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Next entry: Cuckmere River

Previous entry: Leith Hill Tower

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
Filed under: EuropeUnited KingdomEngland • (2) CommentsPermalinkBookmark or Share

This takes me back some years when we used to go fossil hunting on the beach.

An ancient smugglers trick is known as Coopering

in which a deep-sea craft would approach a British port, attracting the keen attention of customs officers. Before it docked, however, it would rendezvous with a local boat apparently on a legitimate errand and transfer its smuggled cargo.

Posted by Janet  on  09/04/2007  at  06:08 PM

Thanks for the link, I see that word has nothing to do with wine barrels but derives from the Dutch word for “buy” (koop).

Posted by bigblue  on  10/04/2007  at  01:36 PM

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