21 NOVEMBER 1908, Page 28


ON THE SUSSEX DOWNS, SEPTEMBER 1/T11. [To THR EDITOR 0? TEN " SPECTATOR." J Si.-Our directions ran as follows :—" Sonthover High Street to road to Brighton by the mills. Turns up just past the blacksmith's, and is really almost straight to the hill. You will pass a mill and then leave another, six sweeps, on your.- right. Across Ashcombe and Kingston. Lane. and straigh,k on. A path goes up the bill and bears to the right; you must go the path circling to the left, and this is .very. gradual._ Follow nearly closely to the 'Front' Hill for- nearly a mile, and then bearto the right. Two ponds one after another and two gates, each some distance apart, are passed. A fiva: stretch then 'bearing somewhat to the left. Don't drop into_ a valley."

We had walked from Telscombe Cliffs, by "road and down, to Lewes. We four, my friend and I, with 'Nigger' and. 'Rascal.' Through Telscombe Village, which claims tole the village whose doings inspired Kipling's "Smugglees.- Song," and whose churchyard claims the honour of .holding the remains of the last man hanged for smuggling in England-;. through Rodwell, where we lunched by the wayside, and Southover, where lucky Anne of Cleves's house still stands; until at last we found ourselves in Lewes High Street, peering in at the windows of an old curiosity-shop on the hill, To be quite correct, two of us "peered in" legitimately by the windows, the other two boldly investigated the darkest recesses of the shop, unearthing and setting at defiance the two gentle cats who vainly tried to assert their superior claim by right- of prior possession. The proprietor appeared at , the door, asking if there were anything we specially wished to see 9r inquire about. His kindly face beamed pleasantly when we said that, though.' lovers of his wares, we could not be buyers that day, and that walking was our aim, his attractive windows our pastime. "Had we come far?" And when we told him he fairly glowed. It was part of his customary Sunday walk. "Which route had we taken? There were three, but the 'downs' way was much the finer and better walking." We did not know it. Whereon followed much. minute and vivid description, with which I (not knowing the district) left my friend to grapple, but gathered enough to make me finally exclaim that, "come what might, the ' downs ' route must be taken. We must postpone the exploration of the castle, get tea at once, and make an early start in order to get .beyond the undiscovered country before sundown." We were leaving the shop with thanks for his interest and instructions, when he said, if we would permit it, he would try to write for ne.a small itinerary of the best route, and bring it to us at tea if we would say where he could find us. We gratefully accepted so kindly and courteous an offer, and I have quoted in full at the beginning of this narrative the paper he brought to us. We followed it in every detail, and it led .us on from beauty to beauty. Past the two . windmills, the second being -the only one of "six sweeps" I remember to have seen. Crossing a field, we met a shepherd with his crook, the iron head of which attracted ,my . attention, particularly as I had thought it would be in every way heavier and the curve much wider. My companion told- me that here in Sussex these crookheads are handed down through the generations, that ninny are fully three hundred years old, while some date back to Tudor times.. Then we struck the path "curving to the left," and followed it .till it brought us to the ridge of the "Front" Hill, along, which we walked, mounting higher and higher, greater and greater distances unfolding as we climbed in the late afternoon.. "It was a day of God," as Charles Kingsley put it,—a gloriously clear autumn day, and looking northward over Lewes, far, far beyond its red roofs and grey, ivy-mantled castle ruins, lay the Weald of Sussex, carrying the eye towards Hindhead and the North Downs, and the mind back to the hardy invaders whose name still lives in this "South Saxon" land. Looking south, we followed the Ouse to Newhaven, while to the south-west lay , the whole glory of the downs, with their softly rounded slopes falling into the sheltered "deans" beneath.. the exquisite long shadows cast by the setting sun as it declined towards Rottingdean, with occasional triangular glimpses of the sea framed by the folding downs and the sky. And o'ver-: all was the glory of that, sky of Thursday evening, elatern- ber 17th. As we walked south we 'walked under a 'dome Of cloud which formed a broad, unbroken, and sharply 'defined band from the horizon on the north to that on the south, while on the east :and west was- the clear Line sky flecked with fleecy clouds floating high ; and, as the sue sank the rose and opal tints flooded the whole vault of the Sky with an unspeak- able magnificence, while the band of cloud became, a belt encrusted with flaming jewels encircling the earth. I have never seen anything of the kind to equal. it. It must have been wonderful anywhere, and seen as we saw it, from the top of the open down, with a vista extending, I should suppose, over some forty or fifty miles, it was most glorious.

It is delightful to me to think that the memory of all this beauty must always be associated in my mind with the graceful act of courtesy, offered so simply and naturally, and which added so much to the pleasure of two wayfarers. Of four Wayfarers, truly, for I am sure the happy memory of that walk will haunt the dreams of Rascal' and 'Nigger' on many a winter evening as they sleep before the fire. Our eighteen miles must have been fully their thirty-six ; and I ;know they join with me in gratitude to the kind author of

such.delights.—I am, Sir, &c., A.