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Birling Gap to Beachy Head  - along the beach and back along the top   September 6 2007

 

 

 

 

 

Arrival at Birling Gap gave the prospect of a clearing sky and, as looked up previously, a tide with two hours to go before Low Water. A party of litter-pickers were finishing their stint as I started the walk towards Beachy Head.

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The light improved to reveal a blue sky and the Seven Sisters in all their glory. The beach became cobbles, which are uncomfortable and unreliable underfoot, and the never-ending sequence of beach, wave cut-platform, wave-cut notch and vertical chalk cliffs  began.

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The grey cobble beach is of rounded flint nodules, speckled with fresher chalk lumps. On the right can be seen the linear seams  of flints, and, on the beach, several strand-lines of seaweed.

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The wave-cut platform is largely a dirty linen shade, of weathered chalk rocks, with the more-often exposed boulders being covered by seaweed and so coloured dark green. Another shot of the undercut, flint strata lines, and strand lines.

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Chemically and biologically assaulted chalk boulder - making up large areas of the beach and wave-cut platform. In the centre is a rare occurrence of sandy beach material on the platform, with characteristic ripples.

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A close-up of a flint seam, with, either side, an indication of how very white the cliffs, and newly-fallen chalk boulders, are in the sunshine.

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A sizeable rock fall heaps more material to be consumed on the wave-cut platform, which has, centre, countless rock-pools during the inter-tidal period. On the right is the first of many shots including the lighthouse at Beachy Head.

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A very prominent wave-cut notch carries a little beach of abrasive flint shingle and cobbles - and showing strong local discolouration.

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The discolouration theme continues along to an area of some more extensive undercutting, proto-caves that will not be allowed to develop on this coastline.

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The landscape of vertical chalk cliffs, fallen blocks being progressively covered by vegetation and attacked chemically - and the hard flint cobbles waiting for the next opportunity to attack the chalk that had held captive for so long!

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Some more shots of the same themes ...

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... and yet more, this time including a remarkable slot in the vertical chalk.

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More shots of the vertical cliffs, the slot lost to a cliff fall and the debris on the beach.

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Old and new chalk debris on the beach as the lighthouse is approached....

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... but never seems to get any nearer, especially as a boulder field has to be negotiated over the very sharp, winkle-encrusted blocks ... and the blocks lower in the water that are covered with a grey slime.

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Respite from the boulders in the form of a short beach, the home of a collection of wooden boards and a selection of colourful plastic containers .. all industrial in origin.

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A succulent makes a home in some of the fallen soil and debris of a huge slide of rock that almost joins up with the lighthouse. To pass this obstacle was a scramble and preceded a stretch of  some difficulty - not a casual walk. The time given to reach Beachy Head from Birling Gap was 3 hours and it took all of that!

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Sea lavender has a precarious hold in-between chalk rocks, an infertile and desiccated environment, and one clearly subjected to periodic rock-falls.

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Still on the chalk slide, a collection of flints that have not yet been fully rounded by the sea, although the process has begun. The pristine whiteness of the rock fall is progressively discoloured as the wave-cut platform is reached.

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A pair of shots of the wave cut platform, and a vertical crack in the sheer chalk face above.

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More of the boulder-covered wave-cut platform.

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Some fracturing of the chalk at the base of the cliff .. at a point where I finally succumbed to a flint boulder that skittered away under my left foot!

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At last some easier going, with the 'flat rocks' symbol meaning what it says!

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The beach was abandoned in rapidly-failing light, left, but thins did revive a little during the climb to Beach Head of 164 metres!

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On the right is the thin cliff top soil profile, staining the rock face below. In the centre is the chalk cliff and the dark ring of rocks in the sea indicating the extent of a previous rock fall, a feature repeated in the right-hand photo.

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At left, a pillar  of chalk becomes detached from the cliff top by erosion, and possibly, faulting. The chalk pillar lies above a slightly more mobile stretch of cliffs, not holding a vertical line at all.

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Views from the top, to the west on the left hand photo, and to the east in the centre and on the right.

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Visitors promenade the cliff top towards Beachy Head; the view to the lighthouse and a general overview eastwards.

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A view of the Beachy Head lighthouse from above, with its rockfall -  and beach feature, of which a close-up is seen in the centre. Along the cliffs to the west is Belle tout, and the lighthouse that has been moved back from the cliff top.

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Some examples of the erosion features that can be seen from the South Down Way in the area of  Shooter' Bottom and Belle Tout. The habit of rabbits to have their tunnel entrances exiting into a communal area flanked by a 400' vertical drop is unnerving!

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Birling Gap

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Beachy Head Birling Gap Seven Sisters Sussex coast coastal erosion chalk flints nodules strata landslips wave cut platform notch beach lighthouse caves litter pollution

 

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