Hilaire Belloc’s writing becoming reality as Sussex countryside vanishes beneath concrete

Sally, once again restored with full sweeps aloft...
Sally, once again restored with full sweeps aloft...

Hilaire Belloc was part English, part French and all Sussex.

A great writer of poetry and song, ex-politician, seeker, teacher, preacher, grumpy and stumpy but nearly always interesting and, in many ways, was cursed or blessed with thinking far ahead of his time and with a very real concern as to the future of his beloved Sussex.

Sadly, his musings are becoming a fearful reality with great swathes of our south countryside vanishing beneath concrete, brick and tarmac. Even in my brief time, the coastal region has become unrecognisable and the construction and destruction continues, the countryside and the trees are under constant attack.

One late evening of perhaps a darker day, filled with his own grief and the sombre feeling of the oncoming First World War with Germany to be inevitable, he was journeying from Chichester following a violent storm.

On the horizon he noticed that Halnacker Mill had lost its sweeps and wrote in the bitterly reflective poem Ha’nacker Mill: “Sally is gone that was so kindly, Sally is gone from Ha’nacker Hill…” He went on to write: “Ha’nacker hill is in desolation with ruin atop and field unploughed… and never a ploughman under the sun, never a ploughman never a one.”

|Also in the news - as the cold snap continues across the country a warning has been issued for a high chance of ‘heavy snow’ in Sussex; three people have been arrested after police searched a property in a Rustington road; and a teenager is being ‘considered for prosecution’ after an altercation in Angmering Railway Station|

I drove that same road last week turned off at the Halnacker signpost, parked and climbed the muddy gradient to where Sally yet stands in all her glory. I hope that the man who has given Sussex so much knows that her white sails are now restored and once again facing the south westerly wind. And, better yet, there was a ploughman turning in the yellowed crop of winter barley, the shining blades transforming the yellow stubble into the rich downland soil.

Above the bright blue tractor, a vast cloud of squawking white gulls and, in their midst, a lone, jet black crow. I wonder, fanciful I know, but I pondered long on that dark, lone bird on Halnacker Hill.

THERE was a big wind on Saturday and litter bins fell. I lay in bed listening to the seemingly endless rattling of a tin can as it rolled along the road and, as the wind direction changed or it became dislodged, it rolled on.

Soon it is back outside my house and I thought to put on my dressing gown and catch it but, on opening the door to the cold wet midnight darkness I decided to let it roll. Eventually it moved far enough along the road as to be out of earshot and I eventually slept.

First thing in the morning, warmly dressed, I sought out that wretched beer can, stomped it hard and flat with my hefty Dr Martens and binned the battered remains. That is one tin can that will roll no more!

SADLY, I noted several more expensive shop windows smashed in and around the town centre. It appears to be an ongoing insoluble problem.

Of course, the police cannot mount a 24-hour watch and with the cuts they have suffered under the guise that by drastically reducing the funding for the force nationwide, it will become more efficient.

From which planet are these politicians and their acolytes actually from? Be that as it may, the question is, are the CCTV cameras in the town operational, even if not manned, and are they recording for reviewing following such incidents?

• If you would like to get in touch with Whispering Smith, please email: whisperingsmith1@gmail.com

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