Natural England - Seaford to Beachy Head (SSSI)

Seaford to Beachy Head (SSSI)

Location and Access Information
Grid Reference: TQ 540970

The Seven Sisters from Hope Gap.

The Seven Sisters from Hope Gap.

This 10km stretch of sea-cliffs and beach is located between Seaford and Eastbourne and can be accessed from a number of points. From Seaford, where car parking is available, the cliff top footpath via the golf course leads to Hope Gap at Cuckmere Haven, where a board explains the geology and interest of the cliff section and there is also a superb view of the Seven Sisters. Access to the eastern side of Cuckmere Haven and the Seven Sisters cliff section can be gained from the footpath leading from the car park for the Seven Sisters Country Park, located just off the A259. Alternatively, at Birling Gap, there are steps down the cliff or from Eastbourne, where car parking is available at the western end of the seafront, the foot of Beachy Head can be accessed via the beach.

Geological interest

The cliff section between Seaford and Beachy Head lies at the eastern end of the South Downs which terminate in the famous chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters. The white, pure limestone of the Chalk is superbly exposed between Seaford and Cuckmere and then eastwards, forming the imposing cliffs that culminate in Beachy Head. This section is well known for the fossils that it has yielded, particularly different types of sea-urchins and molluscs that inhabited the warm sea in which the chalk was deposited some 90 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period.

At Hope Gap, on the western side of the Cuckmere valley and at Birling Gap, further to the east, the cliff section provides a cross-section through sediments filling these dry valleys. Known as ‘head’, this material represents the product of freezing and thawing action on the soils and rock of the valley sides during the tundra-like conditions of the last ice-age.