On a lovely day, with far too many people about (according to Cole), we go in search of the truth about a local legend, Parson Darby. Just who was the vicar who spent hours sitting in a hole in a cliff shining a light? Where was that hole? Did he save lives? Help smugglers? Die of a broken heart? Another fascinating story from the Edge of England, uncovered and told by award-winning broadcasters Cole Moreton and Emily Jeffery.
Remember those days when you could meet in a friend’s house for a cuppa? Those days will come again. Pop on the kettle and plug your ears in to this this bonus episode where Cole surprises Emily with a special audio gift, further fuelling her obsession with Winifred Barnes, a beautiful young star of the West End stage during World War One. How wonderful to hear her voice, more than a century after she sang. Will we ever know why ‘Wonderful Winnie’ left her glittering career in London, to spend the final years of her too-short life surrounded by birds and animals in a cottage on the edge of the cliff at Holywell in Eastbourne? This episode features recordings from 1917 rescued and restored by Dominic Combe as part of his Palaeophonics project, so a huge thanks to Mr Combe.
Emily and Cole pull back the undergrowth and uncover the extraordinary life of Winifred Barnes, once a huge star but now almost completely forgotten – except among a few locals who remember being told stories of the curious inhabitant of a house perched precariously close to the edge of a cliff. Why did this Edwardian singer, actor and comedy performer, a West End leading lady and sensation of the age, retire mysteriously young and retreat to the seaside at Holywell, where she and her sister were considered “too racy” for the locals?
Lockdown might have stopped us humans spreading our wings over the past year, but it hasn’t stopped the birds making their incredible journeys. A rare bearded vulture was seen soaring over the chalk cliffs back in the Autumn and white-tailed eagles from the Isle of Wight have been spotted over Beachy Head recently. The eagles were photographed by a man called Beachy Birder, whose blog and Twitter feed are fascinating even if you’re even just a little bit interested in birds and their interaction with this windswept stretch of Sussex coastline. We join Beachy Birder up on the headland to explore the wonders of nature and the nature of obsession. Have you seen Detectorists? This is a bit like that, with wings.
Sometimes, and only sometimes, the sea is so calm as it tickles the edge of England that the gentle tease and retreat of the waves over the shingle sounds like breathing. Closing your eyes, hearing the repetitive rasp of pebbles and water and feeling the sun on your face can take you to a happy place. A safe place. This is the story of Misgana, who came to the South Coast from Eritrea as a young girl, without really knowing why. The episode is about finding safety. Navigating through unfamiliar territories, new languages, and unexpected and difficult challenges. It’s also about finding a new place to call home.
This episode is about a stroll along the seafront and a bit of a sit down in Eastbourne. Emily and Cole explore their feelings for the town as they wander past regimental railings, day trippers and residents, elegant buildings and quite a lot of pampas grass. But this is a surprising place where grit and intrigue lie just beneath the surface. Throw in some ‘posh police’, a ghost and a bit of Scandi Noir and perhaps you’ll begin to see why we love exploring fascinating stories of people and place down here on the Edge of England.
Let’s also just talk about big skies and sunsets for a moment. There’s been some corkers recently with the added showbiz of starlings in their thousands, their mesmerising murmurations against the back drop of pinky-orange dusks and the golden-topped Pier.
There’s a whiff of Spring in the air, and with it a whiff of hope. Change is coming. In this episode we’re taking you back down another meandering path to the sea, past an equally meandering river, the Cuckmere. A few cottages cling precariously close to the edge of the land at the mouth of the river, framing a world-famous view where the land meets the sea. You may have seen them in the movie Atonement or the television series Luther or on any number of postcards, posters and posts. It’s an ever-changing landscape, as the chalk cliffs are moulded and bashed by the elements. There are many who want to save both the view, and the precious habitats it contains, both natural and man-made. This is a story about one of the people who has fallen in love with this remarkable stretch of English coastline, and has felt compelled to use his skills as a musician to create a unique festival here. Cellist Anthony Albrecht plays a lovely bit of Bach and tells us more about why he’s drawn to this place and about his role in the campaign to protect the Cuckmere Coastguard cottages.
If you want to find out about the latest developments and more about the campaign here are some links you might be interested in.
What’s even better than a good walk and talk in the glorious outdoors? Doing it with a new friend who takes us to a new place. When writer and podcaster Giles-Paley-Phillips joins us near his home in Seaford we wander past a row of unit vehicles on location for the film ‘Hope Gap’. It’s now been released on Netflix, so along with our audio ‘pictures’ of this amazing landscape, you can watch the film and see what we’re on about. Despite Emily’s best efforts she didn’t spot Bill Nighy – maybe he’ll agree to be a guest on a future episode. What we did encounter were dazzling white cliffs, a hidden cove, enticing rock pools and a Spitfire. (Watch out for that Spitfire in coming episodes: strangely, it becomes a recurring them). The latest shiny new edit of an episode of Edge of England with Cole Moreton and Emily Jeffery, released each week during lockdown.
A shiny new edit of an episode of the Edge of England podcast every Saturday during lockdown, with Emily Jeffery and Cole Moreton. Fascinating people, places and stories from the stunning landscape around Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters on the South Coast. This time we visit the beautiful Belle Tout lighthouse, perched (safely) near the edge of a four hundred foot drop.
Owner David Shaw brought the lighthouse back from the edge of ruin, which cost a fortune. Its walls contain tales of a King, a queen and a She-Devil and you’ll hear an alarmingly entertaining story about a lighthouse keeper, madness and murder. But the Belle Tout, a few miles west of Eastbourne, is now a unique and gorgeous bed and breakfast with the most amazing 360 degree views of the sea and the South Downs.
Maybe one day you will be able to come and stay in David’s lighthouse? Get in touch, perhaps we can walk the South Downs together and tackle the rise and fall of the Seven Sisters. Until then, take us with you in your ears wherever you are.
We’re going to put out a shiny new edit of an episode of the Edge of England every Saturday, hoping that by the time we reach the end lockdown will be over and we can make some more. Lots of people have said kind things about the podcast, so why not get away from it all with your lovely ears by coming on a walk with us?
It all begins on a blustery spring day, one of those days that catches you out with eye –stinging, nose-watering coldness, despite the daffodils being out. A conversation in a sea front café between the pier and the bandstand. At one end, taking shelter from the wind, rain and sea spray, is a man who sleeps rough, keeping warm with a steaming coffee thanks to the kindness of the café owner. At the other end of the café, Cole, Emily and Mabel the dog have an amiable argument about work, life, that sort of thing. There are lots of things they never will see eye to eye on, but they are united in the way this part of the world has got under their skin. Taken hold. Taken them by surprise. The Edge of England.
This is a place full of stories. Stories of people and place where the land meets the sea. From the dramatic and crumbling coastline of Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters in Sussex on the south coast of England to the seemingly endless low-lying, under-the-radar expanses of land beyond Eastbourne and the harbour. This is a place that makes you feel something. A place that can change you. This is landscape that changes. From brutal and threatening to curious and welcoming. There are stories to tell here, from the past, and in the present. As story tellers, we decide to try to tell them and explore how we fit into the unfolding story of this place too. So, please come back with us to that blustery spring day and take a walk with us, the first of many, this time up onto the South Downs, and the podcast begins. Thank you for being here and welcome to the Edge of England.