Tuesday 5 April 2011

D is for Downs – that’s what D is for ...

A view west from Devil’s Dyke ... 
a landmark just north of Brighton

... the smooth, rounded slopes covered with springy turf, deep valleys without streams, the white gleam of a chalk pit, a beech copse on a summit – these are the unmistakeable signs of Downland, widespread in southern England.

Downs are chalk uplands, above the flat clay plains below.  The gentle downs where man first farmed ... Neolithic man  (3,000 – 1,850 BC) discovered flints for tool and weapon-making, as did Bronze Age man after him.  They left their marks for us to see today - figures cut into the chalk, tracks, traces of field systems, earth works with burial mounds.

The iconic view of The Seven Sisters 
cliffs and the coastguard cottages, 
from Seaford Head across 
the River Cuckmere 
Devoid of their beech woods, used for fire, the Downs became grasslands supporting a wide range of flowering plants and a wealth of insects.  Many species of butterflies and moths abound here, along with plentiful supplies of other insects.

Birdlife on the Downs is limited by the general lack of surface water.  Woodland and hedge species include the song thrush, blackbird, chaffinch, linnet, whitethroat, pheasant, etc; while the grasslands support the wheatear, skylark and meadow pipit.  The kestrel ranges over the Downs, preying on small animals and insects.

Beech and Yew are the dominant forms of tree, while Ash, Whitebeam and Juniper species also thrive.

Beachy Head, above Eastbourne
 lies within the national park 
The Downland is where I live on the Sussex coast ...  Beachy Head rises above Eastbourne and is at the southerly tip of the new South Downs National Park.

That is Downland - that is what D is for ..    

Part of the ABC - April 2011 - A - Z Challenge - Aspects of the British Countryside

 Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Sheila Siler said...

What a beautiful countryside! I hope I get to come visit it someday. You're doing a great job of describing your country. I am enjoying it! Thanks for the follow.


Having been there I know exactly what you have written about, It's good to read and bring back the happy memories those visits brought.
Thank you Hilary.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sheila .. that'd be great and I do hope you can get over sometime. Just delighted to read you're enjoying the little excursions. Absolutely pleasure .. and good to see you here.

@ Yvonne .. - yes - just up the road from you! Glad the post brings back some memories for you .. we seem to do lots on the Downs!!

Enjoy Tuesday .. and thanks for visiting .. Hilary

Tony Payne said...

I have never really explored the southeast coast. Maybe one long weekend we can travel east from Southampton, it's only 100 miles or so. I grew up in Dorset, and so am more familiar with the southwest of England. It's all beautiful though and incredibly scenic.

walk2write said...

You're lucky to live in such a beautiful place. It's interesting that the Downs are really uplands. I wonder if measurable erosion account for it?

Tracy said...

Georgous pictures! I learned something new today - Downs is not something we have where I live. You are tempting me to make some trans-atlantic vacation plans. Here in the U.S., we get bombarded with information about London. I rarely read anything about the countryside...and it looks just beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Nicely done. Living close to shore is beautiful with the bluffs and such. We live close to the ocean too. Wouldn't have it any other way!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I yearn to visit. My paternal grandmother was born in Bath. The Downland looks breathtaking. One day...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Tony .. born in Surrey always going to Cornwall .. so Dorset and Devon we whizzed through; and now Sussex coast I whizz past Southampton on my way to Cornwall.

We're lucky to live in such gorgeous countryside though .. and you've got the New Forest - which is coming up in F for forest! Come and see me though .. sometime ..

@ W2W ..I am lucky aren't I - it is beautiful down here.

The 'down' derives from a medieval Germanic or Norse word "dun" = a hill.

Downland is formed when chalk formations are raised above the surrounding rocks. The chalk slowly erodes to form the characteristic rolling hills and valleys.

The Downs actually continue under the English Channel into France .. and can be seen on that coast too.

Hope that helps W2W?!

@ Tracy .. I'd love to see you - and London to here is only 1.5 hours on the train ..

There is lots to see - castles, gardens, museums, galleries, countryside, canals to cruise on?! .. etc etc .. give it a go one day?

