The Southern Downs & The Seven Sisters
As I am a sucker for a good sightseeing tour I was instantly hooked when I found Brighton and Beyond’s Tour of the Southern Downs and the Seven Sisters. This tour was perfect all the way round. An intimate group, as the tour’s maximum capacity is 16 people but there were only about 7 of us plus our guide on the particular day that we planned it for. We all were situated in a clean and roomy Mercedes mini bus ready for a day filled with many surprises.
As we began our journey our first stop was Devil’s Dyke. A prime location for paragliding, dotting the sky and hillside are a few dozen human fliers as they whirl and glide above the rolling hills of farm land. Overlooking the beginning of the next Champagne capitol of Europe. As more and more wine entrepreneurs realize that the lands of the Southern Downs mirrors that of the French Champagne vineyards located on the other side of the channel, they are beginning to buy up old farms and estates so to begin the next boom of the champagne market.
Located on the other side of the hillside there is the the dyke. Its folklore origination is said to have been the devil came down to the Southern Downs and was infuriated that the people were living there and set out a plan to drive them out. The devil saw that the ocean was near the pastures and thought that if he dug a dyke from the ocean that it would wash out the villagers, so he began to dig. A nun that lived just above the area where the devil was digging came out to confront the devil as to what he was doing. The devil told her of his plans and she challenged him that he couldn’t dig the dyke before the sun came up and if he couldn’t finish before sunrise that he must leave the village in peace. The devil thought for a second and reasoned that he was the devil and he could do anything. So he continued to dig while the nun raced home to grab the biggest candle she could find, I mean a HUGE candle, and lit it in the windowsill and took one of her roosters and provoked him to cockle. The devil heard the rooster and up at a brilliant light just above the horizon and in a moment of dismay accepted his defeat and fled the Southern Downs, leaving behind his unfinished dyke. Haha this story being much more entertaining than that of the real story which as that the chalk lands were washed away by water.
Arriving at our nest stop, Middle Farm, a 625 acre working family farm, owned by the same family for over 6 generations. With such an extensive history in the British food industry, Middle Farm, creates and demands the highest of standards when it comes to their milk and animal products. This same standard of excellence is also seen in everyone else produce they stock.
As you first walk into the farm you are teleported into the times of Jane Austin’s, Pride and Prejudice time area. At the entrance of the farm you are greeted by an exquisite set of building, the farmers home and a handful of barns. Within the cluster of flint (native rock to the southern downs landscape) built structures you will find a cozy market place of farm grown goods such as cheeses, meats, produce, honey, and breads. The smells are so delicious that the aroma takes you straight to foodie heaven. Paralleling the market is another barn which houses Middle Farm’s National known collection of ciders and perrys. Their collection is unlike any other cellar I have ever witnessed as rows of shelves are stocked with the most beautiful of bottles. As I am one for an excellence glass of cider Middle Farm did not disappoint. As they offer a handful of samples to tantalize the taste buds. Right outside the cellar there is the farms personal apple pressor. Where the intoxicating smells of fresh apple juice entices all who visit. As you venture on you are greeted by a small nursery of the farm’s beautifully grown plants just waiting to be adopted. The greenery then leads you on to my favorite stop of the farm, the cafe, where you can find some of the most amazing European inspired dishes. Such delicacies you can wrap your taste buds around a reviving morning coffee, a lovely light lunch (there is always a vegetarian option), a sumptuous Sussex cream tea with our famous scones OR the best damn apple juice you will ever have! By far one of the best places I’ve eaten at in England.
The Farm Shop and National Collection of Cider and Perry are both open from 9.30am until 5.30pm Monday to Sunday.
Countryside & Long Man
As we left the Farm we will then travelled through the English countryside something I will never forget. As we drove I was overcome with such a inner stillness and peace that I had not experienced before. It may have been the endless rolling hills or the exquisitely build stone homes that dotted the landscape, unsure of the origin of my feelings all I knew was that there is a deep seated energy to the land and I was without words as to the serenity they evoked within me. Captivating as the environment as I was even further astounded when we stopped at the Long Man of Wilmington or locally known as the Green Man. A 235 foot tall man carved from the chalk below, said to have been created in the Iron Age era. This figure was awe-inspiring to think of creating such a work.
As the venture continued I was getting more and more excited as we will coming to the place I had been dreaming to see, the infamous Seven Sisters. Our first glimpse came when we arrived at Beachyhead, the tallest point of the cliffs and man, let me just say it did not disappoint. As we walked up the hill the infinite horizon came into view and a couple steps more the sheer drop off appeared before your eyes and you can not help but feel a bit dizzy. Reaching a staggering 531 feet from sea level, Beachyhead’s chalk cliff was breathtakingly beautiful and terrifying all in the same moment. One moment you struck with awe and the next praying that you do not miss step and take a nice tumble down to the sea shore below. One of the most incredible details of the view was the way that the chalk bled into the ocean, creating the most exquisite gradient. From the shore begins the most beautiful mint green that then turns to an aquamarine into the most stunning aqua blues. It was as if it was painted by the gods. Truly a sight to behold.
Seven Sisters Beach
Clamoring back into the Mercedes Mini bus and we were on our way to the spot I was obsessing over for since arriving in Brighton! As we arrived at the park we made our way down a pathway sided by herds of sheep and berried bushes. The brush started to part and the first glimpses of the cliffs began to show themselves. Getting closer there was a beautiful holiday home situated right on the bank on the beach overlooking the coast and all of the Seven Sisters. What a magnificent place to stay if I had had more time in the southern downs. At last, after crossing the beach we had finally made it to one of the most incredible views I had ever seen! The cliffs loomed over us with such immensity that it took your breath away. The beach was a perfect place for a picnic and a lovely afternoon stroll. If you ever find yourself in the area be sure to add this one to your must sees.
Last but not least we came to our final stop of the tour, Rottingdean, a quaint town just located on the outskirts of Brighton. Home to many of the wealthiest businessmen of the area and some of the most exquisite english homes I have ever seen. Within the town center there is a yellow building that once was the home of the author of The Jungle Book, Rubyard Kipling. A very special town this place is and much history that lies within its bounds. A perfect end to the best tour I have ever taken.
All in all this tour was very successful. Full of knowledge and all the best spots on the southern coast you cannot go wrong with taking this tour.