Last Sunday saw us walking another stretch of the South Downs from the Cuckmere Valley to Birling Gap.
Cuckmere Valley is a civil parish in the Wealden District of East Sussex, England. As its name suggests, the parish consists of a number of small settlements in the lower reaches of the River Cuckmere.
Birling Gap is an idyllic coastal hamlet nestled between the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head. It is famous for its Coastguard Cottages and Cliff Falls.
It was a tough but exhilarating walk across four of the Seven Sisters, helped along with a flask of sweet tea and a Mars Bar in a sheltered spot.
I walked a National Trust section of the South Downs this morning, from Went Hill to Brass Point.
Walking, my mind was full of mariners tales, coastguards, forgotten villages and smugglers- all fighting to survive in the rugged and wild conditions.
I will never tire of this landscape and its rich history!
A Smuggler’s Song.
If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet, Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street; Them that ask no questions isn’t told a lie. Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!
Five and twenty ponies, Trotting through the dark — Brandy for the Parson, Baccy for the Clerk; Laces for a lady, letters for a spy, And watch the wall, my darling, While the Gentlemen go by!
Running round the woodlump if you chance to find Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine, Don’t you shout to come and look, nor use ’em for your play. Put the brishwood back again — and they’ll be gone next day!
If you see the stable-door setting open wide; If you see a tired horse lying down inside; If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore; If the lining’s wet and warm — don’t you ask no more!
If you meet King George’s men, dressed in blue and red, You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said. If they call you “pretty maid,” and chuck you ‘neath the chin, Don’t you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one’s been!
Knocks and footsteps round the house — whistles after dark — You’ve no call for running out till the house-dogs bark. Trusty’s here, and Pincher’s here, and see how dumb they lie — They don’t fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by!
If you do as you’ve been told, ‘likely there’s a chance, You’ll be given a dainty doll, all the way from France, With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood — A present from the Gentlemen, along o’ being good!
Five and twenty ponies, Trotting through the dark — Brandy for the Parson, ‘Baccy for the Clerk; Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie — Watch the wall, my darling, While the Gentlemen go by!
I’ve seen a lot of these crafting trees around this December. I think that creating them over the lockdown periods have given many people something to do and have helped alleviate loneliness and boredom. These ones were at Standen House, the National Trust Arts and Crafts family home with Morris & Co. interiors, set in a hillside garden.
Stumbled across this guy on a walk at the weekend. So had to do another Goblin Market post…!
So without further parleying, If you will not sell me any Of your fruits though much and many, Give me back my silver penny I toss’d you for a fee.”— They began to scratch their pates, No longer wagging, purring, But visibly demurring, Grunting and snarling. One call’d her proud, Cross-grain’d, uncivil; Their tones wax’d loud, Their looks were evil. Lashing their tails They trod and hustled her, Elbow’d and jostled her, Claw’d with their nails, Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking, Tore her gown and soil’d her stocking, Twitch’d her hair out by the roots, Stamp’d upon her tender feet, Held her hands and squeez’d their fruits Against her mouth to make her eat…’
‘The robin flew from his swinging spray of ivy on to the top of the wall and he opened his beak and sang a loud, lovely trill, merely to show off. Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off—and they are nearly always doing it.’
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Chapter 8. “The Robin Who Showed the Way.
An autumn walk around Bateman’s gardens and this engaging robin reminded me of Frances HodgsonBurnett’s The Secret Garden. A childhood favourite book.
Charcoal burning is one of the world’s oldest crafts dating back to pre-Roman times. It has a long history in the High Weald, being used in the production of iron from the time of the Roman occupation. Low value, coppiced or ‘waste’ wood is normally used for charcoal production.
We spent Bank Holiday Monday at Bodiam Castle on the Kent/ Sussex border. It was built by Sir Edward Dallingridge c. 1385.
Sir Edward was born into the minor gentry c. 1346. Lady Elizabeth, sir Edwards wife, was a key figure in the castle’s history. She was heiress to the land of Bodiam and considerably wealthy to boot! Upon marriage Sir Edward was entitled to her land and money, which helped him to build the castle. A castle the size of Bodiam was large enough to house up to eighty servants.
On a natural note the castle plays host to bats, particularly the largest Daubenton maternity roost in England as well as well as a maternity roost of Natterer’s bats.
The castle stands alongside the River Rother and there is a beautiful walk following the river. The Tenterden to Bodiam railway also runs alongside the Castle stretch. There is nothing nicer than walking alongside the river with the castle on one side and the steam train passing by on the other. East Sussex is diverse and beautiful.
Spent a couple of days tramping around the Peak District National Park, specifically Dovedale, a valley in the Peak District- owned by the National Trust. The valley was cut by the River Dove and runs for just over 3 miles between Milldale in the north and a wooded ravine near Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill in the south.
The beautiful countryside got me thinking about literature connections to the area- any great poets or writers. There was no one that wrote particularly about the area, however a few very famous writers had passed through, lived or stayed in the area:
Daniel Defoe (1661 – 1731)- passed through.
Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)- visited.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778)- visited.
Charlotte Bronte (1816 – 1855)- visited, (around the time she was writing Jane Eyre).
D.H.Lawrence (1885 – 1930)- lived.
George Eliot (1819 – 1880)- visited.
So although the area hasn’t produced a Wordsworth or Coleridge, it still has some literary history.
W.G. Grace, English amateur cricketer who established and popularised the game of cricket . Born: 18 July 1848,Died: 23 October 1915. Test debut (cap 24): 6 September 1880 v Australia.
He was important in the development of the sport and widely believed to be one of its greatest players.
He was good friends with Lord Sheffield of Sheffield Park, now a National Trust property. He played for the Lord Sheffield XI many times home and away.
If you visit the property today you can see the cricket pitch and the foundations of the original players pavilion and the ladies pavilion. Also the original rollers that rolled the pitch and the oak tree that Grace hit ‘full toss’ when hitting a ‘six’ in July 1883.