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Sep 2018

South Coast headland and home to the highest chalk cliff in Britain.

East Sussex Coat of Arms

It's a South Coast headland and home to the highest chalk cliff in Britain, alright, but more on that in a minute. First, you have to find it and it's just east of the gap after the Seven Sisters and by gap, it's meant Birling Gap.

There you'll find a beach from where it's uphill either way but you can drive up here by the rollercoaster ride that's the B2103 on your way to avoiding Eastbourne.

Of course you have to pay for the parking but there's a pub, a visitor centre and they've even laid on some lavs for your convenience.

Yours and the million others who are here to visit this popular tourist attraction with most of them seeming to be coming from overseas but more on them in a minute.

There's plenty of reading material not far from the car park and the top plaque was unveiled in 1979 by a dear old friend, the Duke of Devonshire, who also happened to hold some land near here.

It 'commemorates' the re-siting of the original 1920 plaques, which themselves 'commemorate' the purchase of Beachy Head, making it not entirely clear just what's being 'commemorated' here.

The purchase was by the Eastbourne Corporation for the 'preservation of the amenities' or 'No! You can't build flats here!' The plaques were moved during World War II, you see, but the fact it's only 9223 km[1] to Rio is far more interesting.

Much more significant, World War II-wise, is the RAF Bomber Command Memorial. These cliffs would be the last sighting of Blighty for some of the airmen popping over to Europe for the night and when it's said some, that was nearly half of the 120,000 crew that flew.

It's therefore fitting and its fitting involved a helicopter from Hampshire in an aerial operation that was quite, but not nearly so, dangerous.

[1] 5731 miles in old money and like you hadn't worked out already?

Fans of the pharos are more than catered for but shouldn't that be phare?

Until its automation in 1983, and because of its location, the only decent TV reception came from France and that was long before they were doing anything  decent.

The inevitable clifftop stroll heads west towards the Belle Tout lighthouse but the only blinding work being done there, these days, is on the bangers, probably. It's an upmarket B&B now and a night there is knocking a couple of tons, pounds-wise.

For that, you'd expect at least Sky™ Movies and since they've turned the big bulb off, you won't be up all night, unable to sleep, with The Unbearable Lightness of B&B'ing.

It's along the clifftops that you'll meet the entire German, year 11 student population or fifth year as it should still really be called.

That's a joke, of course, and not entirely true since there's a fair few of them lying on the beach in Eastbourne and the way some of these gangly lummoxes are going on, they'll soon be joining them.

As will a youngish girl in a crop top who's dangerously close to the edge of this top outcrop for the sake of a selfie. This one can't watch[1] and neither can her boyfriend who's now heading off in a huff leaving her trailing in his wake, smirking.

There's a word of warning from a pair of red-shirted chaplains who have more serious concerns and who are an unfortunate reminder of why some people make their way here.

[1] The wobblies have already kicked in and yes, that'll be the old vertigo!

  South Downs Way

The 100-mile, long-distance South Downs Way footpath cuts right along here and if you're walking from Winchester then congratulations, it's only another three more miles to Eastbourne. If you're coming from Eastbourne then it's about 97 miles to Winchester and you're going the wrong way.

The highest chalk cliff[1] in England, 80 million years old and counting and 531 foot thanks to some uplifting that came later. Naturally, that means there's a bunch of paragliding nutjobs who are more than prepared to leap off it.

The wind's too weak today, he says, too weak even for the safety of the plateau below. Apologies to the matter-of-fact chap for coming across as incredulous because, yeah, that's a perfectly normal thing to do?

Oh look! It's crop-topped girl from earlier and she's walking hand in hand with her boyfriend now, awww. It's not known if they've made up to the extent that they're ready to tie the knot but if they are, here's an observation...

If he wants to tie a knot in something, how about a safety rope? One that's at the very longest... 530 foot!

[1]  Cornwall can make a loftier claim but they're mostly sandstone and let's not even get started on Scotland's  granite.