Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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CHAPTER III
FIRST SIGHT OF THE DOWNS
The Sussex hills—Gilbert White's praise—Britons, Romans, Saxons— Charles the Second's ride through Sussex.
Between Midhurst and Chichester, our next centre, rise the Downs, to a height of between seven hundred and eight hundred feet. Although we shall often be crossing them again before we leave the county, I should like to speak of them a little in this place.
The Downs are the symbol of Sussex. The sea, the Weald, the heather hills of her great forest district, she shares with other counties, but the Downs are her own. Wiltshire, Berkshire, Kent and Hampshire, it is true, have also their turf-covered chalk hills, but the Sussex Downs are vaster, more remarkable, and more beautiful than these, with more individuality and charm. At first they have been known to disappoint the traveller, but one has only to live among them or near them, within the influence of their varying moods, and they surely conquer. They are the smoothest things in England, gigantic, rotund, easy; the eye rests upon their gentle contours and is at peace. They have no sublimity, no grandeur, only the most spacious repose. Perhaps it is due to this quality that the Wealden folk, accustomed to be overshadowed by this unruffled range, are so deliberate in their mental processes and so averse from specula­tion or experiment. There is a hypnotism of form : a rugged peak will alarm the mind where a billowy green undulation will lull it. The Downs change their complexion, but are never
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