As you pass the Buckle and enter the Southdowns National Park we leave the comfort of the promenade and begin to explore the eastern end of the Tide Mills. The old village is some way ahead, more later, but look at the low lying land to your right. This is the remains of the old river bed when the Ouse at what is now Newhaven, then Meeching, was forced eastward by the effects of longshore drift building up a shingle spit which once extended as far as Splash Point, the start of the Exercise Path. Later in the late 1700s this tidal creek following improvements became the eastern mill pond for the Tide Mill. Initially conceived by Thomas Pelhan-Holles, Duke of Newcastle, who owned much of the land in this area, who while Prime Minister, got a bill through Parliament authorising the work. The millponds (there are two, one here and one to the west of the village) filled with water on the rising tide through mill creek, now meeting the River Ouse near Newhaven Harbour railway station. A system of sluices and gates held the water back allowing release through five waterwheels as the tide went out. Not much of the Mill's history is documented until 1791 when it was sold. In 1795 it became into the ownership of a Mr Barton and Edmund Catt whose family went on to have a long association with the mill. More about Tide Mills and Catt family can be read in the Seaford Museum's Booklet No 5 "Tide Mills - a village ahead of its time" available from the Martello Tower.
The Mill operated until 1883 having been severely damaged by the "great flood" of 1875 and the introduction of steam power and the railways rendered the Mill uneconomic. However the area found a number of alternative uses but in 1939 at the outbreak of war the inhabitants were forced to move, the remaining buildings demolished partly to allow a clear field of fire to protect the harbour and for military training.
The area has seen many innovative uses including the Mill building as a bonded warehouse, a sea plane base, an early "Marconi" radio station, a convalescant home for sick race horses, the Chailey Heritage Marine Hospital, a rather tatty holiday village (made up of old railway carriages) and in more modern times a construction site for the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse constructed here and towed to its current position off the coast at Eastbourne.
Continue along the path westward towards Newhaven Harbour. As you pass along you will notice the foundations of a number of buildings often with accompanying interpretion boards. About half way the path, now firm concrete, again turns inland towards the main part of the old main part of the village and the Mill House and the derelict Bishopstone Halt railway station. A short Youtube look at Tidemills is available.