Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Things I Love About Eastbourne #2: The South Downs

True, the South Downs are not exclusive to Eastbourne, stretching as they do all the way from Beachy Head to the River Meon valley in Hampshire. And indeed I have spent many happy Sundays exploring the downland around Brighton, from Castle Hill at Woodingdean out to Ditchling Beacon, Devil's Dyke and all the way along to Cissbury ring. But there is something about the way Eastbourne's downland is visible from most of the town that makes it feel more familiar and friendly - an ever-present protector shielding us from the world beyond. As I child I imagined the sloping green humps of hillside to be sleeping dinosaurs (if you have ever read Dinosaurs and all that Rubbish, you will know where that notion stems from), ready to yawn and stretch into life at any moment. They were a place of magic and wonder and coming back to them brings much delight.

From my new house, I can walk up onto the Downs in less than ten minutes, with the bulk of that walk being through the elegant manor gardens of Gildredge Park. At the other side of the park I come to a lush green golf course - where the very polite golfers refrain from hitting balls while I walk across the footpath that crosses it - and come out at the bottom of Paradise Drive, in whose woods, so the story goes, my brother was conceived. A stomp up the hill brings me out at the Dew Pond, where the ashes of a beloved family pet were once scattered and around which many games of Star Wars were played during childhood dog walks. On a clear day you can see right across to Beachy Head, and out to the jaggedy spur of land that is Hastings on the other side. This picture was taken in 1998, when I brought a gang of London friends down for a visit. I hope they'll come again now that I am back and spoiling for more hill-bound adventures. Others are welcome too, of course.

More lovely pictures of the South Downs can be found on Idleformat's Flickr profile. Watch this space for more from me.
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