IOPCC Trip Report

Seaford Head to Pevensey
Pevensey to Royal Sovereign Lighthouse
19th - 20th July 2013

Pictures of the weekend are on the
Galleries Page.


Tony Sandry  
David Cotgrove  

It was thought that around five club members might make this trip, but in the event I met up with Tony alone on the beach at Seaford on Friday afternoon at around 1.30pm. After the usual faff and parking the cars in an unrestricted area (free on sea front but limited to 12 hrs), we were on the water just after 3.00pm. Tony had planned this trip and assessed tidal flows and weather conditions (hot and sunny with a fresh NE wind Force 3 -4 gusting to 5) as favourable to travel along the coastline. The plan was to paddle East to a spot in Pevensey Bay for an overnight wild camp and next day assess conditions for a trip out to the Royal Sovereign lighthouse and a return to Seaford.

Fully loaded we set off with the wind in our faces rounding Seaford Head. Passing the mouth of the River Cuckmere, with coastguard cottages perched on the edge of cliff, the impressive white cliffs of the famous Seven Sisters came fully into view. Arriving at Birling Gap we needed to stretch our legs and make use of the facilities provided by the National Trust cafe on the cliff top, by way of an impressive steel staircase from the beach. Tony bought the ice creams. Progress had been slow to this point and we still had a long way to go.

We paddled on past Belle Tout lighthouse on a rising Spring tide under the enormous chalk cliffs as Beachy Head lighthouse came into view. We passed the sobering site of a wrecked car clearly visible on the rocks between high and low water, the scene of a suicide just a few days before.

Stopping briefly for a photo shoot by the lighthouse and further assessment of our slower than expected progress we rounded Beachy Head and the environs of Eastbourne eventually came into view, with the smoke of barbecues clearly visible on the beach and the need to navigate round a late afternoon swimmer or two. By around 7.00 pm, in evening sunlight, we were getting tired and began seriously looking for likely camping spots on the beach, as it was evident we were unlikely to reach our intended overnight objective. Against the NE wind and minimal assistance from the current it didn't just seem like an age to reach a landmark such as Eastbourne's pleasure pier and after further assessment and with plenty of daylight left we paddled on to Langney Point. On approaching the point, landing was clearly not advisable owing to a steep shingle beach and a dumping longshore drift. In failing light, increased headwind and swell I surveyed the scene, took a deep intake of breath and, followed by Tony, rounded the point and found the entrance to Sovereign Harbour and calm waters. We had, in fact, after a trip lasting some five hours reached Pevensey Bay!

We set up camp on a shingle beach in the outer harbour and changed into warm clothing with Tony saying he did not feel at all well and was off his food. We used the boats as windbreaks and not bothering with the tents slept under the stars on a warm night. Our night on Langney Point under the shadow of a Martello Tower was not without incident however. Thinking the police had arrived with blue light flashing to move us on it was in fact the Coast Guard having had reports of a blue boat adrift off the point - not us. Later, closing time produced a number of noisy youths passing close by and we kept our heads well down. Later still, we were joined by a young couple intent on some serious love making just a few yards away and totally unconcerned by our presence!!

After a calm night (weather wise) the strong NE wind had returned by morning and cloud had thickened. It required little discussion to decide that our trip to the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse was off and that there was little point pressing on into a headwind further into Pevensey Bay. Planning to leave around high tide at 10.00am, we watched boats leaving the harbour through the swell funnelling in through the outer harbour mouth and round the point West into a calmer sea. We aimed to do the same, straight into the wind and turning West giving the point a wide berth. Tony said he was well enough to start the return trip but with the option to land on Eastbourne sea front and get a taxi back to the cars.

Once into calmer waters Tony suggested striking out straight to far distant Beachy Head rather than hugging the coastline which I took as an encouraging sign that he was feeling better.

With a strong tail wind we made great progress on the return leg reaching Beachy Head lighthouse in around an hour. There we encountered the Newhaven lifeboat having launched a small rib searching the coastline for we know not what. Following another leisurely stop at Birling Gap we rounded Seaford Head for the last time and were off the water sometime after 2.00pm for a late lunch on a hot sunny beach.

Despite missing out the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse we agreed this trip was well worth the effort and not without its interest and challenging moments.

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Report: David Cotgrove
Pics: David Cotgrove & Tony Sandry



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