Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Spirit of The Downs and National Poetry Day has pleasantly hijacked our day

Todays day in the office has been pleasantly hijacked by National Poetry Day.  Having seen a wonderful post from Sussex Wildlife Trust with  Kiplings Sussex we have been inspired to put aside the long to do list and dig out our well read and much loved copy of 'The Spirit of The Downs' by the wonderful Arthur Beckett.

So as we pack a day sack to head off to find a spot on "our blunt, bow-headed, whale backed downs" to re read his "impressions and reminiscences of the sussex downs" we shall leave you with this... 

DOWNLAND - The Spirit of The Downs - Arthur Beckett

OH, do you know the Downland where the sward is short and sweet,
Where the gorse is like a golden flame, where fairies you may meet?
You may see them dancing in their “rings” or swinging from a spray
Of bramble-bush, if you go there at the purple close o’ day.
You must be there at moon-rise, when light floods all the dells,
‘Tis then you’ll hear the fairy-horns, the sound o’fairy bells,
For night-time is the witching time; ‘tis then you must away
And climb the slope to Downland at purple close o’ day.
And uncouth forms you there may see above the swelling mounds
Of barrows or of tumuli; perhaps too, hear the sounds
Of words you will not understand; perchance you’ll see the fray
For bloody fights are fought there at purple close o’ day.
And if you climb up old Caburn to view the Celtic Camp,
And look across the Wealden plain when mists rise thick and damp,
You’ll see about the foot o’ Firle the Romans brave array,
Of Saxon soldiers coming home at purple close o’ day.
And as you sit upon the cliff and sniff the salty sea,
You’ll see a smuggler standing in, men wading to the knee;
The horses are soon loaded, the lugger sails away,
The “Gentlemen” are hard at work at purple close o’ day.
The distant down is dappled with a thousand grey-white sheep,
The tuneful tinkle of their bells steals from the far-off steep;
And as you watch the shepherd calls, “Goo, fetch um home, good Tray!”
The faithful collie folds the flock at purple close o’ day.
Oh, have you heard the skylark above the Downland sing,
Ascending from the dewy grass near Chanctonbury Ring?
I’ve heard his song there eight months long, and most of all in May,
But I love the Downland lark the best at purple close o’ day.
I’ve smelt the summer gorse at eve a-top o’ Kithurst Hill,
As I stood to gaze upon the scene from thence to Selsey Bill;
But of all the subtle Downland breaths, the best of all, I say,
Comes from the violet thymy banks at purple close o’day.
You may vaunt to me of visions dreamed in any other shire,
No wolds and fells, or heathy dells, but these my heart inspire;
I know them all, they’re at my call whene’er I go away

To Downland, to Downland at purple close o’ day.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Where have all the Southdowns Shepherds gone ???

So.... Where are all the Southdowns Shepherds gone ? This is a question I asked myself after a wonderful day wondering the Southdowns. I was sat watching a flock of sheep, grazing the flower rich fields of a beautiful downland valley and the poem by Arthur Beckett in his 1909 book “The spirit of the Downs” came to mind and In it the verse of

The distant down is dappled by a thousand grey-white sheep,
The tuneful tinkle of their bells steals from the far of steep;
And as you watch the shepherd calls “Goo, fetch um home, good Tray”
The faithful collie folds the flock at the purple close o’ day”

