We did it--the doggos and I walked three miles round trip to the end of the Eastbourne promenade and back today, just as I'd said we would. We made it all the way to the beginning of the chalk deposits that form the Beachy Head cliffs, which were only a bit farther than the point we stopped. However, the hike to them was wallpapered with warning signs about falling rocks and rising tides, and I wasn't up to dealing with either today. I think the best bet for fossil hunting will involve a bus to the main parking area at a date and time when the posted tide charts indicate we probably won't get swept out to sea.
"And I Will Walk Five Hundred Miles"
We started at Sea Houses Square and took the lower promenade past the pier, the Bandstand, and the Wish Tower. (The Eastbourne promenade has two levels, plus a regular street sidewalk, making three levels of foot traffic for a long section of the beachfront. I'll post about that another day, along with photos of how the town has been raised to second-story height to keep the streets above sea level. Hello, New Orleans. But I digress.) A mile and a half later, the promenade terminates at the first exposed line of chalk deposits, just around the bend from Beachy Head.
The point shown in the photo above corresponds roughly with the bottom point of the red line I drew on the map. These cliffs are low elevation compared to the ones near the Beachy Head Lighthouse, which could not be seen from where I took that picture. Still, they towered above us as I stood gaping upward with my neck at a very uncomfortable angle, trying to get the top treeline in frame, my little dog Paige dwarfed at the base of the cliff looming above her.
"Like a Chalk Outline"
I understood pretty quickly what the signs were talking about, too--that falling rock thing. The ground at the base of this first cliff was strewn with boulders large enough to flatten the average car. And they are indeed made of chalk. As in, you can write your name on the sidewalk with it. I slipped a piece of it in my pocket as a keepsake as I stood there pondering the dusty miller growing wild on the hillside behind the boulders--how ironic that, growing up, I'd always thought the dusty miller growing in my Granny's flower bed looked like it had been coated with chalk dust.
Photo by Hyle Chu - CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72448439
"We Will Rock You"
The Eastbourne beaches, as well as many beaches in surrounding areas, are not natural sand beaches, but pebble beaches by careful design. I'm not a fan of artificially pebbled beaches but in this case I do understand their purpose. Rock has been used to fortify and build up the seafront almost like artificial dunes, with the help of massive groynes that prevent shoreline erosion of the town itself.
Nevertheless, the stones themselves have snagged my attention. At least twice a day I empty the dogs on the beach (other times are just quick trips to the nearest patch of grass,) and I always find myself fascinated by the mechanically tumbled rocks because of their diverse geologic makeup. I haven't tried to identify each type of rock I see in the mix, but one in particular has fascinated me. Its base is a dark stone, perhaps slate, with chalk deposits swirled into the curves and hollows that marble it up like an overo paint. Little mystery where these stones originate from,and it was no surpise when I found these rocks in abundance near the base of the chalk cliffs.
I've started a collection of these rocks with the idea in mind to perhaps build a little tabletop fountain out of them. But since they're made partly of chalk, which is a soft material, I wonder how durable the patterning would be. Chalk is insoluble but that doesn't mean it can't be worn down. I mean, sidewalk chalk art washes away after so many rainstorms, right?
Whatever the case, I could always build a fountain using the other rocks I've been collecting. I have no explanation for these strange stones, but they are numerous on the beaches here--all types and sizes with these odd little holes worn in them...anyone have an idea what causes this? Something in the tumbling process? Barnacles? Fossilized matter? Rock worms? Aliens?
"Down by the Sea"
Speaking of barnacles, I found some by unfortunate accident today. Ouch! But they did make a cool picture.
Today the tide was out when we walked, so I got to see a different face of the beach here in Eastbourne. This may be my favorite personality of la mer.
The rocks lurking beneath the waves are quite impressive. Some of them are covered with a bright green moss that must be amphibious. It's completely submerged part of the time and completely dry the other part of the time. I've never seen anything like it.
I got a good look at how the groynes are put together, too. Talk about sturdy construction....
Something I really love about low tide is all the underlying character of the shoreline, even the shallows that don't form a complete tidepool. Ten degrees warmer and I would have been all up in this one. Sooo tempting.
The guys in the photo below didn't let the cool temperature stop them. I was jealous! They looked like they had so much fun out there. I know the dog did. He came up and spent some time playing with my three. Great little guy, wiggled all over, he was so happy.
"You Ain't Nothin' but a Hound Dog"
On the subject of dogs, you can believe Milo, Paige, and Tori had a big-eyed time today. Past the Wish Tower, the promenade is a little less busy and separated from road traffic by a wall and then a hillside, so it's very safe. I let all three of my guys off leash today and just let them go. The video I'm sharing isn't very long, but Milo would love to show you how well behaved he was, even around other dogs who might not have been quite so well behaved as him. Paige and Tori had their share of fun, too. It was a great time to have four legs, and when you multiply that times three--we had a dozen legs of party on the promenade today.
We made it back to the pier right at twilight, when all the lights in Eastbourne were coming on. I didn't feel the need to hurry, because there's safety in this town, surrounded by so many wonderful people who are all out and about with no malice on their minds. Kids. Women. Elderly. Fear doesn't live here. But I do, for now at least. And I could not be more satisfied.