Sussex is the ‘loveliest’ of the Home Counties

Last Sunday morning I fancied taking a walk over the chalky Highdown ridge. Knowing that the lovely little tearoom at the end of such a pleasant walk was now closed, another victim of so-called progress, was a little off putting.

The morning was too good to waste so I set off to the carpark in a quiet lane a little to the east of Angmering village and close to a public house called The Spotted Cow, although the pub’s attractively branch covered sign made it difficult to spot.

Whispering Smith: Hard to spot this spotted cow...

Whispering Smith: Hard to spot this spotted cow...

Outside in the bright sunlight a group of a dozen or so equally brightly costumed ladies were clog dancing to a small band. I parked the car, bought a pint of real ale, joined the handful of enthusiastic onlookers and watched as they effortlessly – or so it seemed to me – danced a set of complicated manoeuvres all the time ringing the bells on their clogs, and the small bells adorning sticks they carried.

The sticks are loom shaped and clearly speak of the Lancashire mill worker origins of the dance. As it happened I knew one of the dancers and quickly assimilated myself into the group where the talk was of ale, dancing, dogs, pubs they liked, of a wedding and funerals and of the late summer weather. A midsummer’s morning, the season betrayed only by the gathering of the copper coloured leaves whispering down the narrow lane.

There was no mention of plastic pollution, Strictly, Brexit or the endless wrangling of self-seeking politicians. It was quintessentially Sussex at peace and the sadness of the slowly evaporating English countryside of southern England.

|Also in the news - two Littlehampton GP surgeries are drafting in help to turn around their fortunes after being threatened with closure; a mum from Rustington had created a new craft club as place of support for isolated people; and Pets at Home is offering free pet care workshops for children throughout half term|

The view across the fields to the north of the Cow was, nevertheless, calming and a reminder if one were needed that this was surely our county Sussex, the land of Hilaire Belloc and perhaps the loveliest of all the Home Counties.

I wondered, briefly, how long this view would last before the ever-growing land grab north of the A259 swamped it, as indeed such developments were already drowning the green fields around Littlehampton.

I finished my pint, bid my new friends farewell, climbed into my electric car – not all modernity is unwelcome – and headed for home. Highdown, if it still be there, will have to await another day.

DELIGHTED to report that, thanks to the caring and the great generosity of many local and not-so-local folk, it looks very much like the old Selborne Oak, as it has become known, will be given a chance to revive and once again become the tree she was planted to be.

Pledges are still needed but I am confident enough to have placed the order for the tree surgeon to visit, operate and leave her be for a couple of years at least.

The actual fund is just about there but there is yet the loomin’, bloomin’ £160 VAT to be found. Once the work is complete we will have a small traditional Sussex ceremony around the girth of her to celebrate.

REMEMBER, remember the 27th. Of October, gunpowder, treason and plot – Littlehampton’s celebrated bonfire parade and firework display this Saturday, loose change at the ready as the rattling buckets pass you by...

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

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