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Stepping Out Smart by Avoiding Ticks

As the weather warms up, many of us look forward to spending more time walking and hiking on trails and in parks. However, a tiny menace awaits—Ixodes Ricinus, the blacklegged tick. Also known as the Deer Tick, these crafty parasites cling to vegetation waiting to latch onto passing animals or people, looking for a meal of blood. While going unnoticed, they can transmit Lyme disease, an illness you’ll want to avoid. Let’s look into stepping out smart by avoiding ticks. Protect yourself with some tick smarts before heading out on your next walk.

stepping out smart by avoiding ticks

Ticks and Lyme Disease

Blacklegged ticks in their nymph stage are most likely to pass on Lyme. These poppy seed-sized insects are efficient transmitters of the corkscrew-shaped Lyme bacterium. Infected ticks secrete the bacteria into the skin when they insert their feeding tube.

What Are the Symptoms?

If a tick infected with the Lyme bacterium has fed on you, a rash might emerge on your skin around the bite within three to 30 days. The infamous ‘bullseye’ circular rash, called erythema migrans, appears in about 70-80% of infected people. Flu-like symptoms like fever, headache, stiff neck, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue often accompany the rash.

Without treatment, more severe joint swelling and pain, heart palpitations, and neurological issues involving numbness, paralysis, and memory problems can occur. See a doctor right away if you experience any of these warning signs of Lyme after spending time outdoors. Prescription antibiotics at an early stage can treat the infection effectively.

When walkers return from wooded areas or fields with tall grass, they must perform thorough tick checks over every inch of exposed skin. Look carefully in warm folds around armpits, the groin, back of knees, scalp, and ears. Tiny young ticks are easy to miss.

Stepping Out Smart by Avoiding Ticks

The best defence to avoid close encounters with these disease-carrying freeloaders is to minimise exposure of unprotected skin by wearing trousers and long-sleeved shirts. Stick to trails and avoid sitting on logs or in tall grass. Apply a DEET repellent on exposed areas of skin. After returning from a walk in an infested area, immediately put clothes in the tumble dryer on high heat to kill stragglers. Check your body closely and document any tick finds. Prompt removal within 24 hours using pointy tweezers can stop disease transmission. If you remove a tick that has bitten you it can also be a good idea to bag in and put it in the freezer for later examination by the NHS if Lyme symptoms appear.

Ticks may be small, but the illnesses they can transmit pack a serious punch. With vigilance, preventative measures, and quick tick removal, walkers can continue to roam the landscapes they enjoy—without unwelcome fellow travellers tagging along.

Ian Lancaster, Walks & Strolls Coordinator

Follow this link to learn about tick removal

Follow this link to the NHS Lyme Disease information page

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The Richard Reed Award

The second of the Centenary prizes for academic work at Brighton University was awarded Thursday 5 October 2023 to Dom Jarvis, a Geography student, just starting his third and final year. Chairman David Sawyer and Paul Wilkinson were at Brighton University to present the Richard Reed Award, a newly created award, for most improved performance by a BSc/BA student in the department of Geography, Earth and Environment, based on results over 1st and 2nd years. The presentation took place in front of the final year class.  

The Richard Reed Award Friends of the South Downs

The Richard Reed Award is named after the Friends of the South Downs longest standing member who was not only Chairman three times but served the Society as a Trustee for an astonishing 59 years. The award is for the sum of £500 for the most improved performance by a BSc/BA student within Geography and Environmental Sciences/Management subjects. It is based on their academic results over their 1st & 2nd years. 

This is the inaugural year for the Richard Reed Award supported by the Friends of the South Downs.  

Dom Jarvis (centre) was presented with the award by Paul Wilkinson (right) Membership & Marketing Committee Chair for Friends of the South Downs and Dr Matthew Brolly (left), Principal Lecturer in Geography/Environmental Science.  

Dom is here to tell us about himself:

FSD: Tell us where you grew up, Dom.

DJ: I grew up in a town called Upminster in Essex.

FSD: What made you realise you wanted to study geography?

