THE SOUTH DOWNS 207
The short, springy grass that clothes the thin earth which covers the chalk is not the least of their charms, and one may walk over them without fatigue for much longer distances than almost anywhere else. The delightful open pastures of the Downs supported from very ancient days a large population, who have left us a priceless heritage in the innumerable earthworks that true Sussexians love. Fortunately when it became possible to occupy " the wooded dim blue goodness of the Weald," with its far more fertile soil, the uplands were largely abandoned to the sheep and their shepherds. Villages actually on the Downs are few and small, and except where seaside or riverside towns spread over their slopes the population of the chalk hills is scanty.
The Downs have inspired a number of poems, of which Kipling's (p. 257) is by far the best. Hilaire Belloc's is attractive as expressing what many Sussexians have felt, though most of them we may hope have not so failed to appreciate the spirit of other parts of the country.
"When I am living in the Midlands
That are sodden and unkind, I light my lamp in the evening,
My work is left behind ; And the great hills of the South Country
Come back into my mind.
The great hills of the South Country
They stand along the sea; And it's there walking in the high woods
That I could wish to be, And the men that were boys when I was a boy
Walking along with me."