I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but occasionally a programme comes along that justifies taking time out to watch on BBC iPlayer. Such was the case with The Great British Countryside which saw Julia Bradbury and Hugh Dennis exploring the South Downs.
The hour long programme gives a wonderful taste of the South Downs, never lingering long in one place and covering the length of hills from the Seven Sisters on the East Sussex coast, through to the watercress beds of Hampshire.
There is some wonderful scenery, as one would expect, but also some explanation of how the Downs were formed and some of the properties of chalk and flint. Hugh Dennis climbs the chalk cliffs (presumably one of the Seven Sisters) and sees just how soft and crumbly the chalk is. We also learn how the chalk impacts on things like horse racing and growing grapes.
Subjects are varied, taking in the history, agriculture, industry and leisure aspects of the South Downs, in short a real cross-section of how man has interacted with the Downs over the centuries.
This programme is a great introduction to the South Downs and even those like me who have grown up in it’s shadow may learn a thing or two about this wonderful landscape.
This episode of The Great British Countryside is available to watch on BBC iPlayer until Thursday 15th March 2012.
Below is another view of Devil’s Dyke, West Sussex looking south-west towards the north face of the hill, showing Poynings Church in the foreground with it’s solid square tower, but then the caption already told you that.
This postcard is unused, but the back reveals that it was No. 30 in The Brighton Palace Series XVIII, which means it was published by the Handwercks of Brighton, Sussex and probably dates from around 1912-13.
Apart from the farm buildings and haystacks in the foreground, the other interesting feature of this card is the steep grade railway on the side of the hill. That light coloured strip running half-way down the side of the hill marks the course of the railway.
It was a funicular railway transporting visitors up and down the side of the hill, supposedly to enable visitors to the Dyke to all visit the villages at the foot of the Downs, but as you can see it didn’t really go all the way, and I suspect it was of little practical value.
I have moved a couple of miles south-west along the South Downs (compared to last week) for this postcard. There is no publisher named on this card and rather bizarrely it was not posted in Sussex, but in Cambridge on the 5th September 1927 and sent to an address in Coventry.
Here we are on West Hill looking west towards Devil’s Dyke. The clump of trees on top of the hill hides the whereabouts of the Dyke Hotel and by this time most, if not all, of the amusements on the hill-top had long since closed down.
For me the real interest in this picture is not the Dyke, but the hamlet of Saddlescombe and its National Trust owned farm nestling between the hills.
What I really like about this image are the giant haystacks, as big as some of the farm buildings among which they were built. The buildings may have preserved but I think you would be lucky to find a haystack these days, let alone enough people with the skill and expertise to build one.