Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Chalk

Being a Terry Pratchett fan, my travels around England have borne asurprising resemblance to the Disc World. A big clue is Ankh-Morpork,a boiling hotpot of races and species that are totally independent of their homeland, yet retain their prejudices as a badge of belonging.
The City Watch (akin to the City of London which has a separate police force to the rest of London), The Patrician (just like the Mayor of the City of London - acting independently of any monarchy), the Guilds, the river is brown sludge (pick any city really) and it is every man for themselves (again, any big city).

Today, taking advantage of a long weekend, I found myself in The Chalk. Following the advice of a random blog, I caught the train to Eastbourne to walk along the coastline. I had to laugh at the station's byline: Eastbourne station - the sunshine coast - as the only place that was in sun was the clouds above. Just like our trip to Brighton, the day light was not so much sunshine as cloud and glare.
On a tight schedule I powered through the town, along the beach and onto the path. One of the best things as a traveller in England is the number of public access areas through farms. This particular path had white cliffs that dropped straight down to the water below. In places it looked like bites had been taken off the edge, where the ground just disappeared. I passed a couple of lighthouses (one that featured in a Harry Potter movie), Beachy Head (the highest chalk sea cliff in the UK), and over the seven sisters (a section of seven hills on the cliff edge).


Features in common with Terry Pratchett's The Chalk were the sheep, the shepherds hut, the mounds (as I imagine them) where the Kelda and Wee Free men abide and, quite literally, the chalk - I picked up a piece to prove it. Obvious exclusions in this Chalk were the Wee Free men - which based on accent, booze drinking and propensity for fighting made me think it was in Scotland. So maybe I'm completely wrong about it being The Chalk.

The whole area was commonly used for smuggling to and from the continent since the 17th century when import/export charges were introduced.  Originally it was for the export of wool direct from the area, but later became a base for the import of various contraband by smuggling gangs.
 
I was lucky in that it didn't rain on me, although it misted its hardest, and the sun even came out for a couple of minutes to give me my best shot of the day.
I finished my walk at Exceat amongst a bunch of families exploring the beach, caught the bus back to Eastbourne, and the train back to Clapham Junction in time for tea.

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