Undercliff Walk

Big waves, nudists and picking winkles

By Andrew Gumbrill

Big waves in winter

How many very happy days did we spend as a family and on my own down there on the Undercliff Walk? Where to start! Cycling along there with my brothers and friends. Going fast through all that chalky mud. Getting covered up your back. In the winter time all waiting for that big wave to come crashing up against the wall. The water splashing up against the wall high in to the air. And then you got to ride like a bat out of hell before you got soaked.

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Photo:Undercliff Walk

Undercliff Walk

Photo by Tony Mould

Photo:Undercliff Walk

Undercliff Walk

Photo by Tony Mould


Thrills of the nudist beach

If the tide was out, you could go around the end of the cliffs and on to the nudist beach. As a teenagers, this blew your mind - specially if there were families down there with teenage girls as this was a PROPER nudist beach. I remember the Daddy Longlegs railway line concrete sleepers. They are roughly one hundred yards from the beach and can quite easily be seen at low tide. We used to try and jump each one providing they were not covered in seaweed.

Photo:Undercliff Walk

Undercliff Walk

Photo by Tony Mould

Photo:Undercliff Walk

Undercliff Walk

Photo by Tony Mould


Flushing out the crabs

The railway line concrete sleepers was where all the big crabs would be. I remember putting my hands under trying to flush them out. Or getting my fingers nipped. The first beach had a sewer pipe. We used to see how brave we were to see how far we could walk up it. Always looking over your shoulder to make sure the sea was not coming in behind you.

Photo:Undercliff Walk

Undercliff Walk

Photo by Tony Mould

Photo:Undercliff Walk

Undercliff Walk

Photo by Tony Mould


Alive with rats at night

I remember cycling back along there at night from Saltdean. It was alive with rats running all over the place. My sister took a family friend's dog for a walk with some friends down there one early evening. Somebody threw a stone not thinking, out to sea. The dog chased after it and went straight over the wall. Luckily the sea was out. He landed safely on the shingle. Amazingly he didn't hurt himself.

Photo:Undercliff Walk

Undercliff Walk

Photo by Tony Mould

Photo:Undercliff Walk

Undercliff Walk

Photo by Tony Mould


Picking winkles

Of course I remember winkle picking. My whole family used to go down there picking winkles. We would then take them home. You needed to pick the eye out with a pin and then Mum would boil them. I didn't like them myself. Those were great days and I will always have those lovely memories.

This page was added on 15/05/2013.
Comments about this page

Excellent photos, brings back many memories. I actually lived in Peacehaven and spent a lot of my spare time in either Brighton or Newhaven. The family emigrated to Australia in 1966 when I was 14. I'm currently in Sydney but retiring to Bundaberg in a few months. Now, the cooking of winkles caught my eye. As I remember, my father would put the winkles in the bath and sprinkle them with either salt or flour, this apparently was to make them spit out any grit or sand, and they would be left overnight. The next morning they would be boiled and of course eaten as soon as they were cold. A pin or needle was used, lift the cover in the opening of the shell, then stab and unscrew the winkle from its shell. This was a very delicate operation, if you were not careful you would leave the tail section in the shell and that was the best bit. The main section was a bit chewy. We do have winkles in Aus but they are about the size of a garden snail and are very chewy. Nowhere near as good as those South Coast Winkles.

By Michael Player (16/05/2013)

The Undercliff Walk was a treat for our family, as we regularly used to travel up to Rottingdean and have a cream tea. As mentioned, the sight of the old Daddy Longlegs blocks was interesting at low tide, and exploring rock pools. The rough seas made for wave-dodging on the promenade and there was an open-air pool along there in summer periods, although loads of flies about. I managed to drive my Morris 1100 all along the undercliff to Saltdean when I followed a charity walk as medical support, only just getting round some of the bends and up the final tunnel!!

By David Shelton (28/05/2013)

All this talk of winkles is making my mouth water! We never went winkling ourselves, but would buy cooked winkles by the pint from Siverthornes or Rolfs. I think it was flour that was sprinkled over them to make them spit out the sand, Michael. In any case, they were delicious with salt, vinegar and brown bread. I had a great deal of patience and would pile up my de-shelled winkles on a plate ready for their anointing with salt and vinegar. The rest of my family ate theirs straight from the pan as they went along, and eyed my plate with envy. Lol! We only had them when there was an "R" in the month, as I recall (so it precluded the summer months). I'd love to have them now, but they don't seem to be readily available. Is it because of sea pollution? I could try harvesting them myself, but rockpooling is a bit precarious as you get older (as I discovered when I took my young grandsons down to Rottingdean the other day)!

By Janet Beal (08/09/2016)

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