Well that wasn’t the picture I got as a loud “Beeping of a car horn” shattered the peace and brought me rushing back into the 21st century !! I watched in amazement as a Land rover screamed into the field, speeding backwards and forwards almost driving into the sheep to force them to move! The sound was deafening as coupled with the revving engine and the blaring constant horn beeping, the farmer screamed and shouted obscenities at a poor old collie, who in far play, was trying to do his best. I listened in disbelief and watch with a saddened heart “Look back, look back ...... Nooooooooo Get up !! For **** sake you ******* stupid dog, go back !!!” Not quite the same poetical verse of Arthur Beckett ? I will point out that NO sheep nor Dog was hurt in this scene, however, I can not state the same for the owner of both said sheep and dog, for HIGH blood pressure is a killer !!
This is by no means and isolated case these days, for only the very next day I was a few miles away from my encounter with Land Rover Shepherd walking another part of the Southdowns. Whilst walking through a field of sheep, I noticed a lamb that was struck with fly-strike. This to those not accustomed to such delights, is when flies lay their eggs into soiled and damp wool. The eggs hatch very quickly into maggots and they gorge themselves on the flesh of the sheep. It was on the footpath and showing signs of distress clearly to anyone passing. As we neared the edge of the field, a 4x4 and trailer came thundering into view. I was about to stop the farmer, however he sped pass heading of to “looker” his flock. The term “Lookering” is when a shepherd or farmer checks his sheep for any problems and is an old term. Now to utter disbelief, the said 4x4 was travelling at such a speed, churning up the downland orchids and grass land that it passed right by the lamb with strike ! I wasn't surprised, how the driver could spot anything at such a speed was beyond me? And so with saddened heart again, the 4x4 dragging it’s trailer headed off up the steep slope of the Southdowns National Park and out of view.
This I am getting afraid of, appears to becoming the very modern way of shepherding the Southdowns. Faithful old collies and Shepherding skills are being replaced with 4x4’s and Quad bikes, time and financial pressures force the farmer to employee these tactics and the ways of the downland shepherds are long gone. Now I will point out at this stage that it is not that the owners or farmers do not care, it is a fact that however, there are very very few employed Shepherds working the downs, solely in charge of the sheep, if any ? And therefore these sheep are fitted into the rest of the very demanding work carried out by our farmers. There skills are are still remarkable, juggling many tasks in uncertain times against year on price drops from huge demanding supermarket chains, but nevertheless, the skills from the Downland shepherds and the way they managed their flocks is gone.

I will read you another extract from Arthur’s book:

“ It is nearly five o’clock and the breeze is still warm “ I mentioned to the shepherd as he approached me.
“Aye, but you would not call it pleasant, sir, if you was up here sometimes in the winter. Fourteen year have I been on these hills, and eighty-and-farty year have I minded ship (sheep)”
“it is a long time, but judging from your ruddy face I should say that the life is a healthy one”  I remarked
“Aye sir; I never once remember having a day of sickness ‘cept when I lost my hand”
For the first time I noticed that the old man had only one arm and he went to to tell me his had it torn clean off by a chaff cutter when he was a boy.

Now the shepherd in question was Stephen Blackmore of Beachy Head who died in 1920. Their is a great picture of him with his working bearded collie in the book, the old fashion Downland sheepdog, long before the modern trial sheepdog and better known border collie. As a matter of fact, I was privileged enough not only to know Mr Blackmore’s great great grandson, but as a shepherd of the downs for 16 years, I worked and slept  at Mr Blackmore’s old Victorian Lambing barns above east Dean. It has still got one of the last remaining Shepherd cottages next to the lambing barn. A small flint house, one room with a split loft sleep area and a fireplace. These were used by the shepherds so they could be with their flock night and day. 

One of the last Shepherd's huts still standing, I used this many times to catch a few hours slept at lambing time.

The lambing barn was perfectly arranged, All made of flint and brick, A large barn sat in the middle. On one side was a open yard and the other, a lean-to that ran down one side and the bottom that housed individual pens. This made for a great place to lamb and I consider myself lucky to have shepherded there..

The cottage had a lean-to also, and in here pens could be made up for any sheep needing extra attention so that they were close at hand.

It is truly a wonderful place to visit, the views are stunning out over Belle tout lighthouse and the English channel. I was told a story from one of the old farm hands from East Dean: Back In Mr Blackmore’s days shepherding there, they use to hear stories of “growing lambs in the ground” What it turned out to be was those lambs that were cold and suffering from the effects of the wind that drives in from the sea, where buried up to their heads in the huge dung pile to keep warm from the heat it produced. So any walkers coming upon them would only see little lambs heads poking up bleating insanely !! Now that is clever shepherding ....

Looking South out to sea with Belle tout lighthouse on the cliffs at beachy head.

I have always had a passion for working dogs from an early age and to my father’s annoyance of not going into his building company,  I took up the life of shepherding and training dogs. I worked many farms within the Southdowns with many dogs and although I would not state to being the greatest commercial shepherd, I did however follow the way of the old downland shepherds in taking the best care of the flock and the land.  I did spend time following the old methods closely, when I managed to successfully introduce a flock of Scottish Blackfaced sheep onto an area that had been turned over to the public. This allowed the land to be grazed rather than mowed my tractor, thus giving the wide flowers a chance to return. I managed the flock amongst the public’s first displeasure of operating in their dog walking are, behind electric fence and folded the sheep at night into secure fields. So a modern take on the old shepherding ways.
I worked many dogs, teaming up with my uncle and renowned sheepdog breeder who lived in Wales. Training the dogs became a passion to understand and train with respect. Most of my dogs like Mist, Fay, Queen, Snow and Tweed taught me a lot about sheep, and the Downs.

