One of my first school geography trips was to the beach at Cuckmere Haven. The school coach parked somewhere near the Cuckmere Inn although sadly we had teachers with us and were probably far too young-looking to have scored any cider even if we had been on our own, and we meandered our way along the banks of the Cuckmere River to the beach.
I remember having to write up something about ox-bow lakes afterwards but my fascination was focused on the old Coastguard Cottages perched on the edge of the crumbling cliffs.
It was the first time I really understood what erosion was and how it impacts on real people and places. Up until then it had been this rather boring topic about cliffs, and the formation of beaches and sand spits, and it had remained so until I saw those cottages and how close they were to the edge of the cliff.
Here they are just before the first world war in a photo taken around 1910:
Nowadays the cliffs have eroded and a huge sea-wall has been built to protect the cottages from being swept into the sea. There’s no sign of the smugglers that these cottages were built to keep an eye out for but if you try hard enough you can let your imagination show you dark and stormy nights with groups of smugglers rowing into the shingle beach with their contraband.
Imagine living in a place like this?! Every storm would have me outside checking the cliffs and worrying that the next wave would smash a massive chunk of cliff away throwing the cottage into the sea.
If you explore Cuckmere Haven as part of one of our South Coast Walks you’ll find plenty to see and do from the Coastguard Cottages themselves, the 2nd World War defences which can still be seen today, the wildlife (Cuckmere Haven is home to a few Red Foxes, sheep, badgers, and a plethora of birds and rabbits), and of course the river itself.
The thing about school trips is that they’re mostly wasted on kids, especially kids these days with their ipads and xboxes. Go back to Cuckmere Haven as an adult and it’s much more interesting.
And you can be sure you will get served a great pint at the Cuckmere Inn