Sussex is famous for many things but perhaps one of its best-known attributes has to be its incredible coastline. From the many inlets around Chichester Harbour and the sandy beaches of the Witterings, to the white cliffs of Seven Sisters and Beachy Head, we’re blessed with diverse plant life, fossils, dinosaur bones and stunning views. Many of us take time out to admire the sea and beyond from the vantage point of the South Downs but I was more than a little over-excited to learn that you can now do the reverse, and admire the South Downs and our Sussex coastline, from the vantage point of the sea with a Sussex boat trip!
Sea safaris and sightseeing
Head down if you will to Newhaven Port where you’ll find Sussex Boat Trips, the brainchild and dream of John Simcock. John has a background in the maritime sector and hospitality as well as a love of powerboating. He’s a Commercially Endorsed Advanced Powerboat Helm and also volunteers for the RNLI as a Navigator on the Newhaven Lifeboat. You might say the sea is his playground and he’s developed a really exciting sea safari experience.
I know I’m not alone in my absolute love of the sea and all things watery, and frankly, it’s hard to choose from the list of Sussex Boat Trips on offer. John tells me I have a much better chance of seeing porpoises on a trip east past Cuckmere Haven, Birling Gap and on to Seven Sisters and Beachy Head Lighthouse. But I’m also torn by a trip west to Brighton’s Palace and West Piers, and perhaps even an ocean sunset.
A new and haunting world
But the prize for me has to be a trip to explore the haunting Rampion Offshore Wind Farm. The farm includes 116 turbines on a 70 square kilometre site which is between 13 and 20 kilometres off the Sussex coast. By boat, it takes about half an hour to get there and then you potter around in amongst the turbines.
Visible from so many places along the Sussex coast, I’ve always thought there was something mystical about the wind farm, and the eerie sigh of the wind turbines and the magical swirl of their ballerina-like legs (well that’s what they look like to me) is a Sussex experience like no other. The turbines feel surprisingly far apart. On a windy day, I’m told they can almost be intimidating but on any day, they are simply majestic.
John enthuses about the impact the wind farm has had on the local environment and explains how each turbine has developed its own eco system attracting diverse marine life. Trawlers aren’t allowed to fish the area, so in a relatively short time, the area has now developed into one that is teaming with life.
Respecting our environment
John is also keen to impress upon me that he would not describe himself as a passionate eco-warrior and he’s acutely aware that the engines of his boats carry their own environmental impact, but that said, he clearly cares a great deal about the environment.
“I don’t want to preach, but a trip along the cliffs is a very visual learning experience. If we pass a browner-looking cliff, then it’s clear that there hasn’t been a cliff fall there for a while but that one is probably imminent. You might be able to spot caves that have been worn away by the sea and are now undermining the cliff face. If we pass whiter cliffs, then that shows there has recently been a cliff fall and there is often a pile of cliff rubble to prove it. If just one person takes away some knowledge about the rate of cliff collapse and how important it is that we all do what we can to slow this down, then I’m happy. The weather is undoubtedly changing, and we all need to do what we can to slow down climate change. In our first two weeks of operation in 2021, we had four foggy days and a gale to contend with. That should be almost unheard of at that time of year. The sea is different too. It’s more ferocious. And all of this has a direct impact on cliff erosion which is now happening at quite an alarming rate.”
John is right. The trips are about the thrill of the sea and seeing Sussex from a new vantage point, of course. But that does also include seeing and learning about how the coast is suffering from climate change. It’s wonder, excitement and fun all rolled in with education and a serious message. Above all else, a trip to the Rampion Wind Farm is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences, something completely different that will leave you with a very different perspective and understanding of Sussex in more than one way.
If you want to book a Sussex Boat Trip or find out more, visit: https://www.sussexboattrips.com/
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