SEAWARD SUSSEX - online book

A Description of Travels in Sussex During the early 1900s

Home | Order | Support | About | Contact | Search

Share page  

Previous Contents Next

distant beauty, and there is the strongest similarity between them and those glorious summits which every man of Sussex knows and loves so well.
The Chiltern Hills and the South Downs are built up of the same material, have had their peculiarities of shape and form carved by the same artificers—rain and frost, sun and wind; their flowers are the same, and to outward seeming their sons and daughters are the same in the way that all hill folk are alike and yet all differ in some subtle way from the dweller in the plains.
Be this so or not our Downs are to us delectable mountains, and let the reader who scoffs at the noun remember that size is no criterion of either beauty or sublimity. That Sussex lover and greatest of literary naturalists, Gilbert White, in perhaps his most frequently quoted passage so characterizes the "majestic chain"; to his contemporaries such a description was not out of place; our great grandfathers were appalled when brought from the calm tranquillity of the southern slopes to the stern dark melancholy of the mountains of Cumberland and Westmoreland. The diary descriptions of those timid travellers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are full of such adjectives as "terrible," "frightful," "awful." One unlucky individual's nerves caused him to stigmatize as "ghastly and disgusting" one of the finest scenes in the Lake District, probably unsurpassed in Europe for its perfectly balanced beauty of form and splendour of colouring. To the general reader of those times the descriptive poems of Wordsworth were probably unmeaning rhapsodies. Our ancestors, however, were very fond of "prospects." An old atlas of the counties of England, published about 1800, came into the writer's hands recently. The whole of the gentler hills, including every possible vantage point in the Downs, had been most carefully and neatly marked with the panorama visible from the summit; but even Kinder Scout and the Malverns came in for the same fate as the Welsh and Cumberland mountains, all of which had been left severely alone, though the intrepid traveller had braved the terrors of the Wrekin, while such heights as Barton Hill in Leicestershire and Leith Hill in Surrey were heavily scored with names of places seen, the latter including that oft-told tale—a legend, so far as the present writer is aware—of St. Paul's dome and the sea being visible with a turn of the head. Though our idea of proportion in relation to scenery has suffered a change, Gilbert White's phrase must not be sneered at; and most comparisons are stupidly unfair. The outline of Mount Caburn is a rounded edition of the most perfect of all forms. The rolling undulations of the tamest portions of the range are broken by combes whose sides are steep enough to give a spice of adventure to their descent. The "prospects," as such, are immeasurably superior to those obtainable from most of the mountains of the north and west, where a distant view is rare by reason of the surrounding chain of heights, and where the chance of any view at
Previous Contents Next