The Sussex Coast - online book

A Literary & Historical travel guide to the Sussex Coast

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280                   THE SUSSEX COAST
grown at the foot of the precipice of the upper chalk, and this is what gives the promontory its chief beauty. The weathering of the chalk, with the appearance and gradual crumbling of detached pinnacles, called Charleses, of which there are said once to have been seven, causes the cliffs to be con­stantly varying in their outline and even in their character. The full impressiveness of the promon­tory is best realised from the sea, but in many ways the charm and mystery are greater when seen from the land side. To the present writer it appeared more striking than ever before when, on the day when the frontispiece to this book was painted, drifting clouds of mist obscured all the lower por­tions while the sun shone brightly above, and the sound of steamers' sirens was almost constant over the smooth waters of the sea.
Whole stretches of the Down-sides are mantled with the magnificent yellow of the gorse ; the sam­phire (Crithmum maritimum), once common on the ledges of the rock, has now become comparatively rare, another characteristic plant is the round-headed rampion {Phyteuma orbiculare), sometimes called the pride of Sussex. Sea-birds of many kinds have their homes on the ledges of the chalk, and it was on Beachy Head in 1886 that Swinburne wrote his address To the Seamew
"The lark knows no such rapture, Such joy no nightingale."
The view on a clear day is exceedingly striking— inland over the Downs Chanctonbury Ring is con­spicuous, and one may occasionally see the barrows at Kingly Bottom near Chichester ; a wide stretch of Weald appears to north and east; along the
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