WHAT SUSSEX MEANS TO US

My West Sussex childhood: super, natural, & spookily supernatural

To celebrate the first anniversary of Sussex Bylines’ inaugural issue, we asked some of our key contributors to write a short piece on the subject of “What Sussex Means to Me”. From memories of being a student at the newly built Sussex University in the sixties while living in shabby digs in Brighton, to the enduring ancient magic of bonfire night in Lewes, our writers have submitted a wonderfully eclectic mix of mini personal essays…

Aerial view of Arundel Castle, West Sussex
An aerial view of Arundel Castle, West Sussex – photo c/o: www.arundelcastle.org

Sussex, specifically West Sussex, has been my home all my life. It’s all I’ve ever known. My childhood memories are of primary school trips to the South Downs, Arundel Castle and Fishbourne Roman Palace.  A later image comes to mind – studying for exams in a room looking out towards the spire of Chichester Cathedral

Local legends

And as I explore the collection of images that make up my memories of the past, they are identified not only with people, but with places that have remained vivid in my mind – many because they were associated with local legends or with the supernatural.  Bow Hill is one that I return to many times. 

Seen from much of the West Sussex coast, Bow Hill lies at the heart of Kingley Vale Nature Reserve and as you climb it, you come across a strange set of mounds, which always fascinated me as a child.  Known as ‘The Devil’s Humps‘ and believed to be Bronze Age barrows, their presence contributes to the spooky atmosphere of the valley.  

Forest of folklore

Folklore also relates how the men of Chichester defeated a Viking war party at this spot, and it is believed that the Viking leaders were buried at the highest point to forever watch over and haunt the people of Chichester. Thousands of Viking soldiers are thought to have died within the vale, where one of Europe’s largest yew forests still grows, dense and dark and impenetrable.

Above: one of the many ancient yew trees in Kingley Vale, West Sussex – photo c/o https://www.southdowns.gov.uk/trees-south-downs/

From the haunted yew forest of Kingley Vale to the magnificent Romanesque cathedral at the centre of Chichester, West Sussex is a place like no other.  Filled with exciting stories, beautiful landscapes, and world-famous historical sites, for me it represents all that is meant by that old saying, “there’s no place like home”.

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What Sussex means to us

On the first anniversary of Sussex Bylines’ inaugural issue, some of our key contributors have written a short piece on the subject of “What Sussex Means to Me”. From memories of being a student at the newly built Sussex University in 1966 while living in shabby digs in Brighton to the legendary magic of bonfire night in Lewes, this compilation is a wonderfully eclectic mix of short personal essays…