@ Stephen .. you're right being by the sea is just great .. and seeing the Downs everyday are beautiful .. and being by the sea is magical - as you and your family know .. I must explore more of your long USA and CA coastline sometime!

@ Joylene .. we're always here .. Bath is beautiful .. and is set in wonderful countryside .. We're lucky the Downs are relatively unspoilt ... One day - see you here then?!

Cheers to you and thanks so much for visiting - Hilary

Susan Scheid (Raining Acorns) said...

Such a lovely place! Interesting what birds are able to call the Downs home, isn't it?

Unknown said...

I don't know much about Downs but now I want to visit.

Anonymous said...

Veruy infomative and great pics, nice to see the area where you live too :O)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Raining Acorns .. that's what I thought when I wrote the post - also for me - I quite often come back to my own blog to answer questions I've forgotten!

@ Clarissa - ah! now you'll have to come look see?! It's certainly picturesque ...

@ Madeleine .. many thanks - yup this is my home area now .. so is Devon pretty .. each area of the UK has its parts ..

Great seeing you all .. cheers Hilary

Linda said...

So very interesting. I've always thought, at least from the pictures I've seen, that the English countryside would be gorgeous. Thanks for taking us with you through some of it.

Ellie Garratt said...

A stunning part of the UK and I've never been there :(

Ellie Garratt

Angela said...

You live in a very beautiful place.

DEZMOND said...

this just proves my point that people from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland live in the most beautiful of places. I'd accept to be poor and hungry just to live in such a natural heaven :)))

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Linda .. thank you - it is gorgeous with some glorious parts .. so glad you're enjoying the 'tour' ..

@ Ellie .. I expect you've been plenty of other places?! Devon is delightful too ..

@ Angela .. - it is a pleasant place to live .. with that serenity we get in the countryside ...

@ Dezmond .. gosh that's a strong statement .. no more cakes??? The country is so different through out the UK .. as you noted.

But Serbia has some amazing scenery too .. I'd love to visit one day ..

Thanks everyone for coming by .. cheers Hilary

Nick said...

Downs are uplands? Now I am confused.

Unknown said...

So beautiful!In Norway we have the seven sisters waterfalls. Nature can truely create the most incredible inspiration.

Rosaria Williams said...

Delightful and informative, H.

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

How lucky you are! That's a breathtaking place. Nice pictures!

Thanks for stopping by and for your sweet comments :-)


Candyland said...

Those are gorgeous pics! Thanks for stopping by today:)

Sarah Allen said...

This is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing :)

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Theresa Wiza said...

What a beautiful way to wake up in the morning – to look out of your window and find that scenery awaiting you every day. I'm jealous. My A-Z challenge blog is located here: http://myheartblogstoyou.blogspot.com/2011/04/when-your-daughter-develops-dont-do.html

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Oh my goodness, this was so beautiful. I'm beginning to really adore your pictures and your appreciation of landscape. Great post - keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

This is so beautiful, Hilary! The downs. Luscious. Such luscious names: Downland, Beachy Head, Eastbourne, Sussex. I have always wanted to see London; to live there for a while. Guess that won't happen in this life. But I experience such beautiful scenes through your beautiful blog. I love coming over here!
Ann Carbine Best’s Long Journey Home

Denise Covey said...

I love your description of Downs Hilary. Love it. You took me right there. Thanks.

Also thanks for coming to Darfur with me.


L'Aussies Travel Blog A - Z Challenge - D is for Darfur

Alison Miller said...

Absolutely breath-taking. Can I visit?!

New follower from A-Z - nice to meet you!

Snowbrush said...

I read an entire nonfiction book entitled "Suicides at Beachy Head" or something similar.

vered said...

Beautiful! Maybe someday I'll get to visit.

Arlee Bird said...

Looks like a beautiful place. You've described it all so well. But I'm not sure why downs are up and ups are downs.

Contrary to my usual practice of subscribing to comments, to save time during the challenge I will not be doing so at the moment. If you want to respond to my comment , please email me directly from your email notification for the comment.
Thanks. And I truly appreciate your efforts.

Tossing It Out
Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Nick - good to see you .. yes from 'dun' a German/Norse word meaning hill!

@Siv - I wrote about other Seven Sisters, but didn't know about your waterfalls - they must be beautiful. Mother nature has moulded her gifts so well .. you are so right.

