Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters are famous for their bright white chalk cliffs. The chalk was formed during the Late Cretaceous period (up to 100 million years ago), a time when the area was submerged by the sea.
The chalk was gradually pushed up, and rising sea levels cut into the chalk, forming the English Channel and creating a stunning range of undulating cliffs.
The cliffs continue to be eroded by the waves below. While large movements of the cliff are rare, slabs of chalk frequently fracture and fall away. As the lower cliff material is worn by the waves, the cliffs above are undermined until they eventually collapse.[40 pictures]
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White Cliffs of Beachy Head and Seven Sisters
The Seven Sisters are a series of chalk cliffs by the English Channel. They form part of the South Downs in East Sussex, between the towns of Seaford and Eastbourne in southern England. They are within the Seven Sisters Country Park. They are the remnants of dry valleys in the chalk South Downs, which are gradually being eroded by the sea.
Photo Credit: abridgeover
Beachy Head and Seven Sisters white chalk cliffs are located in East Sussex, UK
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons
White Cliffs of Beach Head
Beachy Head’s prominence has long made it a landmark for sailors. All too often the cliffs and the rocky seas below were a danger to vessels – leading to many wrecked ships.
Beachy Head Lighthouse
The Beachy Head lighthouse was erected in the sea below Beachy Head. The 43 metre tower was manned by three lighthouse keepers, who took turns maintaining the light, until 1983 when the lights were automated. As satellite navigation systems are now commonplace on ships, the need for lighthouses diminishes.
White Cliffs of Beachy Head at sunset
The cliff was used in the opening sequence to the 1987 James Bond film The Living Daylights, in which Bond (portrayed for the first time by Timothy Dalton) parachuted from a jeep which overshot the top of the cliff in a scene which was scripted as being in Gibraltar.
Photo Credit: TOmO
2nd World War Painting of Planes over Beachy Head
Beachy Head has played a part in a number of wars:
First Anglo-Dutch War, 1653
Nine Years’ War, 1690
World War II
Beachy Head Cliffs seen from sea level
The chalk was formed in the Late Cretaceous period, between 65 and 100 million years ago, when the area was under the sea. During the Cenozoic Era the chalk was uplifted (see Cenozoic Era). When the last Ice Age ended, sea levels rose and the English Channel formed, cutting into the chalk to form the dramatic cliffs along the Sussex coast.
Photo Credit: S__i
Beachy Head, a popular tourist attraction
The Beachy Head area has a murky history as a haven for smugglers. Smuggling became commonplace because of high taxes placed on imports. By evading customs officers and avoiding taxes, goods could be sold for much lower prices, making popular items such as tea and alcohol affordable for ordinary citizens.
Photo Credit: Mark Hogan
Belle Tout Lighthouse in the distance on Beachy Head
The Belle Tout lighthouse (also spelled Belle Toute lighthouse) is a decommissioned lighthouse and British landmark located at Beachy Head, East Sussex. It has been called “Britain’s most famous inhabited lighthouse” because of its striking location and use in film and television.
Photo Credit: Rob Wassell
Hike towards Belle Tout Lighthouse on Beachy Head
The first Belle Tout lighthouse was a temporary wooden structure that started service on 1 October 1828. The construction of the permanent granite lighthouse began in 1829 and it became operational on 11 October 1834. Its use of 30 oil lamps meant that the lighthouse would require 2 gallons of oil every hour.
Photo Credit: Dmitry Shakin
Belle Tout Lighthouse on Beachy Head against a blue sky
By 1999 the erosion of the cliffs was threatening the foundations of the building and drastic steps had to be taken to stop it from falling into the sea.
On 17 March 1999 in a remarkable feat of engineering work the Belle Tout was moved 17 metres (56 ft) away from the cliff face. The 850-ton lighthouse was moved using a pioneering system of hydraulic jacks which pushed the building along four steel-topped concrete beams that were constantly lubricated with grease. The site should now be safe for many years and has been designed to enable further moves as and when they are required.
Photo Credit: Rob Wassell
The Belle Tout Lighthouse on Beachy Head
The lighthouse was not as successful as had been hoped. The cliff-top location caused problems when sea mists obscured the light, significantly reducing the distance that it would reach. Vessels that sailed too closely to the rocks would not be able to see the light because it was blocked by the edge of the cliff. However, the cliffs of Beachy Head suffered intense coastal erosion over the years and the rocky area started to be covered by the light.
Photo Credit: Rob Wassell
The majestic Seven Sisters and Belle Toute
Seven Sisters Country Park I had to wander out onto the mudflats to get this shot of the Seven Sisters cliff range, with Birling Gap and the Belle Tout lighthouse in the distance. I’m glad I did though even if I had to overcome a phobia about being surrounded by water.
Photo Credit: Marc-John Photographic