Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Visiting My Seven Sisters: Part 2
In The Blotting Book by E. F. Benson, young Morris Assheton learns that his character has been maligned. Strangely, it seems that Godfrey Mills, the partner of his solicitor and legal guardian Edward Taynton, has been spreading these rumors. With his thoughts full of anger, and wondering how to counteract the man's actions, Morris takes his car out of Brighton. He drives South past towns like Rottingdean, Newhaven, and Seaford, and only stops when he reaches the outskirts of the suburbs of Eastbourne. Then he heads back, and parks to sit along the chalk cliffs a mile from Brighton, near a narrow channel.
E. F. Benson frequently mentions the South Downs, and the white chalk cliffs, in his novel. These features of the local landscape provide stark contrast to the dilemmas Morris Assheton and Edward Taynton undergo throughout the story. As the Seven Sisters are striking examples of England's white chalk cliffs, my wife and I followed Morris' journey as best we could, utilizing public transportation. A bus took us South from Brighton, past Rottingdean, Newhaven, and Seaford, to the Seven Sisters area, just a few miles North of Eastbourne. Then we began our long, slow march to the coast.
By the time we reached the beach, the strong wind had already bent the metal frame of my inexpensive umbrella. Still I used it as best I could, to shield myself and my camera from the rain. Then an unexpected gust blew the umbrella out of my hands, and it fell over the edge of the high section of beach. At first I thought I had lost it to the water leaving the valley and rushing out to sea, but then I saw it lying on the rocks by the stream, and I found a way down to the lower section of beach.
Below, the concrete and wooden sea wall fortifying the higher area of beach offered me shelter from the rain. I gazed up through a hole in the sea wall at the coast guard cottages. I wondered how often those inside the cottages spotted a ship in trouble, and rushed out to its aid.
We crunched over the beach, admiring the shapes of the rocks we found, and how the low light and dampness brought out their colors. Then we trudged up the hill. As we neared the cottages, the rain eased off, and we were able to enjoy the view a little more.
After hours of standing, the nearby benches looked tempting, but they promised to further soak our already-wet jeans. We also decided not to emulate Morris Assheton by sitting on the cliff edge.
With the cessation of rain, the sky quickly cleared, and the cliffs, which before had been obscured by clouds, grew visible. The Seven Sisters stood out proudly, as if welcoming us after our long journey.
We were glad that we read The Blotting Book, and that Morris Assheton's journey inspired us to undertake a similar adventure. Seven Sisters was definitely a sight not-to-be missed!
Then we returned to the valley floor, and the muddy path that would lead us back to civilization. Or at least the bus stop.