David Dimbleby opens Birling Gap visitor centre SUS-140805-143736001
David Dimbleby opens Birling Gap visitor centre SUS-140805-143736001

Television presenter David Dimbleby officially opened the new visitors centre at Birling Gap on Thursday (May 8).

The renovation of the centre was jointly funded by the National Trust and the South Downs National Park.

The new 90 square metre space will allow visitors to discover stories of local people, coastal wildlife and learn more about the natural processes that have shaped the chalk landscape over time.

There is also an interactive space for adults and children, which is split into several zones, each providing things to see, touch and hear, as well as information on activities.

Jane Cecil, general manager for the National Trust at Birling Gap, said, “Birling Gap is of huge importance to the National Trust as a unique site on the Sussex Heritage Coast in the South Downs National Park.

“We welcome more than 350,000 visitors each year, to a place where the South Downs meets the coast, and we hope the new visitor centre will add to the enjoyment of a day out with us.”

The latest in a series of developments at Birling Gap, the visitor centre follows a full refurbishment of the property’s cafe, the addition of a new shop, a landscaped garden, fully accessible toilets and baby change areas.

Jane Cecil added, “We’ve had some amazing visitor feedback on our recent developments and hope that many more people come to see the changes at our beautiful coastal location.”

Joining David Dimbleby at the grand opening was Jackie Poole and Robert Cash who have taken fixed point photos every month for nine years of the area to help in the study of the effects of long-shore drift and erosion. The photographs are now on show at the new centre.

Jackie and Robert are part of the Nature Corridors for All group.

Nature Corridors for All is a project run by the Railway Land Wildlife Trust, based in Lewes, for adults with learning disabilities.

The Nature Corridors group undertake significant environmental work, including documenting the development of the Railway Land as a Local Nature Reserve.

The National Trust was so impressed with their work in Lewes, they commissioned them to do the photography to help in the study of erosion at Birling Gap.

Birling Gap cliffs were subject to seven years’ worth of erosion in just months this year after storms battered the coastline.

It saw one of the coastal cottages removed from the site as well as the trust’s ice cream parlour and sun lounge.

• For more information about Birling Gap visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk