With the welcome return of warm weather this week, there’s no better antidote for work-related stress than to leave the rat race behind and take in the bracing sea air of the South Downs. Determined to blow away the corporate cobwebs and release six months of shoulder tension, I join the Trailblazer Meet Up Group for a day’s walk along the Seven Sisters.
Rising at the ungodly hour of 6.00am on a Saturday morning, I was back on the cattle truck speeding towards Victoria in a blissfully empty carriage without the merest hint of a signal failure, why is it always during rush hour? Met by the dynamic duo of Kieran and Tanya, Trailblazer’s fearless walk leaders, I was politely informed that what I’d naively envisaged to be a gentle coastal meander would in fact involve tackling no less than seven steep inclines in rapid succession.
Bracing myself and being mindful to veer away from the rapidly crumbling cliff edges, I set off along the coastal path from Seaford with 30 other pasty city-dwellers. Marching along the springy turf, we head off at a brisk trot gulping lungfuls of buffeting, briny sea air. Gasping and panting moments later, I begin to wonder what I’d let myself in for. Calves aching, we finally make it to the summit of the first Sister only to find her six siblings glinting into the distance. Thankfully, the first Sister was by far the worst and the breath-taking views across the channel (my first glimpse of a horizon in months) more than made up for the half hour exertion required.
Stopping for a well-deserved ice-cream half way along, we stumble across the Belle Tout Lighthouse. Dating from 1832, the lighthouse shot to fame in the 1980’s cult TV adaptation of Fay Weldon’s “Life and Loves of a She Devil.” A cliff-edge thriller made all the more fitting by the lighthouse’s recent dramatic re-location back from the brink. Now transformed into a privately-owned B&B, it continues to offer some of the most enviable views in the country.
Reluctantly heaving our weary limbs into action again, we gird our loins for the final up-hill onslaught to Beachy Head. A forlorn pub stands a few hundred metres from the infamous cliff edge in what has to be one of Britain’s most solitary yet soul-stirring views. Ribbons of gentle green hills provide the perfect contrast to the infinite inky depths of the Channel.
Marching on, the sudden appearance of civilisation in the form of Eastbourne brings us up with a start. Feeling more than a little euphoric, we make our steep descent into the sedate seaside town. Like marathon runners desperate for the finish line, never has Pizza Express held so much appeal. Collapsing into chairs with wind-burnt cheeks and aching thighs, a deep sense of relaxation creeps over me as I feel my laptop-addled shoulders drop to their rightful position for the first time in months.