Once upon a time, I didn’t like Eastbourne very much. I moved here when I was thirteen, and lived here properly for about ten years. Over those ten years I barely spent any time at the beach. Mostly I just wanted to get out of Eastbourne, not stay in it. And I definitely never even considered walking from Eastbourne to Beachy Head. I mean- what a ludicrous idea! That is a distance SO ridiculously far that it doesn’t even bear thinking about.
But then the world shut down, and I’ve somehow ended up stranded alone in the town that I spent quite a long time trying to escape. The surprising side-affect of this isolation period, is that my eyes have been opened to the beauty that is right on our doorsteps.
People of Eastbourne- you are one lucky bunch!
I know I am extremely lucky to be living temporarily very close to the start of the South Downs Way, at the end of Eastbourne seafront which probably sees the least footfall. On a walk from Holywell Beach in Eastbourne to Beachy Head, I occasionally see dog walkers, or runners, or every now and again someone out for a walk like myself. But they’re few and far between.
Over the last seven weeks, my daily walks have become a type of therapeutic live ‘spot the difference’ session as the seasons have changed. A bleak winter landscape has transformed into the bright colours of spring and very nearly summer. (We’re almost there, pals!) Blossom appeared on the branches and is now floating down in a carpet on the floor, the hills of the Downs are suddenly speckled with cowslips and other tiny flowers, and lambs and calves are having a whale of a time running all over the fields like there’s no tomorrow.
Yesterday an actual fish fell out of the sky right in front of my face. It was a plaice, if you’re interested, presumably dropped by a seagull.
I watched the gradual intermittent construction of a rainbow fortress under some stairs at Holywell, though I never actually witnessed the building efforts. I just happened to walk past in between each change that was made to the incredible creation. It was brilliant, and involved a fence, all the chalky artwork and some beautiful mobiles made of driftwood and pebbles.
I’ve seen birds of prey hovering overhead, butterflies flittering around, and multicoloured seaweed and anemones in rock pools which I never bothered to look in before. The weasel that crossed my path was confusing. I’ve never seen a live weasel before. Embarrassingly last month I also truly believed that I’d spotted a genuine mermaid swimming down below the Pinnacle at Holywell. It turned out to be a man in a wetsuit and flippers but it made the day more interesting, know what I’m saying!?
And right at the top of the cliffs between Beachy Head and Belle Tout, which are usually swarming with people- there is space, and peace, and quiet. It’s like a strangely calm version of the apocalypse.
Our worlds have been turned upside down, and all of us are struggling on some level or another. This is a horrendously stressful time. But humans are also adaptable creatures, and we seem to be very good at finding silver linings. Silver linings don’t invalidate problems, but they do make them easier to get through.
Don’t get me wrong pals, I can’t wait for the day I can go back to singing my way around the world again. But for now, my silver lining is being able to properly discover the place I grew up.
So thanks Eastbourne- for just being really, really beautiful.
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