Saturday, 15 March 2014

In wonder at the spring.


Compared to yesterday, Thursday was a good day; things began to work out for me and I was able to escape again in the afternoon.

Oh there is gorse on Ditchling

All golden in the sun

And sweeping slopes of Downland

Where good cloud shadows run

And Caborn silver-misted

And Chancton’s sunset ring

And little Clayton laughing

In wonder at the spring


The narrow road to Ditchling

The old white road I love –

There’s open Down beside it

And open sky above

Unlorded, brave and lonely

It runs from end to end

The Skylark for companion

The sea-wind for a friend


Ditchling Beacon

Alfred Norman


I took the Brighton road, always a thrill in itself (hey, I'm a MOD)– down to the sea!  Turning off at Pyecombe, do I go right to Ditchling Beacon or left to Jack and Jill? Jack and Jill won.

A pair of disused windmills; Jack is the dull one at the back – now a private house. Jill, in white, was looking very fine, although not open to the public when I was there.

The sky was the very bluest of blues, the only clouds were the vapour trails of planes. A bright sun but with a stubborn March chill, up on the Downs winter is hanging on.

I let my feet follow the bridle way along The South Downs Way, the route of the old Drove road that once took the sheep to market.

Today I am walking from the windmills to the beacon, heading east (I'm 'Eastbourne') with the sun on my shoulders. A bag on my back, a banana, a slice of cake and a bottle of pop. No better feeling in the world, I could walk on forever. I'm 11 years old.

There was a mist, so I couldn’t see the sea but I could hear the gulls, even above the sound of a farmer harrowing and following the rolling contours of the Downs with his tractor. There was a light breeze in from the sea. There were sheep and a shepherd on his quad bike.

Under my feet a flinty path or springy downland grass. Here and there white chalk. Lungfulls of fresh air, as I struggled up hill and down until I got to the beacon where you can see the whole world.

If you like 'The Snowman', this is where the boy and the snowman fly before they get to the sea.


After a while I turned back, this time with the sun in my eyes. Spring is still a while away – the gorse was only just starting to flower yellow on the hills. The swooping swallows and swifts I love so much have not yet begun their incredible journeys from Africa – too early for the insects they catch. No skylarks today.

And after? I swooped down to the seafront for a look at the sea – it’s been years now. But, when I got there I got a sea fog, blanking out everything.

Ironically, when I rushed off I forgot a hypodermic – I didn’t go back to get one because I'd assumed I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere to do an injection. Brighton may be tolerant but it isn’t that tolerant and I didn't fancy 12 hours in a police station, explaining.

In fact, with the fog, I could have stood on the beach, dropped my trousers, stuck a needle in my thigh and no one would have ever known!

Still a good day.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

Click on a picture for a slideshow.

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