Cuckmere Haven

Walks: Glynde to SeafordSeaford to EastbourneBerwick to Exceat or Seaford

Set dramatically between Seaford Head and the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters, this beach gives you a thrill rare on the south coast of swimming from a lovely wild beach (the only buildings are three old coastguard cottages, and they look likely to fall into the sea soon). Since you have to get to it on foot (the nearest car park and bus stop are at Exceat, 20 minutes walk inland), it is also less crowded on sunny Sundays than other south coast beaches - though by no means deserted.

  • The beach is divided into two by the Cuckmere River. The east side of the beach is much bigger and has the immense white cliff off Haven Brow towering above it. The west side has lately been suffering from heavy erosion that may cause it to disappear entirely. This is benign neglect by the National Trust, which owns this side of the river and which has the eventual aim of returning the area to its natural state of saltmarsh.

  • For around three hours either side of low tide, swimming is very tricky here, as the sea retreats over a wilderness of pebble and rock. However low tide swimming may be possible in places on the east side.

  • Normally the only way to get from one beach to the other is to walk all the way up the river to Exceat Bridge, which takes 20 minutes up, 20 minutes back (a very pretty walk). At low tide you may be able to ford the river as it crosses the beach - but be careful as even relatively shallow water can knock you off your feet if it is fast flowing. From time to time the mouth of the river also gets blocked by shingle drift, meaning you can walk across without getting your feet wet: but so far every time this has happened the river mouth has been unblocked again a few months later by the Environment Agency. If they ever stopped doing this, the west side beach would extend eastwards, and the river mouth would end up under the cliffs of Haven Brow.

  • Be sure not to get caught in the current of the Cuckmere River where it spills out into the sea. When the channel is clear, it flows straight out to sea between the two beaches, but sometimes winter storms create a shingle bar at the mouth of the river so that it sweeps to the left, across the east beach. Particularly when the tide is on the ebb this river current can be very strong and extend out to sea for some distance. It is usually easily visible if you look at the beach from above.

  • Food and drink can be found at Exceat: the Cuckmere Inn by the bridge, and the Saltmarsh tea room near the National Trust-run visitor's centre, 400 metres further east along the road.

  • Buses: 12 and 12A Brighton double decker buses go very regularly from Exceat to nearby Seaford until late at night. See for details.

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