, so I had no choice but to head further inland to go around this marina.

Soverign Harbour, Eastbourne

Despite the fact everything was man made some cormorants (I think) were stretching their wings on a flat boat in the marina.

Soverign Harbour, Eastbourne

I continued past the boats of all sizes from small pleasure cruisers to super yachts. This was clearly a modern development and I wondered if a boat mooring came with every flat!

Soverign Harbour, Eastbourne

There were other water channels off this to the side but thankfully each had a bridge I could cross. After the first marina I could thankfully turn right and make my way back to the coast and out of this housing estate.

The beach near Pevensey Bay

The beach was now a mixture of pebbles and firm sand. So I headed down to the beach to walk along the shoreline again. There were quite a few star fish to be seen, something I’ve not really seen before along the coast.

Starfish at Pevensey Bay

I wondered if they were dead or whether they would swim off once the tide came back in. I was careful to avoid standing on them, anyway.

Soon there was once again a line of firm sand along the shore which made for much easier and more pleasant walking.

Pevensey Bay

Pevensey Bay

The starfish continued though. Inland I could still see houses from time to time, as there is only a small gap between the end of Eastbourne and the start of Pevensey Bay. But whilst the end of Eastbourne had been large blocks of flats, Pevensey Bay was lower density, a mixture of houses and bungalows.

Pevensey Bay

Groynes were all along the beach to provide some coastal defence though may were rotting away.

Pevensey was peaceful. I passed just a couple of fisherman until I was alongside the car park, where there were more people around.

Pevensey Bay

The land around here now is flat and inland from the towns is a large expanse of marsh land.

It was not obvious from the beach but at some point I had passed from Pevensey Bay to an area called Beachlands, though it looked much the same.

Pevensey Bay

Ahead there was a brief break in the housing and then I could see a Martello Tower and more houses. This marked the start of the small village of Normans Bay.

Pevensey Bay

Normans Bay was one possible place to finish the walk, as the railway was now back along the coast from Normans Bay and the village had a station. But I had plenty of energy and nearly an hour more daylight, so decided to continue past it. Some of the groynes which were rotting away were covered in shells and barnacles. They made for some quite pretty photographs I thought.

The beach at Normans Bay

There were more fisherman along the shore now and the ripples in the sand were now casting shadows – the sun was getting low now.

Normans Bay

I suspected the tide was coming in too because there was less sand and what there was wetter (and with the odd muddy patch).

Normans Bay

Normans Bay

I soon reached the Martello Tower at the edge of the village which was also in a sorry state, surrounded by fencing. Though this one had windows and a sort of extension suggesting it had been converted to a house. But the windows were rotting and the concrete cracking.

Martello Tower at Normans Bay

From the top of the shingle there was a view inland and it was certainly flat now. No South Downs in the distance any more.

Normans Bay

The going was hard now as there was little sand, now promenade and the backs of the houses came right down onto the beach. So I turned inland to follow the road through the village, passing this odd structure. I think it takes the water of Wallers’s Haven under the beach and out to sea – one of many streams that help to drain the marshes inland.

Sluice near Normans Bay

I now passed the last houses of Normans Bay and beyond this there was a bit of sand again along the shore, so I headed back down there, as there is no footpath here, or promenade.

The coast west of Normans Bay

The coast west of Normans Bay

The sun was now getting low enough there was a pink hue at the horizon and over the sea. It was beautiful though walking on this lovely firm sand.

The coast west of Normans Bay

The wooden groynes proved easy to step over and it was just me and the sound of the waves. Looking inland I was surprised to see the roof of a passing train – the railway line is now very close to the coast, something I’ve not seen since back in Devon!

The coast west of Normans Bay

Soon the road passed under the railway line which would provide an alternative route, but there was enough sand I opted to stick to the beach. As the sun neared the horizon I reached the first houses of Cooden Beach. This is the western mode suburb of the next town, Bexhill.

Approaching Cooden Beach

Cooden Beach

Cooden Beach has the benefit of having a railway station however with trains back to Eastbourne. Better still I noticed there was a small but free car park at the sea front here. I headed to the station and had around 15 minutes to wait for a train. I headed back along the coast watching the sun set, as the train returned to Eastbourne (oddly I noticed it stopped at one station, Hampden Park, twice). It was dusk by the time I arrived back at Eastbourne.

It had been a good walk. Whilst most of the walk was urban at least this meant for easy terrain underfoot, it was all beach, promenade or road so there was no mud to negotiate, often a problem in winter. I liked Eastbourne, though the eastern suburbs went on a bit. But beyond this I rather enjoyed Pevensey Bay and Normans Bay as I could walk along next to the shore on firm sand virtually all the way.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk :

Southern Trains  : Hastings and Bexhill to London and Brighton. Trains run twice an hour Monday to Saturday between Cooden Beach and Eastbourne (with one train an hour to/from London Victoria and the other to/from Brighton). On Sundays there is one train an hour (to/from London Victoria). It takes around 15 minutes to travel between Cooden Beach and Eastbourne.

If the trains are on strike or you prefer there is also a bus service, though it goes from further inland. This is Stagecoach route “The Wave 99″. Though you will have to walk towards the A259 to catch it. It runs 3 times an hour Monday to Saturday and hourly on Sundays.

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

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