The grey cliffs of Sussex: or 3 Grey days and 2 sunsets.

And now for something completely different.  I’ve been down in Sussex staying with friends, walking along the cliffs and on the South Downs.  Very different from the Rockies …. and Greece … and Wales.  But with its own attractiveness.  Altogether more mellow.  Landscape shapes best described as sensuous.  With cliffed edges.

I travelled down on a drab Sunday and arrived mid afternoon. Gratifyingly the sky cleared in time for a brisk evening walk around the lanes with a good sunset.

Clearing sky

Red sky at night ...... or false hope

Monday dawned drab and grey, the old adage about red skies at night not being borne out by reality, but we stuck to the plan to head down to the coast and walk westwards from Birling Gap along the tops of the Seven Sisters cliffs.  The cliffs are dramatic but in the poor light it was more a case of the Grey Cliffs of Sussex.  Fortunately photographic interest was added by the detail rather than the grand vistas, bits of cliff cracking away, rabbit holes burrowing into thin air and flocks of gulls on the sea 500 feet below.

Severn Sisters, part of the grey Cliffs of Sussex

Part of the cliff cracking off

Maybe if we give this a push ....

The sun shines on one piece of cliff showing how grey the rest is without photographic assitance

Time it right with camera in and you catch take-off

We followed the cliffs to the flood plains of Cuckmere Haven and then turned away from the sea to follow an inland route through Friston Forest back to the car.  In the grey light this was nowhere near as interesting photographically as the cliffs or the meandering river through the flood plain but we eventually dropped down to East Dean and a very good pub lunch.

Cuckmere Haven

From there it was only a couple of miles along a path rising up and coming out on the top of the hill above Birling Gap with clear blue sky and great light as the sun sank towards the cloudy horizon.  We spent quite a while wandering around with the cameras on the hilltop, photographing the barn which someone had enlivened with red paint, the wind-bent trees, the cattle and in the distance the now famous Belle Tout Lighthouse.

Great light, great colours

... and in close-up

Ridge-top cows and ridge-top Belle Tout Lighthouse

Wind-bent but surviving

The light was so good that we dropped down to the foreshore with its strip of dramatically white chalk pavement.  For the non-geographers, that’s like a limestone pavement but made from chalk.  And yet more sunset photos.

Altogether a grey day but an enjoyable walk and a glorious technicolor end.  Maybe the ‘red sky at night’ weather forecasting system would work this time.

Chalk cliffs pink in the setting sun, chalk pavement gleaming white

Flint nodule set in the chalk

The sun sinks behind horizon cloud

... and closer up

The vivid colour finally starts to mellow

Not to be.  Tuesday was even more grey and gloomy.

This time it was a circular walk from Alfriston on the South Downs. A steady climb up to the top and then the distinctive view of large open fields which accentuate the impression of expansive, sensuously rolling hills.   It was by no means as cold as it had been recently but the light was very poor and it was spitting with rain most of the way.  Cameras stayed firmly in our pockets and rucksacks, coming out only occasionally.  Again, it was the detail which caught the imagination not the broader vistas.

Sensously rolling Down

On reflection

The timing was very good.  We got back to Alfriston and a pub lunch just as it started to rain heavily.  By the time we had finished lunch it was definitely time to head back to the car rather than wandering around in the now pouring rain.

Raindrops on car roof

Self portrait

Reflected tree

Altogether a good two days despite the grey and damp, with the occasional brilliance of sunlight enlivening the landscape.

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