Family coast walk
Take a wander up Lookout Hill to Mad Jack Fuller's folly and enjoy some breathtaking sea and downland views.
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Birling Gap car by the Coastguard Station, grid ref: TV554960
From the bus stop follow the finger post with a yellow arrow 'South Downs Way'. Walk up the path and through the gate with the National Trust sign 'The Lookout' and follow this path up the hill to another finger post. Follow this finger post and take the path bearing left along the cliff top or through the scrub.
On the look-out
For centuries, customs officers have kept a vigil along these cliffs, whilst smugglers lurked on the beaches below. There have been cottages here since the 1820s to house the families of the coastguards who worked from Birling Gap. Notice the mossy patch and bricks on the cliff top, the site of a lookout tower which was demolished in 1991.
At the top, head towards the lighthouse either along the clifftop path or through the scrub.
Follow the path to the left of the lighthouse. Continue to follow the old access track down the hill. This will afford wonderful views towards Beachy Head and the candy-striped lighthouse. At the bottom of the path turn left to head back towards Birling Gap.
Lighthouse on the move
The lighthouse, Belle Tout, was moved inland in March 1999 to escape the receding coastline. It was originally built in the 1820s by a local character known as 'Mad' Jack Fuller, but became a private home after being superseded by the Beachy Head lighthouse. In January 1999, a 45m deep landslide occurred at Beachy Head, the largest recorded in the 20th century.
Continue walking along the track around the base of the hill This will take you through a delicate small dappled woodland known as the Horseshoe Plantation, much loved by dragonflies and migrating birds.
The grassland to the sides of the grassy track leading to the Horse Plantation are a carpet of wild flowers in the spring and summer. Look our for the spotted leaves of early purple orchids in the spring, and if you're very lucky you might see the delicate green flowers of an early spider orchid. Dropwort bursts into puffs of white in the summer and the black and white checkerboard wings of marbled white butterflies can be seen as they feed on the nectar of the wild honeysuckle.
Continue along the track and this will take you back to the car park from where you started.
As you leave the Horseshoe Plantation look up to your left and you can see a mound running parallel to the path. This is the remains of an ancient rampart which would have once encircled the entire hill. Birling Gap itself is named after the Baerelingas, a group of Anglo Saxons who settled here in 489AD. This rampart was excavated in autumn of 2016 as part of the Seven Sisters Archaeology Project.
Birling Gap car by the Coastguard Station, grid ref: TV554960. Now why not head back to the cafe for a post walk treat?
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