There was a Young Lady of Firle



July 21, 2017

After a traditional welcome-sign portrait, we took advantage of the excellent weather by heading up Firle Beacon:

Looking south from Firle Beacon

Debbie’s hair is naturally only slightly wavy, but Rik was able to procure a convincingly curly wig to lend verisimilitude to the re-enactment while preserving her natural dignity.


Firle Beacon is one of the 2,010 Marilyns in the UK: that is, mountains and hills with prominence of over 150 metres. The name was coined by Sir Hector Marilyn as a companion to the more famous Scottish Munros.

Next we visited the lovely village of Firle: after a cup of tea at the famous Ram Inn, we paid a visit to the church.

St Peter’s Church, Firle
Visitors to the church were invited to attach a ribbon to the metal “Thank You Tree”.

The seat of the local manor Firle Place has been with the Gage family since 1476, and the name of the famous greengage plum variety almost certainly derives from a member of the Gage family, though there is some confusion over whether it was the Reverend John Gage or Sir William Gage, 7th Baronet who are both variously credited for the import of this fruit into Britain from France.  Visitors to the village are advised to stay well clear of this bitterly disputed controversy.

Leading economist John Maynard Keynes moved to Firle in 1925, and died there in 1946.

The Long Man of Wilmington

Formerly thought to originate in the Iron Age or even the neolithic period, a 2003 archaeological investigation has shown that the figure may have been cut in the 16th or 17th century. From afar the figure appears to have been carved from the underlying chalk, but the modern figure – which is in a different location to the original – is formed much more conveniently, from white-painted breeze blocks and lime mortar.

The tiny figure in the blue shirt under the tree is Rik. For scale, Rik is about six feet two.

Early depictions of the figure show other details such as a possible scythe blade on the right-hand staff and the suggestion of a helmet or hat on the figure’s head.  Now he looks more like a pioneering Nordic walker.

Rik’s contribution to this historic spot was to lie down for a rest on the grass below the giant’s feet with his spectacles in his shirt pocket. Not a good idea it turned out.

Next on our programme was a short walk to see the famous Seven Sisters,

A Common Blue butterfly. Not just a common blue butterfly.
Deborah and Her Sisters

(While taking the photograph above, Rik realised that his glasses were not with him, and recalled being supine by the Long Man).

From this viewpoint, we completed our walk by crossing the bay to the base of the Seven Sisters, which involved paddling through a fast flowing stream, before heading back inland, surrounded by the happy babble of day-tripping foreign students.

It was then time to return to the Long Man, so that Rik could retrace his steps, and with undeserved good fortune, reclaim his specs.

How better to set the seal on a perfect day’s Learing than by returning to Angmering Manor to enjoy a storming performance by Suspiciously Elvis – serendipitously appearing on the third night of our stay.






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