DJ: Firstly, I have to thank my secondary school Geography teachers, they really sparked my interest in the subject and managed to teach in a very engaging and fun way. Throughout school, Geography was always my favourite subject so that, combined with my love for beautiful landscapes, it was a no brainer. 

FSD: Why did you decide on Brighton Uni?

DJ: I decided on Brighton because of its diversity. Not sure if you have ever been to Essex but it has a stereotype and it is pretty accurate! Brighton has all different types of streets, shops and people so that was the primary pull factor. Essex is all the same old, same old…

FSD: You’ve been surrounded by the South Downs landscape for your time at Uni. What is your relationship with the Downs?

DJ: Having stayed in Varley Park accommodations for my first year of studies, Stanmer park was right across the road (literally) so that was my go-to green space for walks. I loved it. It has the perfect mix of open green space and dense forest to get lost in and it was great for my mental health when settling into university! I have also cycled to Devils Dyke with my friend and after some pretty serious incline, it was all worth it for the view! Cycling along the coastline also provides a great sense of relief with the views and salty wind hitting your face.

Richard Reed

We also caught up with Richard Reed.

FSD: Would you like to say anything about the recently awarded Richard Reed award?

RR: I was delighted to learn that Dom Jarvis had won the prize for the most improved performance.  The study of geography is an ideal way to appreciate the wonders of the world, not least our own South Downs.  I look forward to the Friends of the South Downs working closely with Brighton University to understand better our glorious landscape.

The Awards

The University awards were part of a spending programme for the Friends of the South Downs’ Centenary Year. The Trustees agreed a major programme of spending totalling over £100,000 in this year to benefit the Downs in the short term and the long term. The Friends can spend this money because they are fortunate to have recently received two substantial legacies.

You can help us make these legacies go even farther by supporting us. Consider joining us as a member, donating to our cause today or remembering us by creating a legacy.

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The Robert Thurston-Hopkins Award

The first of our Centenary prizes for academic work at Brighton University was awarded at the main University-wide graduation ceremony on Friday 28 July 2023 at the Brighton Centre. The Robert Thurston-Hopkins award for the highest achieving BSc/BA student in the Department of Geography, Earth & Environment, was awarded to Elizabeth-Jane Pallett (Lizzie).

Lizzie Pallet

Lizzie also won the BSc Environmental Sciences Prize. In her studies, she specialised in extinct volcanoes in Wales.  She plans to use our £500 prize to help fund her spending next year in Japan, learning the language.  She’ll follow that by studying for an MSc in Japan the following year, not surprisingly specialising in active volcanoes in that country.   

David Green and Paul Wilkinson, accompanied by Joanna Thurston Hopkins (granddaughter of the Society’s founder), attended the graduation ceremony.

The Robert Thurston-Hopkins award
David Green, Dr Kirsty Smallbone (Dean of the School of Applied Sciences at Brighton Uni), Lizzie Pallett (winner of the Robert Thurston Hopkins award), Joanna Thurston Hopkins, Paul Wilkinson

Lizzie told us a bit about herself:

FSD: Where did you grow up?

Lizzie: I grew up in North Cornwall, in a little village in a valley, and I was always surrounded by nature throughout my childhood. I loved being in the countryside, but it was hard to find work here that I was truly passionate about.

FSD: What made you realise you wanted to study geology?

Lizzie: I had always been interested in Japan for the language and culture, and in 2020 just before COVID struck, I took a six-week trip out there by myself to learn the language. I had never felt like I belonged somewhere more, being surrounded by the amazing mountains in such a geologically fascinating part of the world, in addition to the humble and hard-working citizens there. After having to return home in April just as COVID was hitting and I had to evacuate the country, I knew I had to go to university so I could return to Japan qualified to live and work there. I applied to the only university I wanted to study at – Brighton!

FSD: Why did you decide on Brighton Uni?

