We don’t have the wilds of Scotland, the wilderness of the moors in Devon or Yorkshire, Northern Ireland’s moody mountains or deserted beaches like Wales. No brooding hills as you see near Malvern or Manchester. We lack the drama of the Lakes, the chocolate box rolls of the Cotswolds and Dorset. We don’t have a mighty river or anything close to a peak, no waterfalls to speak of, or caves or mysterious standing stones. Not for us granite or limestone. We have chalk and clay and, of course, the sea.
Sussex is an enchanting landscape. It has an underrated, understated gentle beauty of its own. I was reminded of Sussex’s hold on the imagination as I took the train from Brighton to Eastbourne last Friday. The chalk downland of Kingston Ridge, Mount Caburn and Firle Beacon looked more arresting than usual, still frosted at noon after a cold night. The Ouse and Cuckmere rivers meandered silently as they have done for thousands of years to the sea from their origins up country.
In Eastbourne, I glimpsed the start of the Seven Sisters. The sea defines Sussex. We have amazing cliffs, sandy and pebbly beaches, small but fascinating estuaries and the constant interest of the channel lapping at our shores.
It was so reaffirming to see some of our wonderful Sussex countryside that I was helpless to think anything else: in 2009 I want to see more.