A good film can make all the difference, transport us to another place, visually and emotionally - What's wrong with that. No drugs, no alcohol, just input, from a script writer, via a director and cast. Mmmmmm.





Birling Gap is a coastal hamlet in East Sussex on the South Downs between Eastbourne and Seaford 

It is situated on the Seven Sisters not far from Beachy Head and is owned by the National Trust.


Birling Gap is a beautiful and tranquil enclosed pebble beach set below the dramatic backdrop of the 

Seven Sisters cliffs. Accessible from the pretty Sussex village of East Dean, the short drive to the beach offers wide views of the rolling Sussex downland. There is plentiful parking, and after descending the wooden staircases to explore the beach or taking a dramatic walk along the clifftops, refreshments are available from the bar or coffee shop attached to the Birling Gap Hotel.




Hana and Christina, Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters


The Sunshine Girls (Hana and Chrissy) on the 7th of the famous Seven Sisters






1878; The Admiralty builds eight Coastguard cottages at Birling Gap using a revolutionary new material 

called 'no fines' concrete.


1898; A small hotel is opened at Birling Gap. Seven other residential properties were built in the early 


1951; The cottages pass into private ownership but coastguards continue to man a station, sometimes 

risking their lives in sea and cliff-top rescues.

1973; The first cliff-edge cottage is demolished by Hailsham Council. At this point no-one was trying to 

save the cottages.

1983; The National Trust purchases Birling Gap for an undisclosed sum. This includes the Hotel, four of 

the remaining cottages, the car park and some downland.

1992; At the urging of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Wealden District Council 

commission an engineering study by marine engineers, Posford Duvivier, to investigate how to defend 

the hamlet of Birling Gap.

1993; Posford Duvivier recommend a rock 'revetment' at the base of the cliff as feasible, realistic and 


1993; Wealden Council DECLINES to implement the report by Posford Duvivier !

1995; The second cottage is demolished by its owner, The National Trust, who evict the tenant just 

before Christmas! The adjoining cottage is damaged in the process.

1996; A new report with a detailed cost/benefit analysis shows that it would be economically 

advantageous to build a rock revetment.

1996; Birling Gap Cliff Protection Association formed.

1998; Environmental study reports revetment would cause minimal damage to the area. Legal opinion 

establishes National Trusts responsibility to safeguard its neighbour's properties.

1999; nearly 50,000 signatures gathered to date from the public in support of a rock revetment scheme.



Interesting features


Coastal erosion has already removed the hotel and some of the row of fishing cottages built in 1878

Today there is a café/tea room, and steps leading down to the beach and the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs.


The beach, which was awarded the Blue flag rural beach award in 2005, is advertised by Naturist UK.



The village of Birling Gap is situated to the south of Eastdean, near Eastbourne in East Sussex


Access & Parking

Take the A259 from Eastbourne or from Seaford. On reaching Eastdean turn south on to a minor road 

to'Went Hill' and 'Birling Gap'. When you get to the coast, the beach is accessible from the (paying) 

hotel car park down a wooden stairway (April to September). Since non- naturists don't venture far 

from these steps, a walk of no more than 500 yards along the beach (to the West) will take you to 

the area traditionally used by naturists. New steps are reported to be now in place [May 2002]



The beach is comprised of large pebbles with occasional patches of sand and backed by chalk cliffs. 

It is not overlooked and attracts few walkers. In the past the beach has been closed owing to cliff 

falls - don't sit too close!  A recent visitor described the beach as:


"very clean" and "in a beautiful setting, the white chalk cliffs of the seven sisters behind you afford 

great views down the coast"


Safety and ease of swimming depends upon the state of the tide, owing to rocks which make entering 

and leaving the water difficult. Around high tide (when the rocks are well below the surface) or at low 

tide when the rocks are visible are the safest times:


"there is a shallow platform of sharp rocks... the waves push you back onto them (I've got the cuts 

to prove it!)"


Even at the height of the season the naturist section of Birling Gap is relatively quiet, with a mixture of 

couples and singles, the predominant age group being 40-50's.


"Another positive is that the beach allows you 30-45min walk up the coast over the pebbles to the 

headland, where a new bay begins.. I only passed three clothed couples beach walking, and to avoid 

confronting them, I sat down behind a boulder and waited until they passed... I would definitely 

recommend Birling Gap..."


Birling Gap made the news recently because local residents are campaigning for work to be undertaken 

to protect their properties from the on-going coastal erosion, while the National Trust feel that nature 

should be left to take its course.


Facilities - There is a cafe and toilets are available in Birling Gap.