Lizzie: I had fond memories visiting Brighton as a child with my family, and I knew that coming from the countryside I would enjoy what Brighton has to offer – the beautiful Downs and the chalk cliffs, and the cosy coastal city that feels familiar without being too daunting (like London for example!) I knew I wanted to study something environmental after I had made a speech at a local council meeting to support renewable energy projects in our local area, as I remember feeling really passionate about it and that I might make a difference, but it wasn’t until I started my BSc Environmental Sciences course that I became fascinated with geology – particularly igneous rocks and volcanoes. So, though geology wasn’t a huge focus of my course, I decided to write my dissertation on the subject so that I could find out more. Despite the huge challenge it was to pursue an unknown subject as a year-long independent project (with the assistance of my fab supervisors Dr Laura Evenstar and Dr Jake Ciborowski), I was still motivated to finish it to the best of my ability. I knew I was passionate about the subject! I really hope to be able to start a career in geology in Japan (or Iceland – another very geologically fascinating country). I will be leaving to study Japanese in Hokkaido for three months from September and job hunting while I’m there.

FSD: You were surrounded by the South Downs landscape for much of your Uni life. What is your relationship with the Downs?

Lizzie: Throughout my university experience, I frequently took hikes into the Downs to wind down from studying and escape the city life – even lovely Brighton could be a bit overwhelming to a country girl like me. So, it was a great comfort to be able to get away from the traffic and energy of the city and traverse the rolling hills of the Downs. Visiting Devils Dyke, Ditchling Beacon and taking long late-night hikes to the Chattri Memorial are all great memories I have with the Downs, and I feel very lucky to have been able to study my degree amidst such a beautiful landscape.

Elizabeth-Jane Pallett: “Thank you so much for the Robert Thurston-Hopkins award. I am honestly blown away. I am so humbled to receive such a generous donation and I plan to put it to good use! Whilst I worked my utmost hardest to do my best at university, I couldn’t have imagined that I would be able to win such an award and I am so grateful for the recognition of my efforts and the money that will support me to achieve my goals. In September, I will be travelling to Japan for a three-month language course in Hokkaido to improve my Japanese skills so I can one day become a volcanologist in Japan – hopefully! This award will be so helpful in getting me one step closer to that goal. Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity, it means so much!”

Joanna Thurston-Hopkins:I was very pleased to see my grandfather’s name go on in the form of the Friends of the South Downs Robert Thurston-Hopkins award, with Elizabeth-Jane Pallett as the inaugural winner. She is a very worthy recipient, who is a credit to herself and her university. The event had an extra, rather unexpected, meaning for me personally, as not only did my father the Photographer (Godfrey) Thurston Hopkins go to Art school here in the 1920’s, but there was a strange moment when I looked out across the multitude of recipients of Doctorates, one of whom, (until she died in 2021) had been my mother, the Photojournalist Grace Robertson. Somehow, I almost expected to see her face amongst the sea of robes!  Thank you very much for giving me the chance to give back and connect with a part of my family history.”

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Not Just a Walking Club

I’ll come clean.  My enthusiasm for country walking is what caused me to join the Friends of the South Downs in the first place.  Yes, I was at that stage vaguely aware of the other work we do around the broader issue of conservation but it was definitely the extensive programme of walks and strolls which drew me in.  And, on joining, I quickly learned that the connection between the FSD and putting one boot in front of another on the South Downs was present at the very beginning of the organization, with the legendary walk near Peacehaven in 1923 undertaken by Robert Thurston Hopkins and Capt. Irvine Bately. But it’s not just a walking club.

Not just a walking club east meon george stride
East Meon Stroll / photo by George Stride

In my defence, starting from that narrow base, my increasing involvement with the Friends did result in me better understanding the range and scale of the work undertaken by us to make a reality of our objective of being ‘the only membership organization dedicated to protecting the South Downs’.  But, goodness, since I am a trustee who has just recently been re-elected, it would be more than somewhat embarrassing if I had not significantly improved on my initial ignorance.

However, knowledge sometimes isn’t sufficient to drive home a key realization; it needs to be reinforced by personal experience.  For me, this happened very specifically at Truleigh Hill YHA, just north of Shoreham-on-Sea, in May 2023.  On that day I was privileged to be present at a field trip made by schoolchildren from Herons Dale special needs primary school, and arranged by So Sussex, a company specializing in outdoor educational experiences on the South Downs. 

