Archive for Coast

New Year almost

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 5, 2018 by cliffdean

Tuesday January 2nd 2018: Since I’d wanted to join the Rye Harbour walk on the First (it was wet and windy but 18 people turned up, stayed the course and enjoyed watching murmurations of Golden Plovers & Lapwings as well as some scarcer birds such as Black-necked Grebe & Red-breasted Merganser) the customary RXbirdwalk was displaced till the following day when it was dark and grey but at least dry – till 11 o’clock.

This meant a change of plan to make the most of the two hours available: drive to the Pools and look out from the seawall and beach. There were plenty of birds again – the sky often full of Lapwings, Curlews, Dunlins & Starlings flushed up from the soggy pastures by unseen predators or maybe just popular panic. Sorting from these moving silhouettes the small groups of Golden Plovers & Ruffs was a stimulating challenge as was the separation of grey roosting waders into Grey Plover, Knot & Dunlin as they huddled on the shingle, thanks to the miserable weather undisturbed by strollers .

Likewise, the lines of birds roosting behind the roadside pool provided an interesting task since they comprised several species of gull & wader. Then there were the many dabbling and diving ducks with a Marsh Harrier cruising over them.

So, by the time the New Year Drizzle arrived half an hour early we had seen quite a variety of birds (40), though when I came to compile it the lack of you-see-them-every-time species such as Blackbird, Blue Tit & Robin felt strangely unbalanced. Once you get east of the Toot Rock bushes though, they just aren’t there.


Even shorter and darker

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 29, 2017 by cliffdean

Our wedding anniversary falls on December 21st, the Winter Solstice, which we sometimes celebrate with a walk on the inspirational Downs. Last week, however, the morning was gloomy enough at home but as we drove up towards Friston we entered the cloud-base. Two stoical dog-walkers passing at Crowlink  suggested “mistical” as an optimistic adjective.

As we headed south among fog-beaded sheep, the cliff-edge was hinted by the soft rush of waves and the scent of seashore wrack some time before it materialized from the grey.

The scant bird-list was gleaned more from cliff-face gargling of Fulmars and croak of unseen Ravens than by visible, colourless specimens (Meadow Pipit….er…)

However, with no view to detain us in admiration, we made unusually quick progress, turning our joint imaginations instead to the composition of limericks, inspired by my anniversary present: the new biography of the insufficiently celebrated Edward Lear.

“There was an old man in the fog…” was one attempt, quickly surpassed by “There was an old man in the mist…” which seemed to offer more possibilities, especially since we were aiming for the pub.

This classic, iconic landscape is usually pretty busy, not least with young visitors from SE Asia who, for some reason (there are plenty of good ones), are always present in large numbers, but once past the mistical dog-walkers I think we had made out just one indistinct figure in the gloom.

Once we’d picked our way down the slippery chalk track to the valley, selfie-taking normality was re-established among the Rock Pipits and challenging gull roosts

But, with so little to delay us, we arrived at the Cuckmere Inn with 45 minutes to spare before lunch so took one of the frequent, swaying, wi-fi equipped double-deckers back to Friston whence we aimed for the Giant’s Rest instead.

On the move

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2017 by cliffdean

On the Winchelsea Beach seawall, as we set off last Saturday, we were passed by constant flocks of Goldfinches which often fluttered down onto the roadside teasels. And if you turned your head in the other direction you could see Gannets gliding and diving on the horizon while from overhead came the trilling of Skylarks making landfall. I had made this walk a couple of times already in the last week and was surprised at how much had changed: the numbers of Chiffchaffs had decreased and House Martins, so very numerous before, were entirely absent, both species having plainly made their way south.

Among the passing Goldfinches we could often hear Siskins and Redpolls. While the former stayed in the air we were lucky to have good views of the latter as they alighted in bushes on the Beach Field. This is more than can be said for the several Goldcrests we came across, which typically hid in high canopy, showing mostly in silhouette.

The Fairy-ring Field by Castle Farm held its usual crowd of Pied Wagtails and just after one of the group asked if it were too late for Yellow Wagtails, two of them appeared – quite late in the season – both washed-out looking juveniles. Towards the Castle we found a couple of Stonechats though no Curlews or Egyptian Geese.

As we approached Castle Water, something greatly disturbed the birds upon it, which rose up in a great honking of Greylags and a range of ducks disappearing into the distance so we prepared to be disappointed but, whatever had caused the panic, things had settled down by the time we got into the hide. As usual there were hundreds of birds though not the range of waders there has been, nor the celebrated Little Gull. We did, though, have excellent views of hunting Marsh Harrier and a more distant Buzzard.

On the way back we ran into a Treecreeper on one of the big, gnarled willows in The Wood and at the southern end of The Ocean found a Great Egret feeding alongside a few Littles, providing a useful direct comparison of size, structure and stance.

As usual we saw a good range of species, numbering 67.



Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December 16, 2016 by cliffdean


I rarely venture out of RXland on account of the dangers in the wide world beyond, but the other day dared to take a Nice Walk on a level, dry, concrete path from Rottingdean back to Brighton. If only I had consulted a Rough Guide beforehand…I didn’t even think to take a First Aid kit, let alone a Space Blanket.



At almost every step a new hazard presented itself.




Historic England: Drowned Monument


Although it was clearly necessary to watch every step, I still managed to glance at a few birds: a couple of Fulmars (though I nearly toppled over backwards as they zoomed overhead), c150 Brents flying E (damage to eyes through looking into the bright sun) & a Kittiwake (looked docile enough, but you never know…)

But the most worrying species was Rock Pipit: 5 in those few miles counts as nothing less than an infestation and came unnervingly close, trying no doubt to lull me with exceptionally good views. It seems only a matter of time before Something Happens.




All in all, we felt relieved to arrive safely among the refined architecture of Brighton Marina, thence to the safety of the crowded streets and heavy traffic of the city centre.


Entrancing Bulverhythe

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 28, 2016 by cliffdean

P1280375Beneath all this there is an ancient estuary. Beneath the road, the houses and the light, back-street industry, a deep layer of prehistoric peat.



Adventures in Edgelandia: a glorious show of notifiable Common Ragwort. Horse owners get very anxious about it but in this case less so. Horses ignore Ragwort in its living state but get poisoned when it’s (unintentionally) fed to them dried in hay.



Adventures in Shedlandia #1





Dangerous rocks.


Vagabond seaside species line the chainlink railside fence: yellow-horned poppy, sea kale, viper’s bugloss, teasel, knapweed, hemp agrimony…






The golden ochre of the iron-rich cliffs


More dangerous rocks #1


#2…or it could illustrate a fly-tipper flinging bin-bags full of rubbish onto the beach.

I appreciate the thoughtful application of lower case.


I’ve passed many times without noticing this geometric platform. It looks the size & shape to be the base of a pill-box….


…though the brick superstructure looks a bit flimsy. Maybe it was a little sea-side kiosk.


But no – I was right. It doesn’t seem that long since I walked along here but I’ve not previously seen this informative interpretation panel. Spike Milligan, it records, kept watch here.


Two architectural traditions, one from the ancient Asian steppe, the other from early 20th century Europe.



Gulls were clustered below the Cafe on the Beach, apparently feeding but upon investigation I discovered they were actually drinking fresh water from a spring in the shingle. Could this be the last vestige of the steam, now wholeheartedly concretized, that originally filtered through from the eponymous Gap?


It’s clear enough and there are no others but it doesn’t show on Google maps which, however, offer a compensatory delight in the green ghost of a dismantled funfair.

Screenshot 2016-07-29 20.17.44



Today’s one-hour walk

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 8, 2015 by cliffdean

….it got a bit stretched once I noticed a Red Kite circling over trees at the back of the marsh. There were two birds to start with but one dropped down too quickly to identify and thereafter up to 7 Buzzards were cruising over the treetops, a Kestrel and adult f Marsh Harrier patrolling below.

Apart from that, the first Grey Plover (summer-plumage) & 2 Willow Warblers of the autumn as well as a Wheatear seen by Andrew K. On the sea, several Fulmars resting off Cliff End, half a dozen Common Scoters further out, a few Gannets on the hazy horizon and….2 or 3 Mallards which have taken to hanging out on the beach and swimming a little offshore (I can’t recall them doing this in former years). No sign of GC Grebes, however. Grey Seal.

Plenty of Swallows & Sand Martins passing. Broods of both Tufted Duck & Pochard on the Pools plus loads of little Little Grebes.

62 species from the toilets to the E pool.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 10, 2015 by cliffdean

2015-07-04 12.51.41

Last Saturday we attended a conference dealing with the wreck of “The Anne” a 70-gun warship from the 17th century, which lies on the beach at Pett Level. Fifty participants gathered in St Clement’s Church in the Old Town to hear expert contributions from marine historians & archeologists, an archivist and a team from University of Birmingham who have produced amazing Virtual Reality reconstructions of the ship.

We heard about the historical and political context of Pepys’s navy under Charles II, the development of Chatham Dockyard, where The Anne was built, about rivalries between those involved, techniques & logistics of construction, the ship’s service (including delivery of a German princess to the King of Portugal, followed by a lengthy circuit of the W Mediterranean, under the captaincy of the illustrious but ill-fated Cloudesley Shovell) and its destruction following the 1690 Battle of Beachy Head, finally the protection and study of the remains.


I was not aware that another wreck lies off Norman’s Bay, this time a Dutch vessel, represented so far by a seabed heap of cannons, which has now been tentatively identified by painstaking analysis of Dutch naval records as the Wapen van Utrecht.


Location of wrecks off SE England