Archives for posts with tag: Cuckmere Haven

Standing rather nervously outside the Dome, I’m waiting for Duncan to pick me up. Destination: Twineham International Airport. Well, yes, an ironic name, for when we arrive and swing open the rusty gate, and drive around the edge of a muddy field – we find a shed. In which there stands a very pretty little plane – a single-engined high-wing monoplane, cream with burgundy stripes, and chunky spats over the wheels. Duncan unlocks the wire cage gates and we push it out. I really am feeling nervous – I’ve been up with him once in another plane, but this time…

After the pre-flight check (Duncan is reassuringly thorough – he has been for the 47 years I’ve known him) – we’re tightly side-by-side in the little cabin, and we’re soon taxi-ing towards the mown grass strip, then accelerating, and the plane is so light you’re barely conscious of leaving the ground, and we’re up, climbing up over West Sussex then circling round, and it’s really exhilarating and I’m not nervous anymore. But there is only a half-inch of metal between me and 1800 feet of cold air, and a small door-catch (easily caught on your cuff I’d imagine).

I’m trying to snatch photographs and little movie clips between the wing-struts (from inside – this isn’t Flying Down To Rio) and we’re suddenly over Lewes, and – look! there’s the Council office block! – and now we can see the full shape of Chris Drury’s Heart of Reeds, the land sculpture made in the shape of a cross-section through the human heart. We follow the Ouse down towards the sea, the sun is bursting through the clouds and shining on the river, ‘like a National guitar’, to quote Paul Simon. The clouds are piled up in layers coming from the west as we fly over Newhaven and on towards Cuckmere Haven. A glimpse of the Seven Sisters and we turn inland and the meanders and ox-bow lakes are beautiful, with exquisite tiny rivulets contrasting with the wide, dead-straight channel.

The huge storm-cloud is heading towards us, and Duncan decides to put down until it blows over. He radios for a convenient airfield, and here’s one, north of the A27. The owner is also in the air and we see his plane circling too. We land, easily, dancing onto the field, and switch the engine off. I walk away, and my feet slide out from under me, and I’m flat on my back, winded, in the mud, staring at the sky…

A sky of solid blue, blazing sun, and the shushing of waves on the shingle beach – and it’s October.

We’ve carried our picnic down from the car-park to the beach steps but the tide is coming in and soon there will be nothing to sit on; we walk up the path to the top of Seaford Head, clear a space in the rabbit-droppings and spread the ancient blanket. Bacon and parmesan muffins, asparagus, figs and a bottle of Sauvignon in its silver chiller-jacket: this is a classy picnic – we’ve got Sheffield son and girlfriend with us.

We walk down the hill past the much-photographed coastguard cottages and spread our towels, and after limping over the pebbles I have to dive into the sea. It’s colder than it looks, and after a bit of puffing, floating and staring up into the blue I’m crawling painfully back out again.

A beefy-bicepped man in tattoos and shades strolls along the top of the beach with a tiny dachsund straining on a lead; another, leathery dark-tanned, poses in tight split-sided trunks. A thin white youth in flappy football shorts fails to skim stones over the sea.

Just the whoosh of the waves, distant children’s squeals, seagullszzzzzz….