Water Quality - Reported to be good.




Birling Gap is disappearing into the sea as the chalk cliffs crumble







Birling Gap - special coastline protected ...


English Nature welcomes the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions' decision not to allow coastal defences at Birling Gap. This follows an eight day Public Inquiry held last July. English Nature and the National Trust had opposed a proposal, put forward by the Birling Gap Cliff Protection Association, to construct a rock wall at the base of the cliffs at Birling on the Sussex coast.

Senior Conservation Officer Bob Edgar, who gave evidence for English Nature at the Inquiry, said:

"This decision is very welcome and supports the conclusions of the Shoreline Management Plan. Our view was that the defences would not, anyway, have saved the row of cottages on the cliff top and would only have served to damage the unique scientific interest of this site."

"Allowing areas like Birling Gap to erode and maintain beaches is essential to help the coast protect us naturally from sea level rise. The cliffs at Birling Gap are not only a beautiful part of the local landscape but are also nationally important for the study and understanding of the Ice Ages. They provide the best example of a cross-section through a dry valley anywhere in Britain. Sites like Birling enable us to learn about past changes to our climate and to increase our understanding about how climate change may affect us in the future."

This decision safeguards an extremely valuable part of England's natural heritage including the nationally important geological interest of the Beachy Head to Seaford Site of Special Scientific Interest.

English Nature is also pleased that the National Trust have reaffirmed their commitment to helping neighbouring cottage owners at Birling in the light of the decision.



Notes for editors


Birling Gap is four kilometres west of Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, East Sussex. This part of the coastline is of national geological interest. A row of cottages on the cliff edge, some owned by the National Trust and some privately owned, is being undermined by erosion of the soft chalk cliff by the sea. A local group, the Birling Gap Cliff Protection Association, proposed to put a rock revetment at the base of the cliff as a protective measure. However, this plan was opposed by both English Nature and the National Trust on the grounds that it was environmentally damaging, as well as impractical. A Public Inquiry was held in July 2000 at Alfriston, East Sussex.


The decision by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions was announced on 5 March 2001. He accepted the recommendation by the Planning Inspector that planning permission for the rock revetment should be refused. He accepted that the defences would harm both the biological and geological interests of the site. He also accepted that they would be visually harmful and therefore in conflict with the area's status as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).


The National Trust have renewed their previous offer to acquire the three private cottages (two of which are unoccupied) and bear the costs of their demolition when the time comes. They have also offered to make available to the one remaining owner-occupier, a cottage in the same row of houses which has a projected life of more than 30 years. This is significantly longer than the time which would have been "bought" for the cottages had the rock revetment been allowed and had it succeeded in keeping the sea at bay.


English Nature continues to place a high priority on building effective partnerships with land owners and managers over the conservation of SSSIs. Positive relationships built upon personal contacts, sound advice and positive incentives will deliver most for wildlife and natural features and we will continue to favour partnership rather than regulation to achieve favourable condition.









Welcome to the Birling Gap Hotel, the most friendly family run hotel on the South coast of England. Situated on top of the magnificent Seven Sisters Cliffs. Birling Gap is a small hamlet close to Beachy Head and just 4 miles west of Eastbourne. Visitors can enjoy wonderful walks over the nearby Downland. There are also many local old castles and houses worth exploring. The hotel offers some of the most beautiful sites to be seen with rolling downland all around and just 1 mile south of the pretty village of East Dean on the main south coast road (A259), it makes this the ideal location to spend a holiday, weekend break or just a day trip. The beach is situated at the base of the chalk cliffs, it has many rock pools and is a marine nature reserve.

The hotel is a Victorian colonial style villa with it's interior furnished in a 1930's style. Both bar and restaurant have beams and leaded windows, log fires that burn in the winter time creating a warm friendly atmosphere.

Open to both residents and non-residents 7 days a week, the Oak Room Restaurant, Thatched Bar and Coffee Shop with Games Room offer different settings and views to have lunch or evening meal and refreshments with free car parking for all visitors.



Information and General Enquiries

If you require any further information about any of our services or prices, then please do 

not hesitate to contact us on +44 (0)1323 423197 or send an email to:

Reservations and Bookings

There is no charge for reserving a table in the Oak Room Restaurant, but it is advised to 

book either by telephone or at the Thatched bar at least a week in advance to avoid 


For Hotel reservations we require a 50% deposit upfront either by cheque or credit/debit 

card. You may book your hotel room by calling +44 (0)1323 423197 or by sending an 

email with both your contact and credit/debit card details, not forgetting to provide the 

dates you would like to arrive and depart, number of bedrooms (stating whether single, 

double or twin) etc.