Tweed, A wonderful Tri colour Border Collie, on Willingdon Hill with the Blackfaced Sheep.

I yearned to understand the ways of the old shepherds, their instinct for knowing by the weather where to find their flocks, their ability to read sheep and how they would react, their calmness, their knowledge of all the flora and fauna of the downs. These skills are lost but remain in other areas. Mr Blackmore did not have a Downland Ranger or conservation manager in his days, but we do and these roles hold the shepherd skills in the management and skills in protecting the the aforementioned flora and fauna. We have very successful farmers, that can run commercial flocks and so help keep the downs with sheep which is a good thing, the downs were made by sheep and need sheep to keep them.

But the skill, the real combined skill of the old shepherds is lost. No more do you see a flock of sheep folded at night, very rarely will you see sheep munching on turnips, wattle hurdles and sheep bells are long gone. In the picture of me, you will see I have a crook in my hand .... wrong, this is a “Pyecombe Hook” world famous and made out of an old shotgun barrel, they were made in Pyecombe nr Brighton and much sought after. It is a leg hook, and unlike the ones seen on one man and his dog, is used to secure the sheep by the leg, these are now very rare and you will not see one being used for what is was made for.

But to me the greatest skill lost is the working sheepdog. These in the old days were the bearded collie, a true downland working dog, and his posh cousin, the Border collie. It’s not that they are not about, it is that the modern day practices don’t allow it to be used to it strengths and that most farmers ( not all ) do not have the time nor skills to use them or fail to value them. I use to train many dogs and sell at auctions. I would be in disbelief when a farmer would ask to buy one of my dogs that could run up a hill over half a mile away, gather the sheep and bring them back to me with hardly a word spoken, and repeat it many times and never question me. The farmer would scorn the price of anything from £800 -£2000 for the dog, yet think nothing of driving around after his sheep in a £18,000 4x4 . When told that this dog could do this day after day for eight to ten years with nothing more than a bowl of food and a pat on the head, still they would argue the cost.  Tell me this I would ask “If you can find a lad that would do all that everyday for ten years in all weathers for the same price, let me know”

Now I went on to train dogs for many tasks, search and rescue, Air scenting, Tracking, Gun dogs, Agility dogs and all this stems back to and from the working sheepdog and his incredible power to manage large and small flocks of sheep. It was the love of sheepdogs that helped me understand downland sheep and gave me great passion for the downs. Now being out of the profession for 16 plus years, working in a very corporate world of security, in a highly paid role, you would think that those days wouldn't concern me, but they do! So going back to sitting on the Downs, watching a land rover charge around after the flock and the old faithful collie do his best to try to understand what is required of him, I wonder, I think and again my mind drifts to the old days and why are we losing these skills ? Is it to late to save them ... I think not ! Maybe it’s time for the Shepherd to return, maybe to some owner of some downland farm who wants to help preserve these skills?
Below Is a verse from a poem by Rudyard Kipling, who loved the Downs, It can be found on a gravestone in Folkington Church yard and to me means everything about the Downs and Shepherds to me.

 I've given my soul to the Southdown grass,
And sheep-bells tinkled where you pass.
Oh Firle an' Ditchling an' sails at sea,

I reckon you keep my soul for me!

Rudyard Kipling

Thursday, 6 June 2013

A picture (or 21) tells a thousand words ........

No need for words - Just enjoy the views

The clue is in the Bee's? .......  It's elementary !! 

Dropping down into Crowlink

Amazing place, made for Walking, Biking, Bird watching and enjoying

Who is watching Who ?

Only 212 steps up ....!!!!

The White Horse ... Is it's the Long Man of Wilmington's?

You wouldn't catch me riding pass the greatest Brewery in Sussex ..... He must be mad !!

All the way up to the Long Man of Wilmington

The View from Bo Peep over the Weald 

The South Downs way snaking it's way up and over Bo Peep

Monday, 3 June 2013

Rock Pooling on the Southdowns ???

