I had to share a good little half-dayer cycling down to Cuckmere Haven, which we did a few weeks back. It’s nothing new to most (probably all) of you, but it’s the first time we got right down to the beach, so humour me.
I should add that my phone had been the victim of a toddler murder when we went, so the images in this post are not mine. They’re 100 per cent from other sources (all cited, and WHAT a great excuse for getting some Ravilious on the pages of Little Lewes! Thank you also to my friend Romy, the landlady at The Pelham Arms, for sharing a picture from a day spent here with her brood).
One recent sunny Sunday we headed to Seven Sisters Country Park with one fold-up city bike and one children’s bike with the idea of hiring another adult bike with child seat from Seven Sisters Cycle Co.
This cost £20 for two hours, and included helmets. You can head down to the beach at Cuckmere Haven or into the adjoining Friston Forest which is exceptionally beautiful and offers a more varied ride than the flat, snaking path to the beach.
If you do go into the woods, you can be sure of lots of surprises. Wide, wide tracks through tall, tall trees, past villages and the odd house, up hills and down hills. But although I used to do this with my older son on the back of the bike, Seven Sisters Cycle Co. no longer allows bikes with capacity for a baby/toddler to be taken into the woods. It’s a health and safety thing – too bumpy.
If you have your own bike/seat set-up, this is a really lovely ride, but I’m not forcing your hand – if you decide to do it and take a tumble, it’s not on my head OK? It’s clear from my FAQs that I’m not keen on being sued.
In the past we have started down the path to the beach, but never managed to reach it. It’s easy and flat, as great for walking (if your children have long enough legs) as for riding, and so beautiful.
But my husband points out that we’ve never reached the beach because of the wind. He says that a friend of ours with boys of eight and 11 have also never reached the beach and for this same reason. There is a certain corner that you turn and it hits you full in the face – if the day is cool, it cuts right through you. And the beach is exposed when you get down there. So have a think about the weather if you’re planning to go.
If you get the weather right, you – like us – will have a relaxed, race-filled family bike ride down to the shingle, spotting swans, geese, cows, sheep, ducks and kayakers along the way. My husband and I felt really grown-up. We actually cycling along together with TWO CHILDREN! On a FAMILY BIKE RIDE!
The beach at Cuckmere Haven is deep and pebbly, with the mouth of the estuary you’ve just followed, meeting the sea. When we arrived, the children jumped off bike and seat and were off across the pebbles. We lay on the beach and had a conversation (yes, really) about how close to being on holiday it felt.
I stupidly didn’t take a picnic and we quickly got hungry and headed back. There is an ice cream van in the car park at the top of the trail if you’re willing to spend something crazy like £2.50 on a 99 flake (we were). There is also a (fairly bland) tea room behind the Seven Sisters Country Park Visitor Centre – itself a fantastic source of information about the area.
From here we often jump head on to East Dean and the Tiger Inn, where we once had a legendary pint of prawns. There’s a village green in front of the pub, so it’s great for kids. And from there you can head on for a fossil hunt at Birling Gap (which sadly lost a bit of face in the awful weather this winter after a terrifying crack appeared in its top). Apparently the café has had a facelift and is quite posh.*
But we timed the whole day badly for the little kid’s nap, so it was back to Lewes with us.
* Since I first drafted this post we have been (this past weekend) and I’ll do a separate post about East Dean and Birling Gap in the coming days.
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