The boundless beauty of the South Downs
For our #ThrowbackThursday post, we’ve picked this one on the stunning South Downs found on the South East Coast of England. Perfect for a blustery autumnal walk to blow away the cobwebs…
A sprawling, biodiverse landscape, the South Downs stretches back for 260 square miles, between Eastbourne and Winchester; home to over one hundred thousand people and countless species of wildlife. Undulating green hills rise and dip through woodland and streams to the ocean, creating a mosaic of colour. Inspirational for many great artists, from paintings to poetry, the landscape is entwined with British culture. Explorers can move through words and watercolours as they experience this crowning feature of the British Isles.
Snaking its way through Jane Austen’s back garden, the ‘west to east’ trail can be tackled by foot or bike. Dotted along the route that Rudyard Kipling coined “our blunt, bow-headed whale-backed downs” are various campsites and rest spots for travellers. Gumber Bothy is a particularly tranquil site where modern life’s pace is slowed to the speed of the sheep grazing on its land. From sheep to spirits, it’s easy to see how the unique variety and mysticism has permeated creativity. Legend has it that both Chanctonbury Ring and Devil’s Dyke were once the stomping ground of Satan himself. Dancing around Chanctonbury’s circle of trees summoned the devil who offered soup in return for one’s soul, whilst the beast created Devil’s Dyke valley in a failed attempt to flood the earth.
Swooning over the landscape, 19th Century poet Algemon Swinburne, declared: “Heaven is high, but here the water-sky lit seems deeper and more divine.” Abundant and interesting activities allow today’s budding poets to process the terrain with fresh eyes. Whether paragliding or mountainboarding, the Downs offers brand new heights to give rise to your own, more extreme creative expression.
Resembling some magnificent caterpillar, the crawling curves of Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters signals the journey’s end. Stretching along for three miles, the chalk cliffs jut out into the ocean, transforming into prime seats to stargaze from as night falls. Lack of light pollution means that, on a clear night, around 4,000 stars can be seen.
Thirty-nine million people visit the South Downs every year, many more than stars viewable at night. Inspiring people for generations, the beauty of the South Downs is relentless and bound to continue generating creativity long into the future.
Fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, even retired here to live and keep bees – yet it’s no mystery why he chose to reside in such a wondrous place. As Holmes once said ‘It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important’ and watching the sun meet the oceans horizon from chalky cliffs, you can’t help but agree.
Stay at: Gumber Bothy
By Charlie Baldwin