Beachy Head BN20 7YA
One of the most iconic sights in the British Isles, similar to the White Cliffs of Dover, the area known as Beachy Head is a prominent chalk headland located just to the southwest of Eastbourne.
The cliff is the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain, rising over 150 metres above sea level at its highest point. The prominent feature has been used in a number of films and TV programs as a result, providing a striking background in movies such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Quadrophenia. Read more about Eastbourne
The chalk itself was slowly formed over a period of around 30 million years, roughly between 95 to 65 million years ago, when a much warmer sub-tropical sea covered the land. The shells of microscopic plankton settled on the seabed which gradually hardened into layers of white rock roughly a thousand feet thick.
After the last ice age came to an end, rising sea levels formed the English Channel, which wore away the chalk deposits to form the dramatic cliffs. Subsequent erosion has created the sculpted land of the Downs that is seen to this day.
The given name of Beachy Head is actually a derivation of the French words ‘Beauchef’ from 1274 and ‘Beaucheif’ from 1317 which mean ‘beautiful headland’, rather than referencing any sort of beach by the headland. Although there is a good size beach in nearby Eastbourne, the small patches of land at the base of the cliffs are not really accessible and are largely submerged throughout the day. The name Beachy Head appears to have been consistently used from 1724.
Beachy Head is an area of outstanding natural beauty and is considered to be one of the most beautiful locations in the entire UK. The postcode BN20 7YA will take you to the main section of Beachy Head – which largely consists of a car park, pub and small countryside centre that contains the Beach Head Story, a family-friendly exhibition that covers around 90 million years of history.
Due to the hazardous rocks just off of the headland, plans for a lighthouse date back at least as far as 1691 when the petition was created and signed due to the increasing number of sailors losing their lives in the area. Eventually, the council and government agreed that a lighthouse could be built on the peak of the headland, which was known as Belle Tout.
The Belle Tout lighthouse was in many ways successful but only had a short life span due to problems caused by sea fog and coastal erosion. This first lighthouse was decommissioned in 1902, and a replacement was instead built at the base of the cliffs, with concrete foundations being put down to make sure that varying sea levels would not affect the lighthouse’s operation. It has been automated since 1983 and its efficiency is monitored from the Trinity House Operations Control Centre in Harwich, Essex, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
As well as appearing at the end of the 1979 film Quadrophenia, Beachy Head has also appeared in David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” video, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the opening sequence of The Living Daylights, where James Bond is shown parachuting from a Land Rover that drives off the top of the cliff, although the location is meant to represent the island of Gibraltar.