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A great place to play

When I was a kid in the late 40s and the 50s the Undercliff Walk from Black Rock to Ovingdean was a very special place on a Sunday. It was a bit scarey if it was a filthy stormy day when the waves came right over the seawall to drown you. It was best at high tide when the wind was blowing the waves onshore, no chance at all of staying dry.

Dodging the waves
When the tide was not right up, we would tempt fate by trying to dodge the huge waves that crashed onto the rounded worn steps that were as slippery as grease. Many a time I missed my step and got a well deserved soaking. If it was low tide there were other things to look at in the rockpools. To me they looked like miniature fjords if your imagination could run to that, mine certainly did. If you were lucky there was a big green crabs left behind to play with and pick up when they got a grip on the stick you tempted its claws with.

Playing in the rock pools
We had absolutely no intention at all of harming anything at all in the rock pools, and we never did. There were those little brown sea anemones that squirted water at you if you touched them. Trying to get a limpet to let go off a rock was another fun experience if you were quick. If it was the right season then there were lovely winkles to be had for Sunday teatime. We would take off our socks and load them up with the little beggars. They would be boiled when we got home and when they cooled down out would come the pins to winkle them out, (excuse the pun).

The farm at Ovingdean
If your legs were long enough you could leap from one big concrete square to another that used to hold the rails for the ‘Daddy Longlegs’ railway all those years ago. When we got to Ovingdean we would go up the steps and instead of walking back along the cliff top home, we would cross the main road and walk through Ovingdean village. First thing we made for was the old hollow oak tree and some of the farm animal on Baker’s farm. We would play in the hay barn until we got told to go on our way by the farmer who never shouted at us kids. There were conker trees by the farm where we collected loads of conkers in the autumn. Then we would go over the hills across the golf course to EastBrightonPark and then home to Bennett Road. What more could you ask for in life eh?.

The Undercliff Walk, the road to Ovingdean is on the right
Photo by Tony Mould

Comments about this page

  • What wonderful sentiments and memories by Mick Pierson taken the very words out of my mouth and open the memories of youth that used the place. ‘Our place’ we called it-  somewhere free to be. I was at the Ovingdean Hall School for the Deaf from 1970-1976 and had some brilliant times here as Mick described – getting up to all sorts.  I can remember discovering the iron door cut into the cliffs as it was left open one day and it lead onto stairs. A small group of us decided to investigate and found ourselves in Roedean Girls School grounds.  Can also recall a mine or torpedo being washed up on the beach and being blown up by uxb boys – that was loud!  Oooh them days gone by. Wish I could turn back time and do it all again!

    By Alan Bridgen (02/02/2008)
  • How right you are Alan and what free days they were where you could walk for miles without any trouble. I wonder if there will be any letters say in 50 years time about the fun kids had in the 21st century, I doubt if they had the freedon and happiness we had. Fine memories.

    By Mick Peirson (03/03/2008)
  • Tell you what, Mick, one of our favourite pastimes was to take the girls down there on high tide days and walk them along the prom to Brighton arm-in-arm but always made sure they were on the sea-side of us then keep your eye on the tidal waves and move quick.  Boy that was fun.  But they soon wised up to it after a few soakings.  Then as we got older, meeting the posh girls from Roedean Girls’ School.  Very fond memories either on the beach or behind the school where the golf course was.  We used to make our way back to Ovingdean village down the hill to the side of the golf course on the path that led to the Greenways corner.  It was a bit dark this one night as we were walking the path playing about and I forgot myself and fell in the slurry pit – boy, did I have some explaining to do when we got back to the school – covered from head to toe in it, I was – not sure they liked me new aftershave!  The house mother made me strip at the door with pegs on their noses.  Wasn’t funny at the time but now we have a good laugh going over the stories when we all meet up for reunions.

    By Alan Bridgen (20/03/2008)
  • Earlier this year my aunt took me on a trip down memory lane. We did the Undercliff Walk from Rottingdean towards Brighton which years ago had been a favourite walk of my grandfather’s, and his two sisters (my great aunts.) The walk always started with a look at Burne-Jones’s painted windows in St Margaret’s church in Rottingdean, which my aunt and I duly inspected. As my aunt is now 80, we ended our walk at the marina, but in the old days they would walk all the way to Brighton. It was a wonderful day. I was born and raised in Africa and now live in Australia, so it was very special for me to retrace this family favourite walk.

    By Connie Oosthuizen (03/10/2008)
  • I agree with Mick Peirson’s comment above.

    By Christopher Wrapson (02/01/2009)

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