Distance: 15 km. Elevation: 100 m. Difficulty: Medium
A couple of weeks ago the Government issued a press release announcing the official opening of a new section of the England Coast Path, namely from Shoreham to Eastbourne.
I was curious. I read various other press releases and clicked on a number of links for more information. I was looking for details. Car parks, the actual route, any restrictions, etc. and I have to say, I came up short. So I picked a section of the route and decided to head down to the coast and check it out. I wanted to know how easy it is to find and follow without a map and I also wanted to know how the route navigates Newhaven. The press release had made it sound very romantic and I was intrigued.
A walk of three halves
I parked up in Seaford and started from outside their sailing club on the seafront. However, you could also park at Tide Mills (just before Seaford as you’re travelling from Newhaven on the A259). Again, from this car park, just head to the seafront. So far, so good, I soon found a sign for the path.
Seaford to Newhaven
Seaford Bay and the stretch of shingle beach between Newhaven and Seaford are fabulous. Early on a Sunday morning, all you can hear is the gentle lap of the sea, the call of the birds, and the occasional purr of a small boat heading out to sea. The sea kale scattered everywhere is most striking but there is also a helpful information board with details of other wildlife you might spot. Ahead, are the curves of Newhaven Port and lighthouse jutting into the water and set against a blue sky and a millpond sea, it was indeed looking pretty romantic.
As you walk from Seaford, you pass curious-looking ruins. This is Tide Mills, a derelict village (more of that next week) which is well worth a visit. Just ahead is Newhaven Port Nature Reserve and towards the sea, you can see the footings of a WWI seaplane station. This stretch of your walk is completely flat and only about 1.5 km but very idyllic. You’re also just a short walk away from the beautiful garden at Driftwood by Sea, a stunning local NGS garden where you can be sure of a cup of tea and a piece of cake when you visit.
Your tour of Newhaven
Don’t get me wrong, I like Newhaven but the next stretch of the walk is not the best. As you arrive at a fence with Newhaven in front of you, you turn right away from the sea. The walk now takes you on a 3 km detour by which you travel inland and upstream to cross the River Ouse via the town’s swing bridge and then back down West Quay, alongside the edge of the harbour, around the marina to the foot of Newhaven Fort.
A great debate ensued in my house as to what, if anything, could be done to improve this stretch of the walk. The West Quay side of the walk isn’t too bad, as you have the marina and boat life to absorb, but east of the river, and you pretty much walk through an industrial estate. There are various points where signage would be very useful but was either notably absent, just plain confusing or darn right ridiculous!
I was mighty glad to reach Newhaven Fort. Personally, as a significant tourist attraction for Sussex, a little bit of thought as to how to make this section more attractive would go a long way. In fact (I know I am very grumpy about this) a quick look at an Ordnance Survey shows that there is indeed a footpath that takes you around the edge of the Ouse Estuary Nature Reserve, and although I didn’t go this way, I was left feeling it had to be better than round the back of the warehouses. I’ll stop moaning now.
Newhaven to Peacehaven
A steepish climb takes you up past Newhaven Fort (more of that soon but it’s another great place to visit) and on to Castle Hill Nature Reserve. The next stretch of the walk is absolutely stunning. Castle Hill was the site of an Iron Age hill fort and a Roman encampment and there’s another information board here with details of various finds dating back to the Neolithic period.
But it’s the views from here that are worth every footstep of the back streets of Newhaven. Beneath you are the walls of the harbour and ahead is the sea, and a chalky, grass path along the cliff tops. There are wildflowers, birdsong, and the gentle wash of the sea, and although by now it was late morning, it wasn’t busy. The path undulates along for about 3 km, with each rise and fall tempting you to walk a little further to see what view will appear over the brow. Eventually, however, you see Peacehaven beneath you and Brighton and the i360 in the distance ahead. It really is a delightfully unspoilt stretch of coast with a sense of the magnificent and you won’t want to stop.
The trouble with the England Coast Paths is …
At some point, you have to turn back! I could have got a bus from Peacehaven, but I’d always rather walk and the views are, of course, different going back, with Seaford Head standing proud in the distance. By the time I got back to Newhaven Fort, the Seaford sailing club were out on the water in the bay ahead like wispy and whimsical feathers which was charming. But at this point, you just have a slight sense of frustration when you can see the path on the east side of the harbour just a short distance away but know you now have a long detour around the town to get there. Oh for a quick ferry across the harbour.
If you’re in the area, or liked this Sussex Coast Path walk, you may also like: