Monday, 12 October 2009

Remembering the old Beachy Head route

One of the best things about driving in Eastbourne was the Beachy head route.
As soon as you get to the south western end of the seafront road you're whisked up, up and away on one of the most interesting roads in Sussex.

The 60mph road starts with a handful of tree-lined switchbacks as it rises to the acute Meads Road junction. After you're faced with either straight on or left. For myself, it doesn't matter which I choose as I treat the route on the Downs as a complete loop.

I normally go left and round in a clock-wise fashion, keeping the sea on the left but that's neither here nor there, the loop is a great either way. If you have the time, double back on yourself, go both ways, why not.

Once past this choice, floor it: there's no tree, no hedges, just a grassy expanse, you can see other cars coming. Seeing other cars, whether coming towards or away is vital: the road's not wide and the surface is shockingly poor. Potholes are tarmac'd into it, going car control and a fat arse are both needed here. As long as you don't have back problems, a Diablo or an Audi with a S-prefix, your in heaven.

Slow down for the tight right* after the second coach stop after the pub, use the coach-stop's space during off season to make the corner more open, then there's a left-right after. All three corners are surrounded by car high grassed earth banks as the road descents slightly.

Once through that it's a straight drag to the Belle-Tout lighthouse which rises in the background. Beware though, there's a nasty series of hidden dips which can conceal a transit let alone another car.

The road goes up and right at the lighthouse flowing into a long left with tall trees on the left and cows and sheep in a field on the other side. Once past the trees the route continues straight to the Birling Gap hairpin. Once you're past this turn and the last few of the cottages there, it's on towards the village limits of East Dean. When you get to the first right turn, lined with a Sussex flint wall, slow right down to 30. It's still 60 until the cricket green but there's the local kids on bikes around, and tourists exiting the Sheep Centre. Go through East Dean until the Large junction with the A259 back towards Eastbourne as you turn right* here.

All the torque then power the engine can muster as you push up a long rising slope out of the village. Sheep are seen on the left, watching your efforts.

As you see a cottage on the right slow for another right turn at the Warren Road junction, this turn completes the loop, you're 1/4 miles from the original decision of turning left.

To return to the switchbacks on Upper Dukes Drive, you'll be greeted with a wall which appears to be near the middle of the road, indicate right and enjoy the smell of your brakes before returning to the blue rinse pace at St Beads and the start of King Edward's Parade. Time to reflect on the fun you've just had.

(*if you go left, choosing the clockwise route at the third paragraph)

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