The Changing Chalk Partnership – Part 2 (History and Heritage in the South Downs)

Gary Webster, a Heritage Officer with the National Trust, on his second visit to the Group delivered part 2 of The Changing Chalk Partnership. This time around Gary focused on the human history and archaeology of the downland of East Sussex. He recalled the geology of the Downs, the remnants of the huge chalk dome that covered most of south-east England, and the flints found  in the chalk that served as tools for the Neolithic settlers over 5,000 years ago, enabling them to clear the forests and begin some sort of agriculture. Their ‘causeway enclosures’ are still visible in aerial photographs. The Bronze Age farmers who followed them buried their leaders in great hillocks of soil and chalk, the ‘barrows’ that are to be seen all over the East Sussex Downs.

Gary went on to show the hill forts of the Iron Age, the Roman camps and villas and the early Norman castles, and running quickly thorough the Saxon settlements, the agricultural revolution of the 18th century and the military occupations in both world wars. All these had let their imprint on the landscape. He was leading a project in East Sussex to locate, map, identify, monitor and protect these ancient monuments, using volunteers. This was giving a great deal of enjoyment to the volunteers and making an important contribution to conservation.

Pete Coe gave an update on the work to conserve Ferring’s WW2 Pill Box on the seafront – earlier in the day Ferring’s own ‘Monument Monitors’ formed a human chain along the beach from the Pill Box towards the sea and the volunteers managed to remove 800 litres of rainwater from the floor of this important structure, to enable further work to be done.

Graham Tuppen gave his regular report on local wildlife, highlighting the 19 species of butterflies identified by Ferring Group members on Cissbury Ring for the Big Butterfly Count. Graham also reported on a colony of wall lizards sighted at West Worthing station.

Ed Miller gave the planning report – the Goring Gap now safe from the developers and some good decisions by Arun District Council and the Planning Inspectors on appeal.