Cliff Top Walk from Birling Gap to Exceat
Experience iconic clifftop views of the Seven sisters coastline and discover the history of this walk to Exceat and the Seven Sisters Country Park.
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Starting at the Birling Gap Café, walk along the side of the building, go up the few steps and turn left at the private road, heading uphill along the South Downs Way. At the top of the road turn left through the gate that has a signpost for the South Downs Way. You are now walking over Went Hill, the first of the Seven Sisters, go through another gate
The old hotel building
The hotel was built in 1905 to cater for the sea side holidays that where becoming popular then. Refurbished in 2012 it now houses a cafe, shop and visitor centre and has become an attraction in its own right.
Following the path now bearing slightly right, walk up the next hill, where you will pass the Robertson memorial stone. At the top of the hill, Bailey’s Brow, look out for humps and hollows in the landscape around you, including the three ancient tumuli on Bailey’s Hill. Continue straight on, following undulating downland over Flat Brow. Due to the erosion experienced on this coast line could this become the ‘eighth sister’?
Robertson memorial stone
This commemorates W.A. Robertson’s bequest to the Trust of £50,000 in 1937, in memory of his two younger brothers who died in the First World War. The bequest allowed 160 acres of land to be purchased in 1940.
At the top of the next hill, Flagstaff, a Sarsen’s Stone commemorates the purchase of Crowlink for the benefit of the public. In 1927 Arthur Beckett and Colonel Mathias of the Sussex Downsmen saved the area from a building syndicate by raising funds buy the land.
As you look out to sea it is easy to imagine the many ships that have been wrecked along this part of the coast line during the centuries. From Brass Point down into Crowlink it is possible to see the remains of the 633 ton Coonatto on the beach at low tide, the ship run aground at Crowlink Gap in 1876 and luckily most of the crew and cargo were recovered.
Smuggling at Crowlink
By the 1700's smuggling was at its height with huge profits to be made from the illegal import of teas, spirits and tobacco. The quiet coastline and access from the beach made perfect landing places for the boats. Much of the gin was stored in the cellars of Crowlink House in the hamlet. Both the ship wrecks and smuggling lead to a coast guard station being built in Crowlink Gap during the 19th century, nowadays all that remains are some lumps in the ground which are the remains of the boundaries to the cottages where the coast guards lived.
Haven Brow is the last of the Seven Sisters hills, from here the path heads right then gradually left down the side of the steep river cliff. Once you reach the concrete path at the Seven Sisters Country Park you can either turn left for the beach or right along the track towards the A259.
The river meanders
The mouth of the River Cuckmere was diverted into a canal in 1847 to benefit trade and navigation. Towards the end of the walk you will pass the lakes formed when the meanders of the old river where blocked off.
Two Second World War pill boxes can be seen in the Cuckmere Valley. One is visible on Exceat Hill, just to the left of the path amongst small trees nearing the end of the walk. You will then reach the A259 road at Exceat where there is a visitor centre, tea room and toilet facilities. From here you will be able to catch the 13x bus back to Birling Gap or the 12 to East Dean.
Exceat, Seven Sisters Country Park
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