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Wednesday, 11 April 2007
Artistic endevours

stone fire place

Vijay and his friend were not the only ones exhibiting their artistic endevours at Seven Sisters over the Easter weekend. My favourite discovery was the stone fire place (above) on the shingle beach, fashioned with rocks and an abandoned old net to symbolise embers.  My least favourite discovery were the cigarettes that had been planted and abandoned on a patch of disturbed soil on top of the cliffs (below). Cigarettes are not biodegradable, the filter is composed of plastic materials, and cigarette butts are the most widely littered item in the world.

planted cigarettes

Posted by bigblue on 11/04/2007 at 10:42 PM
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Tuesday, 10 April 2007
The Seven Sisters

Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters are a series of eight chalk cliffs on the South coast of England between Cuckmere Haven and Beachy Head.  Perhaps the number eight was not considered as having alliterative value although eight elegant elephants might have done it. 

The sea is claiming 40 to 50 cm per year, so by my reckoning these cliffs will have receded to London (89 km away) in less than 200,000 years time.

I walked the Seven Sisters (and back again) - the walk is not difficult although the ups and downs can get to you. Interestingly the temperature is warmer by several degrees in the downs than it is in the ups, and I don’t only think it’s the chill factor (the downs are more sheltered).  If you want to just walk in one direction you can park at either end and catch the bus back (it is served by various bus routes). As a rough guide (in summer) on weekdays and Saturdays you can expect a bus every 15 minutes between 9am and 5pm (and half-hourly thereafter), while on Sundays a half-hourly service runs.  More travel details are available at the Seven Sisters Country Park website.

There is a labour of love which is very small in the photograph above, so here is a close up shot of the item in question: a notice fashioned from small chalk stones (which litter the grassy cliff-top).

Heart Priya Vijay Brighton

I wondered if the two men in the photograph were the happy couple from Brighton.  Priya is a woman’s name, while Vijay is a man’s name, so perhaps they have created the work for an absent love.

Also visible in the photograph are a number of rabbit holes which I assume are the source of the chalk stones. Rabbits are alien pests in England and a serious threat to this area of chalk downland. They remove most of the vegetation and their droppings enrich the soil allowing non-chalkland plants (like nettle and spear thistle) to establish.

The Seven Sisters are named, as follows:

  1. Haven Brow
  2. Short Brow
  3. Rough Brow
  4. Brass Point
  5. Flagstaff Brow
  6. Flat Hill
  7. Baily’s Hill and
  8. Went Hill Brow.
I find these names somewhat disappointing; what about
  1. Milly
  2. Dorcas
  3. Ruth
  4. Martha
  5. Liza
  6. Sarah
  7. Alice and
  8. Adam?
Someone else was there over the past weekend and made the following observations:

We had a sun-drenched, gorgeous, lazy Easter weekend. On Friday we ventured outside of town to Cuckmere Valley, near the fabled white cliffs called the Seven Sisters, a site of many accidental dog deaths, and not so accidental human deaths. We climbed to the first cliff and I sauntered near the unguarded edge, to feel the thrill of impossible height. Seriously though, beholding a site as breathtaking as these, who in despair wouldn’t want to meet their end here?

Those who choose to end it all in places of sublime natural beauty may be accused of uncalled-for melodrama. But maybe these places are popular for those seeking to remove themselves from this mortal coil because their grandeur makes one feel small? You stand atop a blinding white cliff, with the glimmering vastness of the ocean crashing hundreds of meters below, and perhaps you realize that it’s all ok - because you are nothing more than a speck of dust…

(Pretty in Think Panzerfrau, who I think is exaggerating the height of the cliffs).

Posted by bigblue on 10/04/2007 at 10:30 PM
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Monday, 09 April 2007
Cuckmere River

Cuckmere River and Haven

This is a panoramic view of Cuckmere Haven and River from halfway up the path to the cliff top (known as “Cliff End”).  Click on the photo for bigger version, or here for Flickr version.

In this photograph you can see the lagoons (in front of the river) which are human artifacts, and the canalised form of the river (built in 1846).  Slightly higher upstream (and out of view) are the famous meanders (also human constructions). The latter two were constructed to prevent flooding of the valley and to assist with agriculture. Some of the earliest banks built to control flooding and reclaim land go back to medieval times - 500 years ago the valley was a salt marsh.  The lagoons were constructed relatively recently (1975) to (re-)provide a nesting and feeding area for migratory birds. The park had been purchased three years before by the East Sussex County Council. The Environmental Agency is currently developing a plan to flood the haven, recreating the salt marsh, so that it can support a wider variety of plant and animal life.

Details about and links to the restoration project for this area are on Wikipedia.

