Earlier I posted an entry on one of Ireland’s books, The Sussex Bedside Anthology. ‘Sussex in words’ is a new blog series that takes evocative passages from this rich book to show some of the ways in which the county is captured in words, their meanings often close in sensibility to Ireland’s way of thinking about the downland landscape he loved so well.
The descriptive passage below, ‘The Mysterious Weald’, which evokes in prose the eerieness of the Sussex landscape that Ireland suggests in music, is taken from Gerard Young’s Come Into the Country (1943). Young (1912–72, above) lived in a cottage in the village of Flansham, close to Bognor Regis, publishing several other Sussex-related works, including The Chronicle of a Country Cottage (1942) and Down Hoe Lane (1950).
This is rather a mysterious time of the year in this part of the country. If I were to take you one evening up one of those muddy tracks that lead to the top of the Downs and we went plunging on through the tangled bracken and slippery grass, we would eventually find ourselves on a frosty ridge overlooking a twilit world that sprawls eight hundred feet below; a dark country between the North and South Downs that with the coming of Christmas draws down over itself the murky cloak of Legend. This is the Sussex Weald, an ancient country of secret places, hidden villages, river sources, silent pools, dim glades and forgotten roads. We have our Kingley Vale, just over there in the Downs behind Chichester, a valley in which lie dead Danish kings, a place which at dusk on days like these, so E.V. Lucas says, is transformed into a ‘sinister and fantastic forest, a home for witchcraft and unquiet spirits.