A place to rest on Iford Hill

Post in 21 Words – A short reflection on the passage of time prompted by revisiting a walk and a memorial seat from three decades ago.

I enjoy the magic when a forest wakes up in the springtime, but our lockdown currently precludes such adventures. Pragmatically/creatively I have found myself revisiting local South Downs rambles from decades earlier. The weather forecast for today was some sort of Artic disaster movie scenario. High up on top of the downs, it was cold, but the huge fluffy clouds and bright sunshine more than compensated for the over-hyped chill.

I found myself revisiting some footpaths in a triangle between Lewes, Rottingdean and Saltdean. These were paths I first walked in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I used to escape up onto this downland when Brighton got too busy in summer.  I remembered wearing shorts and a t-shirt, back then the challenge was the heat, not the cold wind. The walk revealed itself to me step by step.  As I walked, it was like catching up with an old friend, as I remembered and misremembered parts of the walk. The walk witnessed somebody thirty years older, now with an arthritic knee, but still purposefully walking as if he knew where he was going. As I walked up Swanborough Hill I remembered/fantasised about a resting place, would that seat still be there decades later, or had I misremembered?

I was delighted to see that the large tree trunk which had been hollowed out to create a long seat was still there. It offered a wonderful vantage point (see photograph) from where you could see Iford, Kingston near Lewes, Lewes and so much beautiful countryside. There was a plaque (see photograph) remembering David Cripps and a second later plaque remembering his wife. The seat had been designed by pupils at Northease Manor School. I have the vaguest of memories of when this seat first appeared in the early 1990s, it became a favourite lunch stop for sandwiches on my 10/12-mile rambles back in the day. Now, it seemed to serve more as a milestone urging myself and others to remember. The land in front of this seat was bare from footprints, so many stories invested in this special place.

The seat was being reclaimed by nature and I strangely approved. It was a wonderful spot in nature but exposed to all of the elements, nature was always going to claim it back. As I meditated on my journey through life, I began to wonder about the pupils who designed this seat. What twists and turns had their lives taken, what about David Cripps, was he a teacher at the school?

The internet makes desk research too easy. I found in the January 2019 Weekly Digest of Northease Manor School a feature about this seat that had captured my imagination. A Duke of Edinburgh group from the school had encountered the seat on a hike. Oddly though, the feature had to acknowledge that they were uncertain of Mr Cripps association with their school and that an internet search had yielded no further information. I am certain that there was an association, but the memorial was placed three decades ago. Memories fade as we fade away. Again I found myself strangely comfortable with this passage of time.

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