Posted by bigblue on 09/04/2007 at 09:33 PM
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Sunday, 08 April 2007
Cuckmere Haven


Cuckmere Haven is an ancient smugglers den - it was here that gangs of smugglers operated in the 16th 17th and 18th Centuries. Brandy, gin and sometimes wool were smuggled in or out to avoid paying taxes. This afternoon a member of HM Coastguards was parked on the cliff above the bay taking a keen interest in what was going on with some boats just off the bay. Some modern day smuggling, a Miami Vice-like drug deal, or perhaps the rich and the beautiful were sunbathing on their motorboat?

Cuckmere has a shingle beach where the the Cuckmere River flows out into the English Channel between the characteristic chalk cliffs of Southern England.  The BBC has a short article about the site, which mentions that the cliffs are being eroded at a rate of 30 to 40 cm per year. The shingle on the beach is gradually moved from West to East by the local pattern of waves and currents on this coast.

The following photo shows a view up the cliffs from the East end of Cuckmere Beach. The chalk was formed under the sea some 85 million years ago from algae and fragments of sea shells.  The lines of darker materials in the cliff are flint, which consists of a mass of minute crystals of silica. At high temperature these can explode and form shards (which is given as one of the reasons that fires are not allowed on the beach).


The next photograph shows the same view of Cuckmere beach and the Western heads, but from the top of the cliff.  The buildings on the Western side of the beach are described on the map as “cottages”.


There is no parking at Cuckmere Haven, instead you park inland at Exceat and walk 15 or 20 minutes down the river valley to the beach.  Exceat, once an important village, was devastated by the Black Death in the 14th Century, and after falling victim to raiding parties in the 15th Century was abandoned. 

The departing villagers seem to have only left the Cuckmere Haven visitor centre and a pub wink

Posted by bigblue on 08/04/2007 at 10:47 PM
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Saturday, 07 April 2007
Leith Hill Tower

Leith Hill Tower

Traveller! in order that thou mayest see in all directions the beauty of the earth, this tower, ivisible from afar, was erected by Richard Hull, Esq., of Leith Hill Place, in the reign of George III, 1765, as a delight not only to myself, but also to my neighbours and to all.

These are the words of Richard Hull who completed construction of this tower in 1765 using local stone and labour. It then consisted of two rooms and sported a telescope.  A modern telescope can now be found at the top of the (restored and extended) tower from which (on a clear day) one can view central London (St Paul’s Cathedral) and France across the English Channel.  Leith Hill, at 294 metres (over 1000 feet) above sea level, is the highest point in the Surrey Hills Area of Outsanding Natural Beauty.

Unfortunately a clear day is a rare day. I suspect that all the clear days are in winter when Leith Hill Tower is closed.

Posted by bigblue on 07/04/2007 at 10:45 AM
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Box Hill Video

I spent a couple of hours on Box Hill yesterday afternoon, enjoying the sunshine and my book.  (As I wasn’t well on Thursday I cancelled the trip to Scotland).  This is a time-lapse video that I produced. I was sitting in a busy place and heard a lot of people passing by. My favourite “overheard snippet” was the boy who arrived and walked up to the open slope before me, stood there, and exclaimed to his parents: “What are they all looking at? Cows?”. This is not featured on the video. My worst moment was: the pack of young boys engaged in homophobic bullying and banter at the start of the video.

Posted by bigblue on 07/04/2007 at 08:00 AM
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Friday, 06 April 2007
Tube Song

On the tube last week I managed to get a few seconds of these two guys jamming in the train carriage. It was on the District and Circle line and seems to be an Irish number. Unfortunately I had to alight from the train soon after they struck up their song. This is not my favourite London underground song but I was pleased to be able to capture it on (mobile phone) video. 

I’m sorry that you can’t see much in the video - they were down the other end of the carriage and there were people in the way.

Posted by bigblue on 06/04/2007 at 06:18 AM
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Thursday, 05 April 2007

Jimi Hendrix and Kathy Etchingham

Jimi, Janis and Jim were three rock stars of the 1960s who all died at the age of 27, and within three months of each other. According to the Handel House Museum:

Jimi Hendrix lived at 23 Brook Street, W1 from 1968-69 at the peak of his tragically short career. Upon learning that the composer Handel had lived next door at 25 Brook Street 250 years beforehand, he went to a local record shop and bought some works including Messiah and the Water Music.

For Hendrix, Brook Street was the doorstep to the London music scene of the late 60s. His flat was a short stroll from legendary venues like the Marquee, the Speakeasy and the Saville, and he would spend many evenings wandering from club to club looking for a chance to play. On 14 September 1997, 23 Brook Street was chosen for an English Heritage Blue Plaque commemorating his life and work. Since November 2001, the upper floors of 23 Brook Street including Hendrix’s flat, have been part of the Handel House Museum.

The photo above shows Hendrix with Kathy Etchingham, and is on display at the museum.

Posted by bigblue on 05/04/2007 at 09:11 PM
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