Memories of the South Downs
Richard Reed is a long-term supporter of the Campaign for National Parks and has been actively campaigning to protect National Parks for the last 50 years or more. As a child he spent his holidays in what is now the South Downs National Parks, the landscape that first gave our President, Ben Fogle, his taste for adventure.
To mark the Radio 4 appeal that Ben recorded for us, we wanted to find out what the South Downs was like when our organisation was just beginning so we asked Richard for some of his earliest memories.
South Downs memories
“I spent all my early years in Middlesex with in childhood an annual family holiday at Eastbourne. These holidays never passed without a visit to Beachy Head. I recall that there was low concrete wall on the cliff edge where cables went down to the famous lighthouse, then manned and painted black and white. One could safely lean on this to look down on the lighthouse nearly 500 feet below. This wall has now gone with the steady erosion of the cliffs.
“As I grew old enough to walk a fair distance I was taken on family walks over the Eastbourne Downs and these undoubtedly planted seeds for my lifetime love of the countryside.
“The Second World War brought an end to the Eastbourne holidays but at the end of August 1939 I was sent to Lewes to escape the expected air raids in London. I heard Chamberlain's radio broadcast that we were at war on 3 September while in what was to be the South Downs National Park. We only stayed a month, and after the fall of France the Sussex coast changed from an area for evacuees to a front line danger area. Eastbourne was closed to non-residents for much of the War.
"As the tide of War turned and the German armies were being driven back from Northern France and the Low Countries it became possible to visit our relations in Eastbourne again. But much of the Downs in East Sussex were still occupied by the military. I recall standing at Beachy Head during artillery practice and was surprised to find that I could actually see shells travelling through the air to the stretch of sea closed for target practice."
Richard is still actively involved in protecting National Parks. "Originally it was thought sufficient for National Parks to be protected from damaging development but breath-taking technological developments and an increasingly mobile population means the situation is radically changed today. I value the way that the Campaign for National Parks works proactively to meet these challenges, to protect wildlife and landscapes and to build partnerships with local communities, so that everyone can enjoy National Parks.
"In the end, these landscapes, changing through the years, are priceless possessions to be cherished equally with the masterpieces of painting, literature and music."