Cliff top and maritime grassland at Birling Gap

The shear cliffs at Birling Gap

Life on the edge means that plants and animals have to adapt to survive, you can observe these adaptions at a safe distance from the cliff edge.

Cliffs and maritime grassland – Sheer cliffs and cliff top grassland seem inhospitable but look closely and plants and animals reveal themselves. (Picture of the cliffs)

The chalk cliffs along the seven sisters do not have very many ledges as they are eroding relatively rapidly, this means that there are no large sea bird colonies present, but there are enough for the odd pair of fulmar as well as re-establishing pairs of raven and peregrine to nest on.

Sometimes a gap in the cliffs traps enough soil so that yellow-horned poppies can grow. The vegetation on top of the chalk cliffs is heavily influenced by the wind and salt-spray meaning that plants adapted to the harsh conditions can thrive here. Succulents such as biting and English stonecrops flourish while vipers bugloss can be found in bare patches of chalk.

English Stonecrop
English Stonecrop


The keen eyed will notice that the grassland flowers near the cliff edge are smaller than ones found further inland; this is possibly due to the wind as it can be relentless on this exposed cliff. Even through the structure of the plants are smaller it seems that the flowers are still the same size. Common centaury and eyebrights display this feature.