It was very humbling to observe the excitement and stimulation experienced by the kids, and to understand that this could not have been achieved inside a classroom.  Humbling also to know that this event, and other such trips in So Sussex’s ‘Explorers of the South Downs’ project, would not have happened without funding from the Friends, made possible by a recent legacy left to us.

One of the major themes in our Centenary celebrations is education and understanding, since the FSD believes that one of the key ways we can safeguard the South Downs in the future is to encourage the interests of children and young people.  As a result, Explorers of the South Downs is just one of a number of similarly themed projects we are supporting.

So not just a walking club!  

The Friends of the South Downs is owned and run by its members and there are many ways in which you can help.

We have many volunteering opportunities for people of all ages, abilities, skills and fitness levels; so, if you are able to give up some of your time to help us, you’ll meet many interesting and sociable people who really care and work hard to help protect the landscape and heritage of the South Downs.

We are almost totally reliant on our volunteers in helping us achieve our aims and objectives so anyone offering to become a volunteer is always made very welcome. Here are some of the typical activities you can help us with.

Paul Wilkinson

Trustee

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Towpaths and Trails

From Canal to countryside, take a walk along the towpaths and trails of the Wey & Arun Canal – ‘London’s Lost Route to the Sea’ – and in woodland around Loxwood in West Sussex.

towpaths and trails friends of the south downs

As its name suggests, the Wey & Arun Junction Canal was created to link the two rivers, providing an inland waterway from London to the south coast. At 18 and a half miles, and with 23 locks, it took a lot of manpower to dig but was completed in only three years. Here’s a chance to experience the towpaths and trails on foot.

The original intention was to avoid coastal traffic that could come under attack in times of war, but by the time it opened in 1816, the wars with France were over. The coming of the railways meant it was no longer profitable and by 1871 it had fallen into disuse and was abandoned for the next 100 years.

A group of volunteers formed the Wey & Arun Canal Trust in 1970 and have been restoring it ever since. Today, a significant section is navigable again and it is a popular tourist attraction. The trust raises funds by offering trips in a boat named in honour of the original consulting engineer, Josias Jessop.

This walk starts at the Wey & Arun Canal car park, behind Onslow Arms in Loxwood. From Billingshurst, the Compass Travel bus 64 and 69 both head towards Loxwood as well, if you’d like to leave the car at home.

towpaths and trails friends of the south downs

You can access the PDF version of our Towpaths and Trails walk here. We are grateful to the number of our members who have very kindly taken the time to provide us with detailed information about some of their favourite walks and we are delighted to be able to share with you.

For each of the walks on our website, we provide a PDF download for you to take with you and use as general information and guidance.

Would you like to come along on one of our guided walks or strolls? We walk all through the year, offering over 200 interesting walks and strolls. Our walks range from three miles, to a full marathon, up to long-distance trail walks over multiple days. Contact us today!

Ian Lancaster

Walks Coordinator 

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South Downs Way Annual Walk

Archaeology tells us that the route along the South Downs Way (SDW) has been used by humans for thousands of years. It was favoured as a relatively safe way of traveling across West and East Sussex, avoiding the dangers of thick woodland and the large areas of lowland marshes that were then common across southern Britian. So, I decided to join the South Downs Way Annual Walk in 2023. The mostly high, dry chalk and flint route along the top of the Downs was clearly an important part of Bronze Age life in this part of the country, providing a trading network that brought gold, silver, and jet from other parts of Britain into mainland Europe.

South Downs Way Annual Walk 2023
Photo by Tony Linturn

It was last year while on the Friends of the South Downs marketing stand at White Ways Bury Hill that I decided to join the Annual Walk this year. Speaking to many of the walkers who were doing the walk for the first time and others who had walked it many times in both directions, it was clearly an interesting and challenging experience for them.

Footprints of Sussex

Footprints of Sussex have been running the annual SDW walk for over 30 years. Together with their fabulous team ’Red Shirts’, they guided and supported us over the nine days from Eastbourne to Winchester, a total of 106 miles.   

