The author and illustrator Raymond Briggs, who created the haunting ‘Snowman’ book and film lives near us, and I recently read his account of how he arrived here and why he loves it:
“Poverty drove us into Sussex and I’ve been grateful to Dame Poverty ever since.
Unable to afford the slums of South Wimbledon, we found we could not even afford the slums of Brighton either. So eventually we bought a rural slum in a quiet country lane at the foot of Ditchling Beacon.
We could not believe our luck. A three-room yellow brick hovel it may have been, but the garden ran straight onto the Downs, with cows gazing at us over our fence. At the front, the one and only window looked out over fifteen miles of the Weald to the far horizon of Ashdown Forest. To us, the quiet was unbelievable. We were awestruck.
Born and brought up in the suburbs of London, this was another world. For the first month we could not even put on music, let alone jazz, as it seemed sacrilegious.
On our first morning, I looked out of the window and there was a wren, a few inches away. The first one I had ever seen.
All around there were wonderful walks, footpaths across the fields and bridleways up the slopes of the Downs. Then, on top of the Downs, there were the one-hundred miles of the South Downs Way, with all Sussex to the north, and to the south, the sea.
Furthermore, despite living in beautiful countryside, towns like Brighton and Lewes were only twenty minutes away and London only an hour.
This is beginning to sound like an estate agent’s blurb, so I’d better stop now.
“Come October, Oi bin in this ‘ouse fer forty year.” So, three cheers for Poverty.”