Dear Mr Prescott,

I believe your decision on Birling Gap is disgraceful. You have condemned the homes of the people living there to the ravages of the sea. I have helped to campaign for the sea defence, which is no more than has been done for many areas of the coast where there are homes. Therefore, there are many precedents for allowing a sea defence. How can some people be protected and not others? I do not agree with English Nature and The National Trust (of which I am a member but feel compelled now to leave) regarding the importance of allowing the coast to fall into the sea for research. If they want to examine the geological structure of the area, you can drill exploratory holes. If you applied that principal everywhere where would we be? Where would Holland be without its dykes protecting low-lying land? Man has always manipulated his environment, including places such the Thames which has been re-shaped over the years by man. The Houses of Parliament are probably even built on reclaimed land. Would you allow them to fall into the river if they were threatened by rising sea levels? Of course not. You would raise the Thames barrier. With the perils of global warming and subsequent damage to coastlines of Britain, this land is going to get ever smaller, ever more quickly if you don't start doing something about it As far as Birling Gap is concerned, the rock sea defence would not have made Birling Gap look any different on picture postcards.

Why couldn't there be a wall built about 50 yards from the cliffs to hold back the sea?
Did you go down to Birling Gap to see the situation for yourself? If The National Trust is so worried about how this sea defence will look, why is that hideous staircase down to the beach from the cliff allowed to blight the area? I am all for protecting the natural environment. I almost had my home on farmland designated for a huge tip site despite it being in the shadow of the South Downs, an area designated of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I am a lifelong Labour and Australian Labor voter who has admired you as you handle a your large and diverse portfolio. But I cannot respect you for this decision. It is simply about fairness and applying the same principles all around the coast.

It is as important to deal with this damage to people's homes as any national disaster. I am very surprised you feel you can allow this after all the recent flooding, the effects of which I experienced in Sussex. I believe Labour is a party that prides itself on its principals of fairness and doing something about obvious threats to peoples rights. If you won't help people such as these, why not give up on everyone else? People such as those in Birling Gap should have at least the same rights as anyone to try to protect their homes. Maybe the buildings at Birling Gap should never have been built, like many newer homes that somehow are allowed to built on perilously low-lying ground. But as they are there, these people should be helped. I simply do not understand the motivation of English Nature and The National Trust in this case. And I understand your decision even less.

Yours faithfully,
Geoff Milner







The National Trust                                            

House of Lords
The Tye Alfriston                                                                             
E Sussex BN26 5TL                                           26th April 2002


Dear Ms Mann  

I have only recently received via Lord Howie and Mr. Holloway your letter dated 13th March which was addressed to Lord Howie as “Chair of Save the Gap Campaign”. Lord Howie, who occupies one of the remaining cottages at Biding Gap, rejoices in no such title. The letter eventually reached me as Chairman of the Birling Gap Cliff Protection Association (BGCPA) since its formation in May 1997.  

Before turning to the substance of your letter, I feel obliged to emphasise that my colleagues and I regard this careless, even casual, approach as wholly in keeping with the cavalier style you and your colleagues have loftily displayed towards us “peasants” over the years.  

In sharp contrast to the courtesy and consideration consistently accorded us in both correspondence and personal meetings with two former Directors General and the local Chairman, my Committee feel that, with the exception earlier of Sue Forster and recently of Martin Ovenden, the staff of National Trust have never displayed the least appearance of sympathy with, or understanding of, the very real human concerns of the local community. Nor have we detected real enthusiasm for the interests of the large numbers of regular and occasional visitors who signed our Petition as having long enjoyed coming to Biding Gap as it was - and will soon largely cease to be unless our continued search for alternative sea defences bears fruit. Such an offhand attitude would matter less if we did not consider that, reinforced by collusion with unelected officials of other public bodies, it must have had a significant influence on both the Trust’s official policy stance and the adverse assessment of the Government Inspector.  

Returning to your officious letter, I must tell you bluntly that it is all the more resented by me and my colleagues for being based on totally false information which a single visit to the Gap would have avoided. How can we “cease placing” the notice boards, petition forms and collection box on NT land when the petition ceased in July 2000 and the boards and box were removed four months ago when your demolition men moved in?  

I am giving this exchange of letters the widest possible circulation as further evidence of the ill-informed, careless and somewhat authoritarian attitude adopted by you and others in the respected name of the National Trust.


Yours sincerely  

Lord Harris of High Cross











Nelson K - A unique and tranquil beach and approach which it seems

the National Trust could not care less about!
















































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