@ Rosaria - thank you!

@ Doris - it is a lovely part of the world .. but England on sunny clear days is so beautiful.

@ Candyland - good to see you

@ Sarah - delighted you're enjoying things .. and thanks for coming by

@ Theresa - good to meet you and yes beautiful views make such a difference from concrete jungles

@ Lindsay - lovely seeing you again .. and it's wonderful to know you're enjoying the trip around the British countryside

@ Ann - thank you so much - it would be lovely to welcome you here and to show you around .. perhaps? There's always hope. It's great that I can take you with me while I travel and explore places and thoughts via my blog - that's lovely to know.

@ Denise .. many thanks .. Darfur is slightly different to the peaceful soft Downs .. I love your journey of places in the world ..

@ Carol - the W coast of Canada .. as you say is stunning ..I've never been as far north as Aberdeen .. and one day must visit N Scotland .. I can understand you feeling at home up there

@ Alison - of course .. any time - delighted to welcome you .. and pleasure meeting you here

@ Snowbrush - thanks so much for coming by .. gruesome isn't it? - but unfortunately it's true .. I just don't mention it usually.

@ Vered - that would be lovely to see you and the family here ..

@ Arlee .. It is a beautiful place and glad you liked the description .. Downs are up because 'Dun' from which the word Down comes from means hill in Medieval Germanic or Norse .. hence a down is an up??!!

Wonderful seeing everyone and thank you for your generous comments .. Hilary

quilthexle said...

I nearly spilled my cup of tea when I saw this post. Especially the picture of Beachy Head ... We visited Beachy Head in 2000, and of course, we took pictures. DH did a Painting, I did an Art Quilt; if you want to take a look, you'll find them both over here at my blog: http://quilthexle.blogspot.com/2010/01/seven-sisters-quilted-or-painted.html
Thanks for this great blog series in the A-Z challenge, be sure I'll come back often !!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Frauke .. how amazing - glad you didn't choke .. brilliant English you speak - not like my German!

I've been over to see your quilt and picture .. I'll probably link your blog to a couple of posts I've got elsewhere. Let you know when I get round to it.

Amazing quilt and fantastic picture your husband did too .. what fun.

I'll be over to follow etc shortly .. cheers for now, such a pleasure to meet you and I too nearly coughed on my coffee!

All the best and see you soon - Hilary

Sara said...


Next time I visit my daughter in England, I going to be a show-off as you are teaching me so much about the country in A to Z challenge:~)

I really like the name Beachy Head and the white cliffs. I guess it would easy for sailor to know he was home once he saw those!

Thanks for the "D" post:~)

Eliza said...

Those are beautiful pictures. Thanks for visiting my blog :-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sara .. isn't that fun! I'd love to be a fly on the wall?! That's what they say about the White Cliffs of Dover - those are chalk cliffs too - & there's a better harbour in Dover - mind you in Norman times the shore line was very different to now.

So pleased you're enjoying these A - Zs ..

@ Eliza - welcome .. many thanks and glad you enjoyed the photos of my part of the world .. it's a pleasure connecting ..


Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

Those white cliffs have meant so much to so many different people for different reasons. I was thrilled to see them because it meant I'd soon be on English soil!

Sheila Deeth said...

Ah, you're making me homesick.

Noemi said...

I have really enjoyed your posts. I have lived in England for seven years, and every chance we had to visit around we did.
The way you describe it sounds like poetry and it makes me feel a bit "homesick".
I have always loved those beautiful canals, with those lovely boats in bright colours.
A big hug from Spain.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Amy .. you're right they epitomise 'coming home to England' .. and as you say over the centuries must have raised so many hearts.

It's a good place to be .. in England now that Summer's here! White cliffs and all .. English soil.

@ Sheila .. sorry! But you're obviously enjoying the memories .. and thanks for stopping off and leaving a comment.

@ Noemi .. welcome .. it's good you saw some of the country .. and were able to explore a little.

The canals are such tranquil spots .. with the boats colourfully plying their tourist trade.

Thank you for that wonderful comment - I really appreciate your thoughts .. very generous .. and delighted to see you here from Spain .. a country I'd love to explore .. one day!