Fairlight Cliffs, East Sussex

A view of the cliffs at Fairlight in East Sussex

These cliffs form part of the 163 mile long Saxon Shore Way footpath. Formed 140 million years ago they tell the tale of a time when the area was covered by a large lake and dinosaurs hunted along its shore. The fascinating geology makes it a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

In memory of an artist

The land was bequeathed to the Trust in 1945 by Mrs Bertha Eves in memory of Reginald Grenville Eves, a distinguished Royal Academy Artist. He was noted for his portraits of such eminent figures as Sir Ernest Shackleton, King George VI and one of the founders of the National Trust, Octavia Hill.

Octavia Hill was one of the founders of the National Trust
Octavia Hill (after John Singer Sargent) by Reginald Grenville Eves, RA
Octavia Hill was one of the founders of the National Trust

Bertha herself was a friend of Rudyard Kipling and is understood to have helped him look for a home in East Sussex.

Haddocks Fault

As you walk along the clifftop you will see evidence of a recent slump. This marks the location of the Haddock’s Fault. It was formed about 35 million years ago when the African continent collided with Europe forming the Alps and uplifting south-east England as well.

Since this event the rocks on the south west have begun to return to their original position creating a visible slip plane.

Where geology and geography meet the sea
A view of Haddocks fault at fairlight in East Sussex
Where geology and geography meet the sea

Footprints in time

Although there is no access from the footpath the beach can be reached from the village of Cliff End (ensure you check the tide times). Search long and hard and you may find the footprints of iguanodon, a plant eating dinosaur that could weigh over 3.5 tons.

Crocodile bones can also be discovered along with outlines of the plants that once grew here. Further along the beach at Cliff End you can also see the preserved remains of woodland that thrived here 5000 years ago.

The ever changing coast
The cliffs at Fairlight viewed from the beach
The ever changing coast

Nature's home

With a diverse mix of habitats including stunted oak woodland, grassland and thorny scrub the clifftop offers sanctuary for a number of important species.

Birds including redstart, peregrines and fulmars can spotted. Invertebrates also flourish. Look closely and you may spot the rare weevil Larinus Planus or the mining bee Dasypoda hirtipes.

A helping hand

The area is looked after by a team of rangers and volunteers based in nearby Winchelsea. The footpath is regularly cut during the summer, ensuring plenty of scrub is still left as shelter for the birds. The clifftop grassland is mown and the cuttings removed to keep the nutrient levels low and allow wild flowers to flourish.

Out in all weathers
The rangers and volunteers shelter from the weather at Fairlight in East Sussex
Out in all weathers

The cliffs are eroding and fence lines occasionally require moving inland enabling walkers to safely continue to enjoy the views of the English Channel and surrounding landscape.  

How to get here

The nearest car park is located at Pett Level Road, Cliff End  TN35 4HF. Bus service 101 also stops nearby and runs from Hastings train station.