Down Time

Summer is here and the South Downs calls. The corn is high,the barley sways,the harvesters move their stately way up and down, above all the skylarks and above them the sun. From Amberley on the Arun where the bunting and house martins fly to seaside Worthing(settlement of a family called Weorth).
Up the hill to the farm and onwards along the ridge. The weald stretches blue and green to the North, the twinkling sea to the South. It’s a week day so few are around and all the while the sun shines. Here a kestrel hovers, there a buzzard swoops,out of a copse a brace of deer bolt across an open field.
Soon I am Chanctonbury Ring,the famous clump of beech trees planted in 1760 which dominates the South Downs Way in this area. Legend has it that young Charles Goring took the water up the hill to feed his young trees, Its hard enough taking a water bottle!
Then its striking South to the sea. The Iron Age fort Cissbury Ring is between. Built on an old flint mine it was inhabited from 250 to 50BC. Legend has it that it was there the Devil dug a hole to flood the plain. A favourite for ghost hunters.And then its Worthing.
Endless bungalows,dull, dull, dull. But at last it’s the front and the pier. I am a great fan of Britain’s beleaguered and wonderful piers. Giant magnificent follies to Victorian confidence and growing working class prosperity. Fourteen were built by the wonderfully named Eugenius Birch who learnt his trade building railways in India.But piers age, lose money, burn and are destroyed by wind and waves yet somehow many survive. Just. Of Britain’s 100 piers 58 remain standing but the culture they represent has largely gone so despite their attraction they are an endangered species.
That day slightly tatty Worthing piers’s customers were a few fishermen and some of the local tribe of oldies mooching, staggering,moaning and having tea . But standing on the pier end with wind and sea, sun and spray I think and thank Mr Birch and all those other Victorian engineers who made the effort.
On the way to the station came across several gaggles of German students who are in town for their English language courses. I wonder how many English students are in Germany or anywhere else learning a language. Its not only at soccer we are losing.
But hey ho. Another great day on the Downs with as Hilaire Belloc said “the wind as my companion the skylark for my friend.”

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