The Seven Sisters

The sun was shining brightly and after a very busy day yesterday it was the only choice, a day chilling down at Birling Gap. With tide checker confirming that the tide was going out, we rushed around making a picnic with lashings of tea and cake ... I like tea a lot !! The area is managed by the National trust and thy are investing in refurbishing the hotel and do a great job in in putting on events from beach combing, star gazing etc.

Now Birling Gap is my spiritual home, because as a shepherd of the Downs, I once lived in the old coastguard cottages ... Yes that's right the ones falling into the sea. I spent many a happy time, living almost alone in the winter time when the seas crash hard against the cliffs driven madly by the unrelenting winds., and being stared at like a goldfish in a bowl by the tourists who peered through the windows in amazement that someone lived there!!When I was living there there were seven, now only five cling to the cliff, desperate to withstand the pull of the ocean.
Steps at Birling Gap

As a shepherd, I would entertain coach loads of visitors with a slightly dishonest trick. Now being a shepherd, I trained many sheepdogs (In fact I trained dogs for many purposes including search & rescue, gun-dogs etc) Well, to earn a pint or two, I would sit at the front of the hotel, in full shepherding gear, with crook and gentle whistle commands no louder than a mouse. People would ask what I was doing and pointing to the Belle tout lighthouse way off in the distance, I would explain I was working my dog. Well they could believe it and allowing them to use my binoculars, would point out the dog and tell them I would ask him to lay down, go right etc. So with a quietly spoken "Come-bye" ( which was the dog's command to go right) They rocked back stunned in disbelief as the dog did as he was told. I was photographed and collected pints behind the bar, plus some gave "tips" for the dog on his return!! They never new that a farm worker and very good friend was in the gorse scrub up the hill next to the dog with a two way radio, as i gave the commands, he simply relayed them to old faithful !! Dishonest I know, but harmless.
Anyway, we dashed down the steps with nets and buckets 
Common Starfish
(you can never to be to old for getting excited about rock-pooling) And we quickly set up a basecamp on the beach west of the steps, then charged wildly out across the sands to the sea..... And hell it was a cold shock but always best to get your feet wet straight away rather than skip about trying to avoid the inevitable !! The inspections of the pools began, lifting rocks, moving seaweed and entering a new and fascinating underwater micro world. and very soon we were finding mass of common starfish. My boys prize these as second in the top three (Octopus and sharks being the top one)
We giggled our way along towards the cuckmere haven, checking pools, dipping nets and taking in the fresh air. Boats of all shapes passed us by on our left and two the right, the impressive chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters loomed above us given the viewer a glimpse of what lays below the short sweet grass of the downs. Crabs became abundant as we moved up the coast, sparking a competition between my boys and me of who can find the biggest...... And as usual a wager was placed to which I knew I was going to lose as my finds were disqualified for many many reason that they could come up with. One such was "Yes dad, it's big, but it has a missing leg so does not count" What ?????
The winning Crab .... Not mine !!
We battled on, finding all sorts of strange and wonderful creatures, And armed with a book of the seashore, I tried my best to identify all before the boys whizzed of to the next pool. Shrimp, Prawns, Crabs, Small fish, snails, winkles, seaweed, old shoes and strangely shaped stones ... all were our prey!! Now at this point I must stress. ALWAYS REPLACE THE STONES AND CREATURES BACK. Never take away and KEEP A WATCH ON THE TIDE.

Boy Meets Shrimp !!

Great Find... Stones with holes are lucky ... So this is three times lucky !!
One of the best finds was what looked like an old ship's boiler, it's been there for years and has still not scumbed to the ocean as much as she tries to take it like the ship it came from scuppered many many years ago. The tide was turning and more to the point I needed tea. I had to admit losing the hunt and both boys reminded me of the payment needed to settle the bet. We moved back along the beach towards the lady who was now guarding our little basecamp and after a great 4 hours of fun, that's free, the boys and us left happy and giggling about our adventure ( It really does beat X box games ) So I would say, if you haven't been rock pooling at Birling Gap .... Add it to you bucket list, It's a great place at the start of the Southdowns.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