I’ve walked long distances in my younger days but nothing like 106 miles across rolling hills and lush landscapes from sea level at places like Cuckmere Haven and Eastbourne to viewpoints like the chalk cliffs at Seven Sister and Beachy Head, Butser Hill (271m), Winchester Hill, Ditchling Beacon, Devils Dyke and Firle Beacon (217m) that provide amazing 360⁰ views across the Downs.

South Downs Way Annual Walk Tony Linturn
Tony above Pyecombe

So, in preparation for this challenge, I joined the regular Friends of the South Downs Walks and Strolls programme last September to be able to walk an average of 11.5 miles each day.

South Downs Way History

I found the SDW was steeped in history capturing numerous landscape features dating back to Neolithic times (around 3,000 to 2500 BC) including protective enclosures, ancient settlements, long barrows (communal graves) over 60 metres long and many hundreds of smaller round barrows for single or family burials which are marked on the OS maps as ‘tumuli ’on high ground along the SDW. There are many hill forts spread across the Downs dating back to 300 – 200 BC which are believed to have been trading places and seats of power for tribal chieftains as well as providing safety during periods of tribal rivalry and conflict.

The South Downs Way Annual Walk is also a very beautiful way to see the South Downs, trekking along narrow footpaths at the side of steeped valleys, across dried up river beds, wide open farm tracks through field of wheat, corn and other agricultural crops as well as through wild meadows filled with wild flowers such as Field Poppys, Fragrant Orchids, Round Headed Rampions as well as wild herbs and spices like Thyme, Garlick, Mint, Marjoram, Sage and ancient health remedies like Lady’s Mantle, Elderflowers, Lavender, Feverfew and Mignonette which were used by the Romans and Anglo Saxons to treat migraine, bruises and other everyday ailments.       

South Downs Way Annual Walk Wildlife

We also saw a myriad of wildlife including many different species of butterflies, bees, beetles, grasshoppers, and unusual looking snails. Rooks nesting in Beech trees, Jackdaws, Seagulls and Fulmars sweeping and souring along the Beachy Head cliffs, small birds such as Skylarks fluttering over the fields, Whinchats, Stonechats and Corn Buntings feeding and nesting, and larger birds like Red Kites, Buzzards and Kestrels hovering above looking for mice and other small creatures to feed on. Forget going to the zoos, this really is wild Britian in all its splendour.

We also saw many very old churches and other building dating back to Anglo Saxon and Norman times in and around thatched roofed villages that have stood in an unchanging landscape for hundreds of years.

I also met lots of lovely and interesting people over the nine days including retired doctors, scientists, teachers, nurses and midwives. Mothers and fathers who were taking a break from their busy families and pilgrims and travellers trying to reconnect their lives and make new friends along the way.

I must also take this opportunity to mention the Trustees and walk leaders like David Green, Paul Wilkinson, Janet Goody, Ian Wright, Gaynor Waterman and Ian Lancaster and others who motivated me to get fit and do the walk.  I’d like to say thanks to my trusty walking companion Nigel Watts, who helped me read the map, avoid getting lost and see things I would probably have missed had it not been for him pointing them out, and lastly, to my wife Gill, who made my pack lunches and who I shared the funny times each day. Yes, a very memorable experience indeed.

Tony Linturn

Member and Volunteer

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Celebrating Hilaire Belloc and The Four Men

The Centenary of the Friends of the South Downs coincides with 70 years since the death of Hilaire Belloc, one of Sussex’s greatest writers. So, staging two performances of Belloc’s beloved book The Four Men, now out of copyright, seems a perfect marriage of these two milestones, celebrating Hilaire Belloc and The Four Men.

Celebrating Hilaire Belloc and the four men
Ann Feloy

Belloc’s farrago is set in 1902 at the time of Hallowe’en and is steeped in the beauty and mysticism of the landscape. To retain the spirit of the book, the performances are taking place Saturday and Sunday 28, 29 October 2023 at the medieval Sullington Tithe Barn at the foot of the Downs.

Booking instructions for both perfomances can be found here.

