Down by the lapping waves we talk folklore, legend and landscape with the singer and story collector Liz Pearson, who plays us some of the beautiful, mesmerising sounds she makes as Chalk Horse Music. The name comes from the figure of a horse carved into the side of a hill in the Cuckmere Valley,
A warm, hazy evening on the edge of England seems a million miles away from London and LA in the late Nineties when Liz and her partner Darren were turning out hits. Returning to her native coastline, they chose to engage with the magic, the memories and the history of the places all around them, giving very old stories a striking, contemporary musical setting.
As the last of the day trippers make the most of the high tide, Liz, Cole and Emily contemplate taking a dip and discuss how the stories embedded in the hills of Sussex are the inspiration behind Chalk Horse Music’s new releases, The songs featured in this episode are used with permission and can be found, along with many other beautiful tracks, at chalkhorsemusic.com.
In this episode Cole and Emily take a wander inland, but not too far… the Channel is still in sight as they look back across the Cuckmere Valley to the edge of England through rows and rows of vines. The salty sea mist still reaches this impressive, enchanting but until recently rather secretive wedge of farmland between Alfriston and Seaford that was bought by Sarah and Mark Driver and has been transformed into the Rathfinny Vineyard.
As we explore, Sarah tells us how her own history on the other side of the world has helped her put down her own roots in the chalky soil, among the vines and fields of barley.
Come with us on a walk back in time accompanied by kraken, sea snakes, bowler hats and bones. We start with an astonishing view and an enchanted moment outside the new visitor centre at Beachy Head. Emily and Cole’s guide through millions of years of history is Jo Seaman, heritage expert and story teller, who takes us deep under the sea and high over the cliffs. We dig down through layers of soil to uncover hidden treasures and strange tales connecting the past with the present. Find out why Jo has put down roots on the Edge of England, has his head in the stars, and has developed a special bond with a skeleton. The latest episode of the podcast exploring the fascinating people, places and stories of the South Coast. Let your ears bring you here. For more information on the centre visit The Beachy Head Story.
Today we explore a borderland between the sea and the marshes, fact and fiction, even life and death. Our guide to the windswept shingle beaches, wide skies and curious settlements between Sovereign Harbour and Pevensey Bay in East Sussex is crime fiction writer Sheila Bugler, who is originally from the west of Ireland but now lives close by and has set a mesmerising murder mystery trilogy here. We walk and talk about writing and pursuing our dreams and discover that this strange, beautiful place has some dark secrets in real life too. Come with us with your ears … if you dare! Edge of England is a podcast exploring the stories, people and places of the South Coast, produced by Emily Jeffery and hosted by Emily and Cole Moreton.
We return to the curious life of Parson Darby, whose gravestone says he was the sailor’s friend. Was he a hero? Was he helping the smugglers? Emily and Cole are keen to discover more about the local legend who spent his nights keeping a light alive in a hole in the cliffs near Birling Gap and Beachy Head, so visit historian and writer Elizabeth Wright in today’s episode, recorded on a hot summer’s day in 2019. Elizabeth plays valiant referee to Emily and Cole’s theorising and sparring, defends the parson with passionate eloquence and reveals a surprising twist in the tale, after being contacted by members of a family in the United States who claim to have links to the tragic, heroic Darbys.
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?
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.
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.