40 Scouts + A brewery and a Giant ....Really?

Scouts giving the Long Man a makeover.
So the classic land rover was packed with exploring items - Map CHECK, binoculars CHECK, Camera CHECK,and a host of other things all packed in for a day of fun. The sun was shining as we entered the Cuckmere valley. The first port of call had to be the Long man of Wilmington for today was a day to behold. The Scouts had turned up in their droves with one thing in mind, No not to sit around a camp fire singing songs ... for the modern day scouts are far removed from that image! Armed with paint and brushes, they were here for the community and to give the 236ft chalk figure a makeover. YES they were painting a giant. Pulling the old landy into the field it was a sight to see. Looking up the slope to Windover Hill it appeared that the long man had nits as a gaggle of scouts, looking like ants, scrambled around his head. Lines of human insects were making their way over this huge mystical giant and I smiled at the view and wondered what the people ( who ever they were as no one really knows who created the LMoW) would have thought. It was also so great to see that the newly founded and wonderful brewery Long Man Brewery from just a mile down the road, had spotted on twitter the scouts plan and in true community fashion, had turned up to help and support the scouts. The brewery owes it's name to the long man ( No ... really Sherlock ??)
And although the brewery is barely just over a year old and not aged like the Giant, it is clearly a brewery and company of the Southdowns and the Cuckmere valley and community alike, that has already made it's mark almost as bold and big as the giant itself. So hats of to the Long Man Brewery and the Scouts , for the giant was gleaming in the Sussex sunshine and was we pulled away from the site, I think I spotted the brewery owner with a warm big smile on his face .... and looking in the rear view mirror, back towards the giant, I swear I saw a smile on his featureless face too as the scurrying ants continued to do their work!!
The Cuckmere Valley
This area of the Southdowns National Park, Cuckmere Valley, really is a special place and with communities coming together to help each other, shows even more why it is so. Later after a mad day of exploring, we found ourselves in middle farm shop at Firle. And whilst wondering around the cider barn there it was, like a ship being led to safety i moved across the the shelves packed with bottle beers. Shining like a lighthouse and calling my name was a long blonde !! Now before you feel that I was being led astray from the lady I was with, this Long Blonde was the product of the aforementioned brewery. So with a smile on my face and thoughts of ants and a giant, i procured a couple of bottles for myself to sample later in friston forest with the BBQ.
Well now the lady is a lady and can be found in the city of london frequenting the trendy wine bars and quaffing some of the best champagne going, so imagine to my horror as she asked to taste the local brew and to my worst nightmare declared " OMG This is my new favorite drink" ....... WHAT , I only have two bottles " Wrong, now you only have One"...Dam !!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

4 Pubs, 4 Churches, 1 Tower, 6 eggs and a few kilo of Spuds !

So the question came " Do you fancy a little walk my love ?"
I should have been prepared, I have been here before and due to the glass or two of wine and maybe my desire to get up onto the Downs, I replied to swiftly with " That will be nice"
From then, that very point I was domed ! Having not been on the ground for a while due to a few niggling health issues, my body and more to the point, my legs were about to regret this "Little walk".
The Explorer's Vehicle .
We parked the 25 year old girl up just below the Long Man of Wilmington as we had discussed a walk up over the chalk figure and dropping back down into Alfriston for a sneaky pint, a route of no more than 5 miles and I was happy with this. However as we exited the old girl i heard the sentence I dreaded " I fancy going over to Firle" What !! I pointed out that if we had wanted to walk around the beautiful village of Firle, we could have parked there!!  Now, I like a walk or two, but was now facing the prospects of a walk with double the mileage. She could tell by the look on my face that i was hesitant and threw the gauntlet down " Are you not up for it then?
Not being one ever to decline any form of challenge and with a daysack, map and and some gentle banter, we set of down a bridle path towards Alfriston. As we descended the old chalk drovers road, my mind drifted back to the days of a 14 yr old lad, for I once use to move cattle from high above the long man on Windover Hill down this very track to drive them over the valley to Kingsride. This was fraught with danger as the cattle moved fast and without do care or concern to young boys as the farmer rode behind them bibbing the horn of the Land Rover and laughing as we scurried along dodging the waste product of the enormous quantities of wild garlic that seemed to leave the cattle as fast as it was taken in !!
Monsieur Frenchman

My mind was brought back swiftly as the mutterings (if not swearing) of a frenchman as he pushed and sweated his way up towards us And as he past he said in a very french way " These dam hill's why are they so step and slippery!! .... To stop you invading us I replied as he struggled on up the hill. We might not be the peak district, but hell we do have some step climbs to test the best down here. !!