Belloc, as the character ‘Myself’, takes a journey on foot across the breadth of the county, from east to west, marvelling at the splendour of the South Downs and Sussex countryside. He encounters three companions along the way – the whimsical Poet, the rumbustious Sailor and wise, old Grizzlebeard. Together they meet some remarkable rural characters on their four-day, 92-mile long folk odyssey. They drink copious amounts of ale at the inns they stop at; they laugh, quarrel, tell tall tales and sing Sussex folk songs. They recount the legends of the Downs, describe their first loves and draw ever closer in friendship.
 
Playwright Ann Feloy’s stage adaptation of Belloc’s book was nominated as one of the top 10 plays at the Brighton Fringe Festival when it was first performed in 2010 and received a four-star review in The Stage when it was performed by the Conn Artists.

The friends of the south downs hilaire belloc four men


The dramatic reading this October of her stage play is being sponsored by the Friends of the South Downs. There will be special emphasis on the traditional folk songs and music of Belloc, fitting for celebrating Hilaire Belloc and The Four Men, alongside famous pieces of classical music by Sussex-inspired composers such as Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar.

Beforehand, historian Chris Hare will lead a five-mile guided walk up onto the steep slopes near Sullington, over to Washington and then back in time for the performance, in order to see some of the sights mentioned in the book. He has recently published Hilaire Belloc – The Politics of Living which will be on sale.

There will also be a photographic exhibition of some of the places in the book by photographer Dean Sephton.

Bernard Smith writes in his book, Writers of Sussex, ‘Belloc loved Sussex as few other writers have loved her; he lived there for most of his 82 years, he tramped the length and breadth of the county, slept under her hedgerows, drank in her inns, sailed her coast and her rivers and wrote several incomparable books about her.’

Belloc lived for most of his 82 years in Sussex, growing up as a child in Slindon, and then settling at Shipley, near Horsham. He said of The Four Men, ‘I put my whole heart into that book but no one cares about it’. 

Ann hopes the dramatic readings of her stage play will take the audience on a captivating journey that touches the soul, as Belloc no doubt intended.

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No Child Left Behind

One of the best ways we can safeguard the South Downs for the future is to encourage the interest of children in the hope that when they grow up, they will get to know and treasure the landscape and culture. We want to make sure that children have access to the countryside: no child left behind.

Friends of the South Downs No Child Left Behind

Some groups however have restricted access to our National Park, especially currently owing to the cost of living crisis, coupled with the pressures on school funding. Many children will miss out on a summer holiday with their family and others will miss those schools trips, which are so important for a child’s development.

Accordingly, we are making a donation of £5000 to the YHA programme known as No Child Left Behind, to give a short two-night break in the YHA South Downs Hostel near Lewes.

YHA is a national charity working across England and Wales and believe in the power of travel and adventure. Their aim is to connect people to each other, to nature and the outdoors, to culture and to heritage. This should improve physical health, mental wellbeing and life skills through the hostel experience. This is all in line with the recommendations from the Glover Report and nicely supplements our other work with children. This may not be ‘a night under the stars’ as Glover mentioned but a shared experience in a new environment with classmates in the natural world of the Downs.

No Child Left Behind YHA

A school has been selected near Hastings and 56 Year 6 children with six leaders will enjoy this short holiday in mid-July. The school is in an area of social deprivation where parents are unlikely to be able to contribute to the cost and any gaps in funding are to be bridged with matched funding from the YHA.

Apart from fun activities such campfire singing, beach combing and shelter building, there will be sessions about the history and geology of the South Downs and Heritage Coast provided by So Sussex. We hope for some this will spark a lifelong love of the South Downs.

If you’d like to support the work we do, please consider donating to our ongoing schools projects.

Patrick Haworth

Trustee

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Our Youngest Downlanders

“It is rather wonderful that some of our youngest downlanders have been able to celebrate the Centenary of the Friends of the South Downs, by marking out ‘100’ on the greensward of the Downs. Bury School, nestling, as it does in the heart of the South Downs, has worked with FSD on two of our schools’ projects and are now taking part in our latest educational project called South Downs for All. Only last month, I accompanied some of the Year 5 and Year 6 children on an eight-mile walk over the downs from Slindon to Bury. A great school with a real commitment to sharing the joy of the South Downs with all their pupils.” Chris Hare, Project Manager

bury school friends of the south downs south downs for all

Our latest educational project, South Downs for All, is a programme aimed at bringing together eight South Down schools and the FSD to enable more children to enjoy the South Downs and learn about the heritage of this wonderful landscape. Chris Hare is also project manager of South Downs Generations, a unique partnership between FSD and four West Sussex Primary schools. That project brings together young and old to explore our common downland heritage.

