The allure of East Sussex is not only discovered through its ancient Cinque ports, towns and pretty villages, it is also home to some fantastic and beautiful country parks and nature reserves.From the dramatic white cliffs at the seven sisters and picture postcard red and white lighthouse at Beachy head to the tranquil sanctuary of Rye harbour nature reserve. With a fantastic array of flora and fauna along this glorious coast. Pack your boots and bring your camera to capture these stunning country parks.
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This country park covers over 660 acres of sandstone cliffs, with a cliff top area of maritime grassland and heath, gill woodland, gorse-covered glens and muddy trails. Offering quite possibly the most beautiful views in Sussex, stretching east past the Rye Nature Reserve and on towards the White Cliffs of Dover, and west towards Seven Sisters and Beachy Head. Take a walk along the fossil-rich clifftops and try to spot the ferries crossing the Channel, why not settle down for a picnic on the great expanses of green at the Firehills in Fairlight or on one of the wooden benches dotted around the park.
This country park and local nature reserve is known as being the most prestigious area of biodiversity management and the largest area of public open space in the borough. The reserve doesn’t just include the country park but also the Hastings Cliffs Special Area of Conservation and the Hastings Cliffs to Pett Beach Site of Special Scientific Interest.
WHAT CAN YOU SEE THERE?
The whole area is renowned as an area of archaeological importance and hugely important for wildlife conservation. An outstanding area for birdwatching with many species breeding throughout the various habitats, the cliffs are home to peregrines, black redstarts and fulmars with the gorse-covered hillsides homing Dartford warblers, stonechats and yellowhammers.
The area is also a popular habitat for dormice, stoats and weasels, and if you are lucky you may spot a bottlenose dolphin or harbour porpoise offshore from cliff-top watchpoints! As you walk around the area, keep an eye out for the wild Exmoor ponies and herd of Belted Galloway cattle introduced to the area to sustainably manage the glens and slopes.
Voted Britain’s favourite nature reserve in 2016 in the third annual Land Love Magazine Awards. It has been recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest as well as a Special Protection Area for birds, a Special Area of Conservation and a Ramsar site, the latter considering its importance as a wetland on an international scale. It's an isolated environment so you'll need to check the weather and dress accordingly. Take your kit bag, with binoculars, camera and sketching materials being great ideas to slip into spare spaces!
There is a huge amount of wildlife to be found here and over 300 species are considered to be rare or endangered. An excellent network of footpaths across the offer high quality bird hides for any enthusiasts and can be accessed from Rye, Winchelsea Beech and Rye Harbour.
WHAT CAN You SEE THERE?
With over 1,149 acres of flat and low-lying ground, the site is also of considerable historic interest with military fortifications from the 16th, 19th and 20th centuries. You can walk along to Winchelsea Beach, passing the 16th century Camber Castle, built by Henry VIII, continuing onto Cliff End at Pett Level, where the Military Canal, which will have accompanied you on your coastal walk, comes to an end.
Situated where the South Downs meets the English Channel, the Sisters were created when ancient rivers scored valleys into the chalk, creating seven peaks. Located in the stunning South Downs National Park, the Seven Sisters Country Park near Eastbourne is composed of 280 hectares of open chalk grassland, meandering river valley and magnificent white chalky cliffs. Under the sea at the foot of the cliffs are several gullies and ridges - varied marine life such as sea anemones, snails, and sponges. Now part of the Heritage Coast, an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ and a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’, the natural beauty of the area will be protected.
Down towards the coast from Seven Sisters you will find Cuckmere Haven, an area of flood plains where the River Cuckmere meets the English Channel. This peaceful riverfront beach and grasslands not only offers scenic views of the surrounding cliffs but is also pet-friendly. While the Seven Sisters park is a great dog-walking area, extreme care must be taken at cliff edges.
WHAT CAN I SEE THERE?
The South Downs Country Park boasts 1,600 square kilometres of green rolling hills and pastures, wide open spaces, ancient woodlands, river valleys and dramatic coastline truly encompass the National Park’s ethos of being one of ‘Britain’s Breathing Spaces’. With over 3,300km of rights of way, the South Downs National Park offers a landscape as diverse as it is breath-taking. This is truly a place with something for everyone, all easily accessible.
Paddleboarding and canoeing are on offer for water babies, with long meandering rivers leading out to sea. Nature lovers will be thrilled with both common and rare sightings on offer in the park.