Cuckmere Haven attracts 350,000 tourists per year. The land is protected only by a wooden groyne and a concrete sea wall. The wall’s maintenance is paid for by a £200,000 crowd-funded web campaign by residents in the 200-year cottages directly behind it (at http://www.cuckmerehavenos.org); dozens of people have already been involved in plugging the holes in the concrete wall.There are no official protections to the cottages.
The cottages were originally coastguard cottages and were built in the 1820s when smugglers used the estuary of cuckmere haven for bringing in barrels of French goods like brandy without having to pay duty. The valley later became an attraction for painters and tourists. During WWII the river was used for navigation for Luftwaffe bombers heading for London. The estuary had pillboxes built into it, as well as tank traps and barbed wire. It was one of the few places not protected by cliffs on the South coast of England.
There is a brass plaque to commemorate the Canadian soldiers who died in 1940 when the Haven was strafed by a Messerschmit. The cottages were requisitioned by the army and, in compensation for the damage to the cottages by the end of the war, a sea wall was built in front in 1947.
The sea was at least 30m further away at the start of the 20th century than in 1947 when the wall was built.