Route for a winter walk at Seaford Head
- Credit: Deirdre Huston
Relish wintry views of the Seven Sisters cliffs before descending through a nature reserve to Exceat beach
Location: Seaford Head
Distance: 3.2 miles (5.2 km) - an hour and a half plus stops
Terrain: the causeway beside the river can be muddy and stout boots are essential. Erosion causes rockfalls in this area and cliffs can be unstable, take notice of signs.
Where to Park: South Hill Barn Car Park, Lewes Council SAT NAV: BN25 4JQ brings you close then follow the brown signs to South Barn Hill and Nature Reserve.
Map: O.S. Explorer 123 Eastbourne and Beachy head
Navigation: straightforward - paths may divert because of cliff erosion. Follow signs.
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Dog-friendly: yes, but keep under close control near cliffs, in nature reserve and bird nesting areas.
Where to Refuel At the start of the route, enjoy Cotton’s Coffee Bar, a kiosk with a seating area in an open-sided barn where you can indulge in delicious cakes and sip a warming drink. Winter opening times are Wednesday through to Sunday 10.30am till 3pm, although closure is possible in heavy rain.
There is nothing like a walk along the coast to invigorate mind and body, and uplift the senses. The unique habitats of Seaford Head Nature Reserve and Seven Sisters Country Park offer the walker many gifts, be it bird-watching, historic connections or dramatic lighting across a pounding sea to stalwart cliffs beneath a wintry sky. Seaford Head and Hope Gap offer magnificent views of the much-loved Seven Sisters cliffs: Haven Brow, Short Brow, Rough Brow, Brass Point, Flat Hill, Bailey’s Hill and Went Hill. Exposed to the full force of the sea, these chalk cliffs face a constant battle against erosion whilst offering refuge to birds such as kittiwakes and fulmars nesting on narrow ledges.
Just north of the shingle beach, notice the saline lagoon, a scrape constructed through collaboration between volunteers and the county council to provide a shallow habitat where wading birds can nest and feed.
This isolated cove drew the smuggling trade to its shores. According to John Parry, writing 50 years later, in 18 September 1783, “two and three hundred smugglers on horseback came to Cookmere and received various goods from the boats, ‘till at least the whole number were laden, when, in defiance of the King’s officers, they went their way in great triumph.” After the National Coastguard Service was founded in 1822, the coastguard houses were built. They remain a renowned landmark which now fights an enemy of a different sort: erosion. Each year, on average, the cliffs are receding at about 30–40cm. Please take care as there have been rockfalls. DON’T MISS: 10 great South Downs walks to enjoy this winter
1. Go past the barn and through the metal gate. Pass a Sussex Wildlife Trust noticeboard and walk along the right-hand concrete track towards the sea. See the Seven Sisters cliffs ahead.
At the gate turn right along the fenced footpath towards the Seven Sisters cliffs.
2. Go through a kissing gate and turn diagonally right, descending along a grassy track between scrub.
3. Reach Hope Gap, with noticeboard and steps to the beach. Note: From beach, no exit at Splash Point and none at Cuckmere Haven at High Tide.
Turn left up the slope along the fenced cliff-edge path. Pass a Vanguard Way marker post. Glorious vistas of The Seven Sisters cliffs. Continue along the cliff edge. Walk past the Coastguard Cottages.
4. Follow any signed diversions regarding cliff erosion. Continue straight on across the grass (without crossing the cattle grid), following the track as it curves right.
5. When you reach the beach, turn left, staying this side of the river.
Walk along the causeway, with the River Cuckmere on one side, and grazing fields beyond a smaller river on your left. Continue for some way and follow the path when it curves left.
6. At the corner, go through the second walkers’ gate (labelled NCR 2) and walk along the path beside a fence. Go through another gate and continue to climb gradually.
7. Go through another gate and turn left for a short distance. Turn right along the fenced path towards the houses.
8. At the residential track, turn left. Walk past a gate and some farm buildings. Continue straight ahead, walking up the lane (being careful to watch for traffic) to the car park. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram