|Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.|
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Carpenter’s shop at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton, West Sussex.
Whether it is walking them, reading about them or just looking at them, I am still in love with the South Downs.
Over the past few weeks my wife and I have continued our walk along the South Downs Way, we are now about two-thirds of the way along, with only three more sections to go. We have seen the South Downs in all sorts of weather, from the stinging wind-driven rain to the baking hot sun. We have watched as entire Wealden villages have been blocked out by sheets of rain and watched fields shimmering in the heat. We have enjoyed moments of silence and solitude on the tops of hills and shared the path with groups of walkers or cyclists rushing past.
I am now finding myself straining for my fast glance of the South Downs every morning on the way work. There is a part of my journey where I can get a brief view of the Downs, despite the fact that the bus is in general heading away from them. Every morning I am looking to see what they are looking like, whether they are clearly visible or just a grey bulk on the southern skyline. Sometimes the trees and bushes seem so crisp and clear other times they are just a dark grey outline and on one morning recently it was so misty that I could barely see over the hedge let alone to the hills seven or eight miles aways.
I have also been reading about the South Downs and in particular the South Downs Way and its history. I have been looking at old guides to the route, looking at the variations in the route over the relatively short life of the path. One day I would like to write my own guide and perhaps history of the route, but that is not really a top priority for me now.
I keep looking for a personal connection through my ancestors to the South Downs, and I guess the MITCHELL family who ended up at West Dean, Sussex would probably be the best fit, but really the strongest personal connection with the South Downs come through me.
Don’t be put off by the obstacles if you are planning on visiting the London Family History Centre.
It is not really as awkward as it looks to get across the road and into the building, but it is more than a little disconcerting as you emerge from the London Underground pedestrian subway to be confronted with barriers and fences.
Today when I visited there was a crossing point and break in the fence just to the right of the subway entrance in front of the Science Museum, but I suspect this changes on a fairly regular basis, so that piece of information may not be a lot of use unless you plan to visit in the next few weeks.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea seem to be the people responsible for the disruption. It is part of the Exhibiton Road Project which according to the project’s website will convert the street to a place “where culture and learning are accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds with a streetscape that makes that ambition a reality.”
The road and pavement are being merged together and re-surfaced and the volume of traffic is being reduced and slowed down, although not completely removed. It sounds like a good idea and probably worth the disruption although it isn’t scheduled for completion until next year.
It seems particularly apt that the London Family History Centre should be part of an area for “culture and learning”, it certainly deserves greater recognition for the work it does and the resources it provides.