Year 5 and 6 children at Bury School proved their downland credentials by walking from Slindon to Bury, a distance of some 12 km. The day was perfect – warm but not too warm.

We walked by Slindon Folly on Nore Hill, built for the Countess of Newburgh over 200 years ago, and trod the route Roman soldiers took 2,000 years ago along a surviving stretch of Roman road at Stane Street, that once led all the way from Chichester to London.

There were plenty of stops, including one at Bignor Hill, where the fingerpost points to destinations written in the original Latin.

Finally, we descended Bignor Hill and came across a bubbling stream, fed from a spring in the Downs. On returning to Bury School at just after 3:00pm, all the party – adults, as well as our youngest downlanders, were pleased to rest weary feet and limbs. But all agreed: it had been a great day.

bury school south downs for all our youngest downlanders
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New Immersive Walking Experience

An inspiring, new immersive walking experience that encourages visitors to discover new stories and reflections on Sussex’s iconic Heritage Coast has now officially launched. This summer, people walking along the beautiful chalk coastline from Seaford to Eastbourne will be able to tune in to 13 unique audio stories, each attached to a ‘listening point’ in the landscape, such as a bench, gate post or signpost.

New Immersive Walking Experience Friends of the South Downs We Hear You Now

We Hear You Now: the audio content includes stirring, emotive and sometimes surprising stories covering fiction, poetry and even new mythologies for this world-famous coastline.  The talented wordsmiths have worked in collaboration with Alinah Azadeh, project lead and the first-ever Writer-in-Residence for Seven Sisters Country Park and Sussex Heritage Coast.

Alinah explained: “My intention is that our stories and poems act as a welcome, a creative spark – and a marker of radical hope in these precarious times.

“I wanted to make space both for my own work as resident writer and to amplify other creative voices missing from this pastoral coastal landscape; older women’s voices, Black voices, voices of colour, migrant voices, queer and non-binary voices, working class voices, disabled voices.

“Many of us have centred the most crucial voice of all; the voice of the land, and its challenge to us to reciprocate the care, protection, spaces for rest and joy it has always given us.

“Thank you to the close partnership and unswerving support of the South Downs National Park, and all the writers and spectrum of partners in making this new immersive walking experience possible.” The experience begins at the Seven Sisters Country Park Visitor Centre, near Seaford, and leads the visitor around the meanders and river of Cuckmere Valley. Then you are taken along the breathtaking chalk coast via Belle Tout Lighthouse and Beachy Head. Visitors can sit and hear the stories, or walk with them. The audio stories are accessed via any smartphone by simply scanning a QR code or tapping for an NFC code.

The writers are Alinah Azadeh, Georgina Aboud, Jenny Arach, Razia Aziz, Joyoti Grech Cato, Oluwafemi Hughes, Dulani Kulasinghe, Georgina Parke and Akila Richards. Access the video here:

Anooshka Rawden, Cultural Heritage Lead for the South Downs National Park, said: “Exploring the landscape with ecologists, archaeologists and environmental campaigners, British-Iranian writer and artist Alinah Azadeh, has used her passion for the South Downs to provide a nurturing hand to fellow creatives who have been invited to voice their relationship with the Seven Sisters and the Sussex Coast.

In We Hear You Now, writers of global heritage bring stories of survival, recovery and reverence for land as a living, breathing entity to create new mythologies for this iconic landscape. I hope anyone who listens to this new immersive walking experience feels closer to the land under their feet, and to the people and cultures who have been part, and continue to be part of its future.”

The trail launches to the public on 24 June 2023. Print guides with a map and information can be collected from Seven Sisters Country Park Visitor Centre, Exceat, near Seaford, East Sussex, BN25 4AD and across partner sites, or downloaded online from 24 June 2023. All content is freely available.