July Adventure – Seven Sisters Hike

For a while now I’ve wanted to hike all the way along the Seven Sisters from Seaford to Eastborne. So with a free weekend and no July adventure planned, it seemed like a good time to do the hike, and my flatmate was up for doing the hike too. We  decided to make a weekend of it and camp in Seaford, at a great little seaside campsite I’ve stayed at several times over the past few years.

The hike is around 14 miles long and the usual route starts at the Eastbourne Pier, heads up to Beachy Head, along to Birling Gap, up and down over the Seven Sisters white cliffs to Cuckmere Haven, then over Seaford Head and finishing at Seaford train station. Though we would continue walking back to the campsite, adding almost an extra two miles to the walk.

After checking the tide times and weather, we decided the best option for us would be to start from Seaford and take the bus back from Eastbourne. There was rain forecast for the afternoon, so starting from Seaford should mean less time walking in the rain, rather than talking the bus to Eastbourne on the morning when the weather was still fine. Starting from Seaford also meant we would reach Cuckmere Haven at low tide, so we would be able to wade across the Cuckmere river on the beach, rather than walking a mile along the river to bridge, then a mile back again, which would add two miles to the hike.

There were a few issues over the weekend with the tent we decided to use, but it served us well, mostly. Setting up the tent on Friday evening took a little longer than it should have in the strong winds. When the heavy rain started on the first evening, we realised the tent wasn’t completely waterproof. Luckily I’d brought a tarp that I could put over the tent to keep us dry. We also had to move the tent a couple times because the ground had become so saturated with all the rain.

After a cooked breakfast of sausage and bacon, we set off from the campsite at around 8:30am and walked along the seafront through Seaford. I immediately started to question whether I’d manage the full hike and why I even wanted to walk this far in the first place. After almost two miles, we started the climb up Seaford Head, which was a bit of a struggle for the first bit. But after that I felt like I’d loosened up and was enjoying the walk a lot more.

The walk from Seaford Head to Cuckmere Haven was a lot more enjoyable, especially with the view of the Seven Sisters once we reached Hope Gap. We stopped briefly for some photos of the famous view of the Seven Sisters and Coastguard Cottages before continuing down to the beach.

At the beach we found a good spot to cross the Cuckmere river, where it was wider and shallower. The river had changed course since I last visited and has split into two, so we had to make two crossings, the first of which was very wide. The beach is very rocky and I don’t find walking on rocks like that very comfortable, but it was worth the discomfort to take two miles off the hike (even though it is a nice walk along the river up to the bridge).

From the beach it was a very steep climb up Haven Brow, the first of the Seven Sisters. We continued on, trying to work out the names on the hills from my map as we went over them, but we lost track somewhere.

At Burling Gap,  just below the last of the Seven Sister, we stopped for a quit break. From there we continued up to Belle Tout lighthouse, with a slight diversion to find a geocache.

As we approached the lighthouse it started to rain very heavily. We had expected heavy rain in the afternoon, but it arrived earlier than forecast, so we weren’t quite as far on as we hoped. We still had another 6 or 7 miles to go, so we put on our waterproofs and kept walking.

When we reached the view point for Beachy Head lighthouse ten minutes later we were already soaked though, and with no signs of the rain passing, we decided it would be a good place to stop and eat our lunch in the rain.

The rain continued for the rest of the walk, and the whole of the evening. But we kept going and still enjoyed the hike and the views.

We were pretty excited to arrive in Eastbourne and for the hike to be over so we could dry off and warm up, but we still had almost two miles left before reaching the pier, where the walk finishes. Walking on pavement after walking on grass and chalk trails for so long felt hard on out tired legs. But we distracted ourselves by looking for a few more geocaches in the rain, and thinking about the ice cream we would have at the end of the walk.

As we got closer to the pier we kept walking past ice cream huts that were shut, even though it was the middle of summer, and I was beginning to worry that I wouldn’t be able to get an ice cream. It doesn’t feel like a trip to the seaside without an ice cream, even in the rain.

We were really happy and relieved to finally arrive at the pier and stopped for a quick selfie to celebrate. Luckily we also found an ice cream shop on the pier that was actually open, so we could celebrate the end of the walk properly, with a 99 and flake (and some fresh doughnuts).

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