Seven Sisters Hike with ACAI Outdoorsing Club
ACAI is an outdoors clothing brand designed by and for women who love the outdoors. If you’re anything like me you’ll find that half of your outdoor wardrobe will made up of a mix of poorly fitting women’s gear (I’m thinking wedgies and short sleeves) and baggy menswear. ACAI decided to tackle this head on when they formed in 2017 with a strong desire to create clothes that make you look and feel great, and above all give you the mental and physical confidence to get outdoors. As the company has grown they’ve become more than just a clothing brand – they’ve become a hub for connecting like minded women across the country who love the outdoors. They’ve even created their own Outdoorsing Club where they run a series of free events led by experienced female outdoor leaders providing the opportunity to connect nature loving women. Having followed their events for a while I was really excited to see one arranged for East Sussex at the start of March. The hikes fill up quickly and are really popular so I popped my name down straight away, and I’m so glad I did!
We were greeted at our starting point at Birling Gap by our Outdoorsing Club guide – Kate Capelli. Kate is well seasoned to guiding all female groups both here in the UK and across the globe. She also runs her own female adventure community called Adventuress In the Wild offering meet ups, events and worldwide challenges. Of the 12 women in our group, four of us had come solo. It can be daunting rocking up to an event where you don’t know anyone but the group was extremely welcoming and any nerves were quickly eased. Kate gave us a quick safety briefing and a lowdown on the route before we decided to set off. The temperature was a cool 3 degrees with a strong breeze so we were all keen to keep moving to keep warm.
Birling Gap – Cuckmere Haven – Friston Forest – Birling Gap
14.5km with an elevation of 466m
Heading along the coast towards Cuckmere the first part of the hike is also the most challenging. Almost as soon as we leave Birling Gap we start some of the steep ups and downs of the Seven Sisters. The views are incredible, emphasised by some of the sheer inclines the photo opportunities are endless. We spend a fair bit of this stretch trying to guess the names of the Seven Sisters only to be sorely disappointed that none of them are called Mabel or Beryl or Jane having more geographically influenced names such as Flat Hill, Rough Brow and Haven Brow instead. I think we’re all ready for a flat patch by the time Cuckmere Haven comes into view. Even on a grey March day this place is stunning with pale blue seas and bright flecks of yellow gorse.
We head inland now following the Cuckmere River towards Exceat. A mellower stretch with some charming ponies en route. We stop for a loo break at the Seven Sisters Visitor Centre before a bite to eat. We keep lunch brief because as soon as we stop walking the cold is unbearable. Heading inland along the Friston Forest trail this stretch of the walk is more sheltered but also surprisingly hilly. We trudge on past pretty cottages, the White Horse at Littlington and ancient forest until we reach East Dean. East Dean is a gorgeous, quaint Sussex village with the 16th Century Tiger Inn at it’s heart. If you have time make sure you factor in a shandy pit stop so you can relish a taste of the idyllic village life.
The final push takes us alongside the Birling Gap road on a wooded path before popping us back out onto the Downs. As the crumbling Coastguard cottages and Belle Tout lighthouse come back into view we start planning our orders for our imminent arrival at the tea room. Luxury hot chocolates all round. An incredible walk with some really challenging stretches covering a range of landscapes and countryside in the company of some inspiring women. What a way to spend a Sunday. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for the next Outdoorsing Club event. Thanks to Kate, ACAI and the fabulous ladies I hiked with.