Saturday, November 5, 2011

Alfriston ~ Birling Gap ~ Beachy Head ~ England

We spent several weeks in England with my sister and brother-in-law and we could not have asked for better hosts, company or tour guides! We spent most of our time touring and seeing the sights of southern England, making several photo-taking stops every day. There were so many sights to see and they were making sure that we could see as many of them as possible but still leaving many for a future visit. 

High Street in Alfriston, England
We began one day with our first stop in Alfriston, a small and very quiet village on this day.  The village square is tiny but has a bench that a few of the local gentlemen have gathered on to share their stories with one another.  We walked along High Street, which is also the highway that passes through town.  The building with the strips of wood on its' facing is The George Inn, and it has a sign on the outside that says, "First Transfer of Innkeepers License - 1397".  This inn has been in business for a very long time!
St. Andrew's Parish Church, Alfriston, England
 St. Andrew's Parish Church in Alfriston dates back to the 14th century and was built in the shape of a cross. As most churches on our travels, the graveyard surrounds the church and some of the headstones also date back a very long time. The open door meant we were able to go inside the church and enjoy the stained glass windows from the inside on this sunny morning while there was also a film crew working in there for an English television program.

Artist and swan on River Cuckmere, England
This old gentleman sat quietly sketching on the bank of the River Cuckmere, oblivious to the beautiful swan that was below his sight range. We walked over to see what he saw, which was the back of St. Andrew's Parish Church and he offered to show us his book of work. He may have been part of a very small group of artists, perhaps five or six that we'd seen scattered about the village, but he said he was there "to get away from the people". He was polite but I felt that our brief stop was long enough for him and we were on our way, he was an artist at work.

St. Andrew's Parish Church, England
The small canal of water (in swan photo) is the River Cuckmere that runs behind the St. Andrew's Parish Church in Alfriston. This is located about 10 km (6 mi) northeast of the river mouth at Seaford, It was during the 18th century that they first took measures to prevent flooding of the valley which had
occured in Alfriston, so the river isn't affected by the tide changes as it had been back then and leaves only this canal in this part of the valley. The River Cuckmere does widen once it leaves here to make its' way down to Seaford.

Seven Sisters at Birling Gap, England
I had always had an interest in seeing England and especially to see the white cliffs, most likely because of the song 'White Clffs of Dover' from WW2 and it seemed to have a personal connection as my dad was posted over there and had fought during that war. So the white cliffs of Dover was on the list. There are other locations that have white cliffs and Dover wasn't on our route plan so we were going to visit some cliffs that were farther south instead, at Birling Gap which is part of the longest natural exposure of chalk cliffs in Europe. They were distinct markers for seafaring ships.

White chalk cliffs at Birling Gap, England
Birling Gap is in East Sussex, Southest England, right on the English Channel. We'd driven through green pastures passing over the Cuckmere River and came upon Birling Gap, which is a parking lot with a small hotel and restaurants but I saw little else, I was anxious to see the white cliffs. There is
a staircase that leads down to the beach, so we approached that just as a busload of foreign highschool students did the same but once we got through the crowded platform, we were given the most magnificant view of the Seven Sisters, the white cliffs. I found that moment when I first saw the cliffs to be one of the most emotional moments I had on our travels. That was unexpected but the sight was as amazing as expected.

Beachy Head, England
Beachy Head is not far up the coast from Birling Gap. The lighthouse is one of two at this location and sits below the highest chalk cliff in the UK. It is 162 meters (530 ft) above sea level and offers an beautiful view of the English Channel. The name Beachy Head is a result of mispronouciation of the
original french name meaning 'beautiful headland'. In 1724, the name Beachy Head became accepted as the preferred name.

Lighthouse atop Beachy Head, England
The imagination can offer many scenarios as we look out over the English Channel. The history from this part of the world goes back forever, filled with many stories about ships and battles, a time that we read about in our history books. Today all we see is a sailboat so we are back in the moment and enjoying the special time that we have to spend here and enjoying the view.

Sheep on South Downs, England
The South Downs is splattered with sheep in green pastures, many times they are pastures lined with rock walls. I did enjoy seeing the faces of the curious sheep when we stopped to take some pictures as much as some of them seemed to enjoy our company! Sheep are a common sight in southern England and we did see a few different kinds, but these ones were very familiar, as the ones we see at home.

Our journeys in England continue and there will be many more photos to see.  We've visited London and other areas in southern England, click on the link if you wish to see some of those photos.


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