Saturday, January 21, 2012

South 2

The following day we approached the chalk cliffs between Seaford and Beachy Head. The most extraordinary aspect of this stretch of south coast is that cuddly old rural England just rolls picturesquely along, up hill and down, peacefully navigating soft rises and little gullies, until.... Straight down into the sea, a sheer and entirely unimpeded drop. It’s eroding steadily, of course, which means that sometimes important listed farmhouses of inconceivable antiquity that just happen to find themselves closest to the precipiceeven a quarter of a mile or so from it, are absolutely uninsurable, so I imagine whoever is the unhappy person most recently left holding the deed has no choice but to abandon ship, and leave the place to its eventual fate. Contented livestock, meanwhile, graze contentedly in the teeth of southerly gales, almost perversely ignoring the dizzy spectacle of dwelling at the abrupt margin of England. If Dungeness is the sine qua non of horizontality, the Seven Sisters, here, are the epitome of vertical. During the First World War, incidentally, depending on the direction of the wind, the incessant bombardment of trench warfare in northern France was clearly audible in the locality.

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