Tuesday, March 04, 2014


Beddingham Hill. Our "camp" and Furlongs Farm. Peggy Angus and Eric Ravilious.

Beddingham Hill....a place that seemed to make my family unique.
I can look back 60 years and relish the uniqueness - but at the time I was fearful of not being the same as my classmates.
"Camp" to my classmates might have referred to a holiday camp.
How could I explain a collection of old tents on the side of The South Downs?
My father had bought the tents from a doctor's family where we lived.
We had been camping once before, when my Dad offered to be the one to take the local boy scouts to camp, providing he could take his family too.
Having acquired the tents, he then had to find our camp site.
There were few organised sites in the mid 50s.......and these would have been shunned by my parents.
I know he went walking on The South Downs a few times, looking for potential sites.
And he found the  most perfect spot on Beddingham Hill.
He met the local farmer and arrangements were made.
His next problem was transport - how could we get all the equipment half way up The South Downs with no car?
A local farmer loaded the camping gear, our bikes, and lots to keep us busy and us onto his little trailer.
Looking at the picture, some of us must have travelled by train to Glynde Station.

Last Sunday my husband and I were in the area and we thought we would look at Beddingham Hill again.
It was not possible to get into the field from the trackway up the hill as we used to do.
It could be done from other routes.
It was very securely fenced off and very, very muddy.

This was "camp". My father had found a flat piece of land on the side of the hill.
The bank seemed to be steep and quite high.
There has been a lot of erosion in 60 years.
The bank was the playground for my brothers and I. We had camps in the little soily bits, which were along the sheep tracks. The sheep no longer seem to walk along the side of the bank.
It looked kind of sad and soulless.
Here is a similar view from 1954.

I can almost smell the chalky turf and see the lovely scabious and harebell flowers.

What a glorious view. It is no wonder that I love Mount Caburn so.

This is the nearest I could get, last Sunday to a similar view.
Do you see the clump of trees on the right of Mount Caburn?
I always thought they formed a letter P - my initial. The hill is mine!
The field with the green shoots of next summer's crops remind me of one of my exploits.........

Harvest time, with me at the wheel of the tractor, aged 10.
In truth I was not very impressive and needed help to stop the thing!

The land we camped on was part of Furlongs Farm - home of Dick Freeman, the shepherd.
But not only Dick.
Much of the farm was sub let to artists.
Peggy Angus was the one whose home it was in our days on the farm. Many other artists stayed there for short or long periods.
The artist who has become much admired is Eric Ravilious.
And there is a quantity of his work which depicts our Beddingham Hill and the surroundings.
I enjoyed the Eric Ravious exhibition in Eastbourne a few years back and since then both my brother and I have been in contact with James Russell who has documented ER's work and created a lovely book - which I own.
Most Ravilious prints would seem to be a little beyond our budget. But at the exhibition were some very cheaply printed images of our camp site.....he didn't know it would be our camp.
Ravilious died in an aircraft crash whist working as a war artist in WW2.

You can see the bank to the right of the spinney.
The roller is in the field we walked around on Sunday - the one where I drove the tractor.

A wintry view along the track to Furlongs Farm.

Lovely picture.

James Russell is putting together a Peggy Angus exhibition in the summer in Eastbourne.
I must go.
I am sure my brother would like to do that too.

This is the track that leads to to the top of Beddingham Hill.
You can see that after a long day out, using our bikes for transport, that ride up to camp was damned hard!

Something caught my eye by the locked gates by the spinney that led down to "our" field.
Somebody else had been there too; somebody also who was maybe recalling times and people lost.

The flowers were plastic - and yet to my eyes on that afternoon they were beautiful.
I thought of them as a requiem for my childhood.
Who else had been feeling the same sadness?

I stooped to pick two violets by the plastic flowers.

They are now within folded paper and in my James Russell book about Eric Ravilious.

My last picture shows just how bleak and lifeless our childhood summers seemed to have become on a grey, chilly day, 60 years later.
My brother will appreciate some of the memories it contains - the water trough, the little dew pond, the path up to "camp"....up which we carried water from the other side of the spinney.