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Benches Project Latest

Seven Benches

Our Benches project has installed seven benches along the South Downs Way! As members will know, we have now been running this project for several years. In fact, the decision to go ahead was made shortly before the pandemic. With not much else to do during the initial lockdown, my husband Tony and I set out to find possible locations starting from the Winchester end of the South Downs Way (SDW).

chanctonbury friends of the south downs
Chanctonbury Ring / photo by Andrew Lovett

It didn’t take too long to establish possible sites for the first half of the track, but I had no idea how long it would take to get to final installations! The process of finding landowners and gaining their agreement was far more complex than I had imagined. The continuing pandemic and changes to the economic climate sent wood prices soaring and English Oak became hard to source.

Benches Project Latest with Nathan Blatherwick

Unfortunately, we also had a lot of difficulties with our original supplier, which gave me quite a few sleepless nights. Eventually, we parted company. Chris Steibelt, one of our Trustees at the time, noticed some wood carving in the playground at Easebourne and gave me the name of the maker. So, a new and much more fruitful relationship with Nathan Blatherwick began and, with his enthusiasm and skill, we have made real progress.

Nathan has been an arboriculturist for 30 years. His grandfather was of Cree Indian descent and worked as a forester in Canada. Old black and white photos of him captured Nathan’s imagination as a child and he loved nature and trees. After a while, he began carving for friends and family and realised it was a very therapeutic connection to life for him. He has not stopped since. His enthusiasm has made it a real pleasure to work with him.

benches project latest friends of the south downs
Nathan with our walking crew at Tegleaze

Benches Project Latest: We now have benches in position at Gander Down, Salt Hill, Harting Down, Tegleaze, Chanctonbury, Saddlescombe and Ditchling Beacon, with only a site near Amberley pending.  Wildlife carvings feature on the benches. For you to look out for are: a hare, an owl, a skylark, a fox, a robin, a butterfly and a thistle. Some have been chosen by the landowners and the National Trust Rangers involved in the project, and some by sponsors of the benches.

Steve Ankers

Of special importance to the Trustees and staff of FSD is the Chanctonbury bench. The robin carved on it was chosen by Margaret and Mairi Ankers in memory of Steve Ankers, a much-loved husband and father, who was a person dear to us all.  Steve joined the Society as our Policy Officer, mainly involved with planning matters, after retiring from a career in planning in Manchester.

Steve Ankers

He was a great person to work with and we all appreciated his calm professional ways and great sense of humour. He contributed so much to the running of the Society and was very supportive of me personally in becoming a Trustee.  He is still very much missed, and we are very pleased to have a memorial to him in such a lovely setting.  Steve was also an accomplished and entertaining writer. His book, Northern Soles, describing a 200-mile coast to coast walk from the Mersey to the Humber that he undertook, has many 5-star reviews on Amazon.

The bench at Tegleaze features a fox which was chosen by me. It is sited next to the Tegleaze Post which commemorates the Cowdray Hunt. The original 1972 (now replaced) post was put up to mark the Hunt’s 50th anniversary.  It was just too tempting, so I asked Nathan to carve ‘the one that got away’. It’s a little fox peering out to see if the coast is clear. It’s not a political statement; just a bit of fun that I hope members will appreciate.

Caroline Douglas


The one that got away