The white cliffs of Beachy Head and the surrounding area were forms around 65 million
years ago in the Cretaceous Period, (when the last of the big dinosaurs were roaming
around. This area was covered by a warm, shallow tropical sea, and as the zooplankton
in the water died it sank to the seabed forming a limestone mud.
Over millions of years and with great pressures, the mud was turned into the chalk
that you now see.
Running through the chalk are horizontal bands of flint, nobody knows exactly how
the flint is formed, however thoughts are that when sea sponges die and are compressed
they may form the flint.
The chalk cliffs (unlike the Dover White cliffs) have no sea defences and as such
they erode with sea and rain action at an incredible rate of around 0.5 metres per
year on average, meaning they stay beautifully white.
Beachy Head are the highest chalk cliffs in Europe standing around 200 metres at
the highest point, and the name “Beachy Head” derives from the French for “Beautiful
Geology & Erosion
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We also offer longer private charters tours to the Seven Sisters
At the base of Beachy Head, is the famous red & white striped lighthouse, that is
often photographed from the cliff tops but cannot be truly appreciated unless its
seen from the seaward side.
To understand more about the current Beachy Head lighthouse, we need to make note
of the Belle Toute lighthouse built on the cliff top in 1834, which due to its height
often meant its light could not be seen by ships in low cloud or fog - (not a lot
of good for shipping!)
As such a new lighthouse was built on the waters edge at the base of the cliff between
1899 - 1902 to replace the Belle Toute lighthouse, 720 blocks weighing a total of
3660 tones of Cornish granite were shaped in the quarry before being shipped to Eastbourne
Each block was then taken by steam traction engine to the top of the cliff where
they had built a aerial cable way from the cliff top to a wooden platform build just
to the side of the building site.
All the materials and manpower were lowered to the site via the cable way - a truly
amazing feat of Victorian engineering.
The lighthouse was manned by three lighthouse keepers until it was automated in 1983
and similarly to the Sovereign Tower, is now controlled from Trinity House’s operations
room at Harwich.
The height of the light house is 43 metres (less than a quarter of the height of
the cliff behind) and its lamp gives two quick flashes every 20 seconds and until
recently its 400 watt lamp could be see for 20 miles. In 2011 the lamp was replaced
by a 30 watt LED lantern which can only be see to around 8 miles - this is due to
the fact that with the navigational abilities of modern ships, lighthouse are not
as important as they once were.
The lighthouse was only painted its famous red and white stripes in 1951, before
this time it was painted black and white.
The lighthouse stripes have been flaking off for several years and with money raised
locally by the proud residents of Eastbourne and the surrounding area, it is scheduled
for a new coat of paint in 2013.