The Sussex Coast - online book

A Literary & Historical travel guide to the Sussex Coast

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214                   THE SUSSEX COAST
do not always represent either the brightest intelligence or the highest culture of the Queen of Watering Places. Insufficient for their delecta­tion are the magnificent view and all the varied archaeological associations of the spot, and so these are supplemented by other attractions which would be very much in place elsewhere. If the ancient camp be still haunted by the spirits of those that dug its defences millenniums ago, it is undoubtedly their emphatic opinion that man­kind has in no true sense advanced, but has rather retrograded since the day that they played their part upon earth.
Here the Downs are deeply dented by a natural combe that looks artificial, and over it sprawls an aerial railway that is very artificial. This is the far-famed dyke, and the legend is that the poor man (as Sussex charitably calls the fallen archangel when merely he might be ambiguous, p. 322), disturbed by the Wealden churches erected to the glory of the Most High, determined to cut a trench through the Downs and drown them all under the sea. He was getting on fairly well when a devout old woman, knowing well that he would not dare to pursue his evil task by day, raised a sieve with a candle behind it, and the devil thinking it was the rising sun ran away, leaving footmarks that may still be seen. Bringing in St. Cuthman to direct the pious dame seems to have been Harrison Ainsworth's own idea in writing Ovingdean Change. The legend is a very poor one, and probably a very recent one, it does not by any means deserve its fame. The devil has seldom or never come off very well in his struggles on Sussex soil, but it is a poor thing for saints
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