On the 7th February 2014 I visited our local favourite beach and beauty spot – Birling Gap. We’re lucky enough to live on the south coast of England near the South Downs National Park. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty and a wonderful place to enjoy the coastal scenery. The beach at Birling Gap is one frequented by families during the summer and cliff walkers all year round. The recent rough weather with winds of over 80 miles an hour at times, has battered the coast and caused many cliff falls in the area. I went to the Birling Gap Café – now owned and managed by The National Trust – to see the extent of the damage and take photographs to record the sun lounge as I’d heard it had become too close to the cliff edge and was to be demolished this week. I was relieved to see the rest of the café still standing although it’s clearly visible that about 3 feet of the cliff has fallen away and the café is perilously close to the edge.
The National Trust has been managing this area since 1983. There is some controversy as to whether the building of a ‘revetment’ would help the area but the National Trust are committed to letting nature take its course (see Solar Navigator.net for information on this issue). A number of images have been taken through the years, some in The famous Francis Frith Collection, showing the change in the cliff edge. The publication ‘Beachy Head’ by John Surtees, states: “It was The National Trust’s intention to ‘tidy up’ Birling Gap by knocking down most of the buildings and replacing them with a refreshment block and toilets. It has to be said that some of the buildings had become run-down and were an eyesore, but when a cottage White Horses was demolished to make way for a toilet block in 1985 there was an outcry. Finally the Collin’s family bought up the Hotel and two years later the National Trust shelved their demolition plans”.
A series of photographs showing the gradual erosion of the cliffs can be seen on this website: CoastView
The hotel itself was built around 1898 and you can see the sun lounge to the left of the photograph above (from The Francis Frith Collection again). This is the section that has been demolished this week. In 2007 the sun lounge was used for a photo-shoot by designer Oral Kiely (I am a massive fan of Orla Kiely’s designs – especially her beautiful handbags – and still have the gorgeously produced catalogue from this Autumn and Winter collection ’07.). These images show the inside of the sun lounge area before the National Trust refurbished it. I spent time sitting in the café on sunny afternoons and revelling in the retro nature of the furnishings – as obviously Orla Kiely’s team did. I swear I took some photographs from this time of the interior – but can I find them?! Nope. I hope Orla Kiely/Kiely Rowan PLC/Chloe Mallett will forgive me for showing these lovely images from the catalogue in memory of the sun lounge at Birling Gap.
A la recherche du temps perdu…