(1) The Sussex Landscape
(by Michael Smith)
|(2) 'The Elms'|
No tender hearted garden crowns,A slightly more resistant stratum of chalk results in a discontinuous, but clearly visible, secondary escarpment set back from the main one. The major escarpment has a crest at about or just above 800' and the highest spots are individually named Kipling produced a charming poem The Run of the Downs, in which the whole sequence is given.
No bosomed woods adorn,
Our blunt, bow-headed whale-backed Downs,
But gnarled and writhen thorn -
The Weald is good,. the Downs are best -Chalk absorbs rainfall and snow melt but underneath the chalk is an impervious clay layer which acts as a barrier to any further downward percolation so that water builds up beneath a "water-table". Where that water-table intersects the surface, water can gush out in the form of springs or intermittent streams. On the downland surface there is an absence of running water, but there are many valleys which were obviously, at one time, eroded by stream action. These now "dry valleys" were formed during the last ice-age when the sub-surface was frozen to a considerable depth and so when snow did melt during slightly warmer periods it ran downslope to erode them. Once more normal climatic conditions returned streams no longer flowed in them. One of the stanzas of Sussex begins:
I'll give you the run of `em East to West.
We have no waters to delightThe Weald
Our broad and brookless vales
Only the dewpond on the height
Unfed that never fails -
Here leaps ashore the full Sou 'westAs the grain of the strata bowed south eastward, the softer clays have resulted in marshland near Pevensey and the harder sandstones as cliffs between Hastings and Pett Level. Eastward again the river valleys of Rother, Tillingham and Brede draining the inner Weald find their way to the sea near the ancient port of Rye, now some distance from the strandline which in Saxon times felt the lap of the waves beneath its cliff.
All heavy-winged with brine,
Here lies above, the folded crest
The Channel's leaden line;
And east till doubling Rother crawlsRomney Marsh, which features in a number of tales, backs the shingle promontory of Dungeness built by the deposition of material eroded from both the Sussex and Kent coasts. In Roman and Norman times the sea washed the low cliffs on which Pevensey Castle stands. The castle, first developed as Anderita (the Great Ford), one of the "forts of the Saxon Shore" in late Roman times, is the base from which Parnesius marches his troops north to the Great Wall.
To find the fickle tide,
By dry and sea forgotten walls,
Our ports of stranded pride.
I'm just in love with all these three,Earlier, while at Rottingdean, he suggested that the Downs surpassed all in beauty, but on moving into the Weald conflicting claims were pressed. His prescience foresaw that the beauty of the Downs would attract an ever more mobile population and might even sow the seeds of its own destruction in "Very Many People".
The Weald and the Marsh and the Down countree,
Nor I don't know which I love the most,
The Weald or the Marsh or the white Chalk coast.
(A Three Part Song)
On the Downs, in the Weald, on the Marshes,Kipling brings into vivid focus a less frenetic way of life in Down, Weald, marsh and coast which has changed dramatically in the intervening century, and for this we owe him much. Through his meticulous eye we meet shepherds, hedgers and ditchers, craftsmen of a variety of trades and smugglers, as well as characters who moulded the history not only of the county but of England itself.
I heard the Old Gods say:
`Here come Very Many People: "We must go away."
"They take our land to delight in,
"But their delight destroys.
"They flay the turf from the sheep-walk.
"They load the Denes with noise."