As days grow longer, our senses awaken and our appetite and impulse for adventure increases. The need to break free from the confines of daily routine grows. With spring-time to hand, we're hitting the road. We explore chasing thermals, the power of nature and swimming in angry seas with British paraglider and co-owner of Fly Sussex, from her base in Birling Gap.
Time & Tide | Jess Cox
4 min read
Written by Jess Cox
What drew you to living and working around Birling Gap
The changing season and the mixture of being near the sea and the downs is a massive draw.
How much of your outlook on life - both work and play - is inspired by this kind of lifestyle?
Since I was a child, my whole life has been driven by working with nature. My work and leisure are inseparable – in my work I help people get their first taste of airtime on the South Downs; in my time off, I chase thermals on my paraglider wherever I can. My outlook on life is inspired by the people I meet: seeing how people shape their lives around their passions, and also by the privilege that I feel that I get to share people’s excitement for the first time their feet ever leave the ground.
My outlook on life is also shaped by having hobbies that are driven and constricted by the power of nature: however much we might like to think we’re the boss, when we are paragliding, or surfing, or swimming in an angry sea, we need to check our humility and know when to admit our weaknesses.
What’s the first thing you do if you’ve been away from home?
I check the weather: that dictates what comes next: both for work and for play. If it’s flyable I’ll grab my glider and head up to the cliffs. If the weather is dire then I work in the paragliding shop.
What/where is your ultimate escape here? Why is it so special to you?
Once your feet leave the ground when you are paragliding, to fly well, you need to process so many things: the wind, the thermals, the birds and other gliders, the mountains: it’s totally captivating. Flying is the ultimate escape.
It’s so special to me because I learned to fly with my dad when I was a teenager, and because flying has given me the best times of my life.
To anyone travelling to Birling Gap, what would you say they shouldn’t miss?
Wait for low tide and walk along the rock pools from Cuckmere Haven to Birling Gap. You can’t beat a sunset BBQ on the beach, especially if you initiate a nudey swim!