End to a long hot day. A trip into Eastbourne to see the Hepworth exhibition again. On return the drive around the road passing Beachy Head and Birling Gap. When empty it is a delight to drive quickly, but today is slow, rubber neckers behind tourist buses. The padre car had pulled into the side of the road, stopping on its patrol for jumpers as the Head is the second most popular spot for suicides in Europe it seems. Perhaps they heard a splash.
I decide to stop at Birling Gap as the beach will be busy and the loons will be seeing how close they can get to the edge of the cliff without swelling the number of deaths, but I take one look at the cars dodging the parking fee by parking on the road verges, and then at the number of coaches filling the car park, probably bringing more idiots to stand on the cliff edge and decide to head on home.Rugby pass on an empty beach
I once saw a bloke lying on his back with his girlfriend straddling him. I though surely not making out on the cliff edge. Then I realised he was half over the edge, she his counterbalance whilst he took a selfie of himself out over the cliff face. Her weight and enthusiasm for the position wasn’t going to stop both of them having the ultimate experience as they hit the beach as he took them both over… For once I didn’t have the camera – the Mail would have loved the image….
The beach at sunset. This is local, Costa del Seaford. The antithesis of Birling Gap. Plenty of free carparking and at the end of the day plenty of spaces. The sweep of the shingle around Seaford Roads still has clusters of families enjoying the warm evening. A dad and son chucking a rugby ball to each other, throwing around the beach without any chance of hitting anyone. Mother and daughter coming up the beach from a paddle – up the beach in Seaford is sometimes like mountain climbing as moving forward up the shingle bank means each step is half forward the remainder a slip back. A few optimistic fishers were setting their tents for a late go at a catch, the sun going down turning the sky golden and the sea into silver.
At Splash Point the girls from the local school’s dodgeball team were getting their team photos done before setting off to the World Championships. All wear identical cossies and are watched over as they squeal and run about by a patient teacher or parent, as they take it in turns to pose in front of the chalk cliff.
A couple of Impressionists packed up their paints and easels, scrutinised, inevitably, by a critic (Not moi, although the one I looked at was pretty good). The light in Seaford is stunning sometimes, always changeable though – unlike the unrelenting sameness of the weather in the Mediterranean.
Canoeists and swimmers are making their way ashore where the campervans are making tea. Others settle down beside their little tents to watch the sunset the sea reflect under a sky turned to liquid gold. Behind the beach the fields gifted to the town by Elizabeth 1st saw dogs galloping around their walkers, the new waterpoint bright blue, ready to be used although still missing its chained bowl for the dogs, whilst other dog walkers and mums with pushchairs joined the habitual striders in strolling along the prom.
It was cool and calm, not the frenetic bustle of the city, where the buildings would raise the temperature by a couple of degrees. Nature supplements the human activity beyond Splash Point, where the Kittiwake colony nests each year. A convocation of kittiwakes by the cliffs held a council meeting, another group bobbing further out to sea, the occasional cry of Kitti wake echoing back from the crumbling chalk.
Over it all the dark shadow of the Martello Tower, gun still pointing seaward as a reminder that Britain’s threats usually come in boats.