Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

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

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290
ROUGH ROADS
CHAP.
you a sort of problem in Aristotle's fashion :Why is it that the oxen, the swine, the women, and all other animals, are so long legged in Sussex ? May it be from the difficulty of pulling the feet out of so much mud by the strength of the ankle, that the muscles get stretched, as it were, and the bones lengthened ? "
When, in 1703, the King of Spain visited the Duke of Somerset at Petworth he had the greatest difficulty in getting here. One of his attendants has put on record the perils of the journey :" We set out at six o'clock in the morning (at Portsmouth) to go to Petworth, and did not get out of the coaches, save only when we were overturned or stuck fast in the mire, till we arrived at our journey's end. 'Twas hard service for the prince to sit fourteen hours in the coach that day, without eating anything, and passing through the worst ways that I ever saw in my life : we were thrown but once indeed in going, but both our coach which was leading, and his highness's body coach, would have suffered very often, if the nimble boors of Sussex had not frequently poised it, or supported it with their shoulders, from Godalming almost to Petworth ; and the nearer we approached the duke's, the more inaccessible it seemed to be. The last nine miles of the way cost six hours time to conquer."
To return to Ringmer, it was there that Gilbert White studied the tortoise (see Letter xiii of The Natural History of Set-borne). The house where he stayed still stands, and the rookery still exists. " These rooks," wrote the naturalist, " retire every morning all the winter from this rookery, where they only call by the way, as they are going to roost in deep woods; at the dawn of day they always revisit their nest-trees, and are preceded a few minutes by a flight of daws, that act, as it were, as their harbingers." An intermediate owner of the house where Gilbert White resided, which then belonged to his aunt Rebecca Snooke, ordered all nightingales to be shot, on the ground that they kept him awake.
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