A great day happened to us by total accident a couple of weeks ago and quite by accident it ended up being the moment my boys reviewed Project Jelly’s bright, practical jelly shoes.
I had contacted the shoes’ creator Natalie Collier about taking two pairs on holiday – one donated, one paid for. A couple of years ago she conceived the idea of creating traditional jelly shoes with JuJu Footwear such as we wore in the ’70s and ’80s, but in limited edition colours. She did this to raise money for Mencap (25% of sales go to the charity, which is close to Natalie’s heart for the help they have given her sister-in-law, Helen.)
But I never ended up waiting for our holiday to review them as planned. They arrived and both boys wanted to wear them immediately and I realised as we arrived at Birling Gap that this was the moment – they had full novelty factor and could be road-tested where they should be: on the beach.
I should add that I asked Natalie for two unisex pairs (you know how I feel about unisex!) and the ‘orange sherbet’ pair for my bigger boy turned out to be more salmon pink in the flesh. Nevertheless, despite being given the option of a replacement navy blue with lime sole, he insisted on keeping the orange/pink, even given an imaginary teasing scenario – *beams proudly* – and has never looked back.
So here is our day at Birling Gap, hopefully knitted seamlessly together with a review of the shoes!
As we arrived at Birling Gap, where we parked for free (thank you National Trust membership (if you don’t have this, you’ll need coins for the pay and display)) we noticed the tide was right in and there was no beach. (Click HERE to find the tide tables if you want to avoid this happening.)
To while away the time, we headed up the hill to the left, along the cliff tops to Belle Tout Lighthouse, now a B&B with a tiny ice-cream-and-cuppa-tea shop nestled in an arch opposite. Note that ice creams here will set you back QUITE a bit more than in the real world, but it’s a deserved reward for getting up the hill (particularly if whinge-free). Dine on them round at the other side of the lighthouse, where your view will be of the gorgeous Beachy Head.
Back down at Birling Gap the tide had retreated and exposed the damage done by the winter’s storms, when a huge crack appeared in the top of the cliff and down came a portion of its face. This is where my boys headed in search of rock pools. If there is any small positive (and that is not quite the right word) that could be gleaned from this tragic force of nature, I suppose it could be said that it makes for safer rock pooling because chalk is naturally smooth but not slippery (though in saying that I am not suggesting that cliff erosion is in any way a good thing).
As the children explored the beach, the plus points of the Project Jelly shoes revealed themselves:
1) They are flexible, bending naturally with gripping feet that scrabbled easily over rocks.
2) They are grippy. As in, they actually grip the rock surfaces. (This may sound a small point, but have you tried rock pooling with young kids in wellies? Don’t).
3) They are, of course, waterproof, which thrilled the boys: “What? You mean I can paddle and then I can walk on the beach, and then I can paddle, and then I can go rock pooling? All in the same shoes?” Yes yes dear boy, they’re MAGIC.
4) They keep the stones out (or at least are a GREAT improvement on open sandals). Children (and more to the point adults) can’t bear a faff of stone removal, and oh my days are Birkenstocks and beaches rotten bedfellows.
The boys spent ages poking around in the milky pools made between the fallen cliff face’s round white rocks, hovering hopefully with a net. With not even so much as a crab to look at, the little one ripped up a piece of seaweed and played ‘fishing for whales’ for the longest time. They got completely soaked but it really didn’t matter. They were quiet and absorbed. Result.
As we started back towards the beach’s steep steps, the boys became engrossed in some intense wave play – chasing back and forth and REALLY loving that the waves could catch at their ankles and feet with no consequences. My older son turned back from the foamy surf at one point and shouted “THESE ARE THE BEST SHOES I’VE EVER WORN!” A ringing endorsement indeed, Project Jelly.
Then, as I called time on the whole excursion, the beach’s broad chalk platform revealed itself as the water pulled back further. And with that revelation we were done for. There was even MORE beach now to explore, so weren’t going anywhere – indeed we didn’t get home until 7pm.
But I will not try to feign crossness while blaming the jellies – himself and I hardly pushed for heading back, enjoying being able to sit and stare at the sea in peace maybe a little too much…
PS> There is a refurbished café and interesting visitors centre on the cliff top at Birling Gap. We didn’t try the food in the café, but I wanted to mention that the staff were dear to us when my younger child spilled a whole cup of hot chocolate all over our table and the floor. They made him a new one without me even asking…
Drive: 32 minutes
Address: East Dean, near Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN20 0AB
Price: £17.95 per pair + £3.95 postage (for up to three pairs)
Disclosure: I approached Natalie at Project Jelly about having two pairs of her jelly shoes for my boys to review. This is because I believe that they are the perfect fit for Little Lewes, being unisex and highly practical, and wanted to share this with my readers. I offered to pay for one pair as I believe in the project’s goal of raising money for Mencap. No other compensation, financial or otherwise, was offered or received in return for this post.
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