Back to the 1940s at Seven Sisters

Music from The Spitfire Sisters got visitors dancing
Music from The Spitfire Sisters got visitors dancing

The National Trust celebrated the official opening of public access to Gayles Farm with a free family event - an afternoon of nostalgia which took visitors back to the 1940s.

Located on the Seven Sisters cliffs, Gayles Farm is 313 acres of chalk downland and working farmland and is situated along the top of the world famous landmark.

It was recently acquired by the National Trust which will allow visitors to enjoy even more of the area, discovering the landscape and wildlife and learning more about the history of this amazing place, unhindered by boundaries.

Gayles Farm has a rich cultural heritage, spanning thousands of years from the Stone Age through to the Second World War. Part of the land at Gayles Farm was used as an airfield during the war, known as RAF Friston. The site was chosen as it was relatively flat and was close to the sea and initially served as an emergency landing strip and then became home to a number of RAF squadrons during the later years of the conflict.

The opening event included live 1940s-style music from the Spitfire Sisters alongside taster dance classes from Everything’s Jumpin’ who got the crowd jitterbugging to the Lambeth Walk, the Palais Glide and the Blackout Stroll. The Sussex Home Guard showed off their skills in period dress, families were kept busy with craft activities and children had races in handmade cardboard aeroplanes. Others kept lookout from a watchtower and tried their hands at semaphore.

A National Trust archaeologist and Ranger took visitors on a guided walk through time to discover the wildlife of this rich downland habitat on paths that the Trust has opened up to allow access for the first time in decades.

Adrian Harrison, Head Ranger, said, “Gayles Farm is a beautiful spot with an incredibly rich cultural history and an amazing diversity of wildlife. We’re very grateful to all those who helped us raise the funds to buy the site and excited that more people can now make use of this iconic coastal downland. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than with a fun event that everyone of all ages enjoyed.”

The afternoon finished in a spectacular and moving style with a spectacular Spitfire display and the unveiling of a memorial marking the site’s former use as a Second World War airfield, erected in collaboration with the Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust (ABCT).

Kenneth Bannerman, ABCT’s founder and leader, said, “Britain’s airfields are and always will be hugely important for every single one of us. These tremendously popular places have saved the world and revolutionised everyday life for the betterment of all, and we are delighted to be able to dedicate our latest memorial to Friston Airfield after all it has done for this country.”

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