On Monday 5th August, we left from a damp Maldon at 8:00am for our journey to Pevensey by coach. We stopped to pick up our Blue Badge guide, Janet, before travelling on to Pevensey; by now the heavy rain had cleared to a slight drizzle. At Pevensey, we stopped at The Smugglers Inn for a very welcome cup of coffee and biscuits. Pevensey is a village and civil parish in the Wealden district of East Sussex. The main village is located five miles north-east of Eastbourne, one mile inland from Pevensey Bay. The settlement of Pevensey Bay forms part of the parish. It was here that William the Conqueror made the landing in his invasion of England in 1066 after crossing the English Channel from Normandy. Pevensey is situated on a spur of sand and clay about 33ft above sea level. In Roman times, this spur was a peninsula that projected into a tidal lagoon and marshes. A small river, Pevensey Haven, runs along the north side of the peninsula and would originally have discharged into the lagoon, but is now largely silted up. The lagoon extended inland as far north as Hailsham and eastwards to Hooe. With the effect of longshore drift, this large bay was gradually cut off from the sea by shingle, so that today's marshes are all that remain behind the shingle beach.
After having our coffee, Janet described the various sights in the village before taking some of us on a damp, drizzly walking tour. Her commentary was very interesting and she gave a lot of information about the village and its buildings. Some of us decided to walk on our own, taking in the castle which is now looked after by English Heritage before walking to the next village where there was a Norman Church, and still the drizzle fell.
We then all returned to The Smugglers Inn for lunch, which was very welcome. By now the drizzle had cleared and the sun was shining, so after lunch we all returned to the coach for a drive through Eastbourne and on to the South Downs, which are a range of chalk hills that extends for about 260 square miles across the south-eastern coastal counties of England from the Itchen Valley of Hampshire in the west to Beachy Head, in the Eastbourne Downland Estate, East Sussex, in the east.
We stopped on the South Downs to take the short walk to view Beachy Head Lighthouse which was built from 1900 to 1902 under the direction of Sir Thomas Matthews, the Trinity House Engineer-in-Chief, together with the resident engineer during the construction who was my Great Great Uncle.
The lighthouse was built and sited about 165 metres seawards from the base of the cliffs. For the construction, a temporary cable car from the cliff was installed for the transport of workers and stones to an iron ocean platform adjacent to the lighthouse. 3,660 tons of Cornish granite was used in the construction of the tower.
The lighthouse was equipped with a first-order revolving catadioptric optic made up of three double panels, giving two white flashes every 20 seconds; the light-source was a Matthews-designed paraffin vapour burner. The newly-built lighthouse was also provided with an explosive fog signal, which was sounded every five minutes in foggy weather.
Electricity first reached the lighthouse in 1975, whereupon an electric lamp was installed in the optic. The explosive fog signal remained in use until 1976 (when it was replaced by an 'ELG 500' electric emitter); at the time Beachy Head was one of the last lighthouses still using explosive signals.
The lighthouse was fully automated in 1983 and the keepers withdrawn. A chalk fall on the cliff in 1999 severed the electric cable; during its repair the lamp and fog signal were replaced and upgraded. In June 2010, Trinity House announced in the five yearly "Aids To Navigation Review" that the light range would be reduced to 8 nautical miles and the fog signal discontinued. In February 2011, the work was undertaken and light range reduced by the installation of a new LED navigation light system. The old lens, though no longer in use, was left in situ. The fog signal was also discontinued at this time.
From here we returned to Eastbourne for a cup of tea before re-joining our coach for the journey home to Maldon, dropping off our guide on the way. We arrived back in Maldon just after 7:00 pm.
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Last revised 28th August 2019