Now that we are over the Jubigleefulness and Robert Macfarlane's book is now out there fending for itself, Team Old Ways have their walking boots on and cameras to hand in ther respective landscapes, thus proving the wonder of these group read approaches to a book. I think we will cover a lot of ground between us and we look forward to sharing those excursions with you in the coming months. You may remember Fran's wonderful excursions with Team Edward Thomas... and of course her outing with Robert and Ronald last week... well don't tell Mr HB but this time she has been out on a date with yet another man...
When I saw that Lynne had put the Ravilious painting of the Long Man of Wilmington up on the blog a while ago with our thoughts about Robert Macfarlane's The Old Ways, I was spurred in to action to get some photos posted of the walk I made up to the Long Man last month. It was a real early spring day, a very stiff east wind so pretty cold, but wonderful shadows on the Downs from the clouds as they raced across the sky.
I walked from Wilmington village up to the foot of the Long Man, then took a steep path on up Windover Hill and over the top.
Here you can look south towards the sea and Newhaven. The South Downs way runs along the top of the Wilmington hill towards Alfriston, dropping down to cross over the river Cuckmere just before the parish church which can be seen in the photo.
It seems little changed from 1939 when Ravilious painted the Old Man. Even a barbed wire fence is almost in the same place.
No one knows for sure the age of the Long Man, or even why this figure was chosen, but various theories abound. At 226 feet tall it is one of the largest carved figures in the world. The modern Druids claim it is Iron Age, as there is a fort from this time on top of the hill, just ramparts and dips in the ground now. They gather for celebrations at special times on their calendar such as May Day. In 2003 more research was done and the evidence collected suggests it was first carved in the mid 16th century. But then others claim it could be as old as Neolithic times as there is also a long barrow from this age on the top of the hill, above the figure.
I plan to return there later in the year when the fields are a different colour, the grain having ripened. I wonder what Ravilious would have made of the lurid yellow of the rape fields which are splashed across the whole landscape in this area?