Dropping down and joining the road that leads over the River Cuckmere, we pushed on and up milton Street on the outskirts of Alfriston, the sun was out and the skies were a brilliant blue but I still had a long distance hanging over my mind. Turning left we picked up a restricted by-way and broke out into open downland facing towards the little hamlet of Berwick. The views back towards the long man and Windover hill are stunning and you get a real sense of openness. The hamlet of Berwick is small, with a lovely Downland church and a fab inn The Cricketers Arms, was worth a pint, but I was directed on and we headed west along the foot hills of the Downs that were looming high into the sky to our left. As we proceeded along the paths our next stop was the Hamlet of Alciston now please note: Alciston and not Alfriston. Some pronounce them as AL-cistion and ALL-friston and there is a great account in Arthur Becket's wonderful book on the downs "The Spirit of the Downs" of a time he asked a labourer if he knew of a man called Mr Pocock from alciston and was told "he had never heard of such a place so couldn't know the man in question" ... it turned out the man was said Mr pocock but he pronounced his name palk from alston strange folk and dialogue back in them days. 

Berwick to Alfriston
The hamlet it's self boasts a stunning church and another tindy inn that you would think was someone's house "The Rose Cottage" as you pass down towards the A27 before turning left to pick up the footpath still heading west.  Now if your into your art, this route will take you pass Charleston Farm House and was the home and country meeting place for the writers, painters and intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury group. Next comes the the impressive estate of Firle with it's Folly Tower known as the GameKeepers Tower and the village of Firle it's self.Firle Place is a manor house that was first built in the late 15th century by Sir John Gage, who made Firle Place his principal home. He held many high offices, including Constable of the Tower and was an executor of Henry VIII's will. The house is open for part of the year, but today's walk was not allowing time to think about it and a move through the park, past the prettiest cricket pitch in Sussex and you pop out at the village pub The Ram Now this is a stop worth taking, great food, great location and a fine pint of Harveys Best Bitter, brewed down the road at Lewes. 

The View towards Long Man and Windover Hill

It was at this point that the lady spotted a local produce stall in the village and decided to purchase a few kilos of fine potatoes and half a dozen fresh eggs, they were then placed into my day sack... what ??? "Have you seen that hill we are about to climb??" .... "Don't break the eggs" was all I was told Climbing up from the village of Firle onto the top at Firle beacon is no small feet ! In fact it's around 712ft and then another seven miles back to the land rover and all with 5kg of spuds and enough eggs to make a mess ! Once on top you truly get the impression that you are on top of the world, stunning views both north over the high weald and into the distance Ashdown Forest and south out to sea .

View North from Firle Beacon with Gamekeepers tower
A place for all on top of the world
with the wind at our backs, we were now heading East along the top of the downs and on the South Downs Way, the suns warmth on the low ground was being chased away by the height we are at and it became a fast pace, well as fast as the weight of the local produce would allow towards the city of the downs Alfriston.
Dropping down the track at Kingsride we were greeted with a fantastic view of the low spring sun lighting up the hills on the other side of the valley. Alfriston is the home of the Downs and it's always a welcome sight to any traveller as the SDW passes down it's high street and onto to Beachy heads , it's end. Alfriston hosts some lovely inns, the olde smugglers being one of them built in 1358 with a great warm welcome . Tea shops are a plenty and a real ye olde village stores.The Church is just off the main street on the tye, and is called the  Cathedral of the Downs, this is well worth a visit. 
So we left the village and crossed the river via the white bridge and with a simple stroll through the fields, we were back and the old landy. Just a small walk then ... nearly 12 miles, but one worth doing. 

Cycling the South Downs Way

Welcome to the South Downs

So Welcome, this has been a long time coming, Being born and bred on these beautiful "blunt, bow-headed, whale-backed Downs" as Rudyard Kipling in his poem Sussex in 1902 wrote, they have always been in my mind. The Downs are full of history in every sense from the ancient chalk figure of the Long Man of Wilmington, a towering 236ft chalk man carved into the downs, to the the smugglers of the villages that wrecked ships of Beachy Head. They will captivate your soul as you stand on top of them with the wind blowing the Spirit of the Downs over you. Working for many years as a shepherd over these hills cemented my love and understanding of them. Now as an explorer and adventure racer, these downs provide a truly wonderful area for Walking, Hiking, Running and Mountain Biking. A place that what ever you chosen passion maybe, you can ensure the South Downs will not let you down .