Living in Brighton opens up numerous places to visit. London is only an hour and ten minutes away by train, and the South Downs runs between the two cities. Along that route you also have The Old Way. The Old Way starts in Southampton and makes its way to Canterbury, some 240 miles long.
About a 35-minute drive from Brighton is a quaint little village called Alfriston, it sits not far from The Old Way/South Downs Way. It is on the river Cuckmere, and I had heard that the whole area is delightful. I wanted to experience this for myself and so I drove over to Alfriston, parked up the car, and set off to discover.
I have come accustomed to relying on the OS (Ordnance Survey) app on my phone to show me the route. Alfriston is one of those places just remote enough for there to be no signal. I had to follow my nose to just begin the walk, but I wasn’t worried, I needed to make my way to the river and go with its flow and I would, at some point, reach the sea!
I found the track by the Church of St Andrew in Alfriston, down the side, across a little bridge and hugging one of the tributaries that will eventually lead me to the Cuckmere River. The Cuckmere valley is beautiful, a wide, low valley mostly owned by the National Trust, hence it has become a haven for wildfowl. As I walked today, I saw Swans, Canadian Geese, Heron’s, Little Egret’s, Seagulls, Kormoran’s, Magpies, Crows, the list goes on. I loved it.
I decided to follow The South Downs Way which basically keeps me high, you stay up on the top of the valley and can look down at the river. The estuary of the Cuckmere is breathtaking. I popped out of Friston Forest to be greeted with this amazing vista, the Cuckmere River meandering its way to the English Channel. Dickens lived here, Queen Victoria enjoyed the beach here and you can see why.
I walked down to the coast and started to make my way east, towards Eastbourne along the coast. Boy, am I glad I did! The Seven Sisters stand stoic here, towering white chalk cliffs that stand proud, saying “We are England, and we know it!”. The contrast of the black rocky beach and the grassy green tops pops the cliffs in a way that is unforgettable.
If you are ever in this area or come to London, take time out and come for a walk along this coastline, you will not be disappointed. I walked so far along, and in one of the dips between the cliffs I sat and ate my lunch. This is why I walk, to be out, in nature, connecting, reconnecting, listening and learning.
I walked back along the coast and up the west side of the Cuckmere. I was treated to the White Horse of Litlington, carved out into the hillside in 1924. The smell of a bonfire took me back to my childhood.
This day was all about time and it was a time I enjoyed.