Sussex in words: ‘Over to Burpham’

This is another in the ‘Sussex in words’ blog series, taking evocative passages 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.

Walter Wilkinson’s A Sussex Peep-Show was published in 1933. Wilkinson (1888–1970) was a
puppeteer, writer and artist. He travelled widely, capturing in words much of his life as a wandering entertainer. A Sussex Peep-Show is a marvellous collection of descriptions of Sussex, including this extract, ‘Over to Burpham’, which covers an area well known to the composer at this time:

We headed for a world of green ridges and deep valleys, of long stretches of pasture dotted with wandering sheep. Flowers of blue and gold, and red and white, blazoned our way, and we walked from the great grassy spaces into weird, wild little copses of hawthorn, and elder, and small oaks. We emerged from the mossy woods of stunted trees to the long undulations of the lower Downs, the wide spaces of pasture and large, open tracts of young corn ending with the steep rampart of Arundel Park rising over the valley of the river Arun. The sun poured into this huge basin of grass, casting a spell upon the earth, and we walked a drowsy dreamland, bright with flowers and green grass, odorous with mild herbs, and gently lulled by the passing breeze. We followed the Lepers’ Path, passing old barrows and entrenchments grass-grown and rounded with age, seeming to walk in the primeval times of innocence and beauty…

 A reader of Wilkinson’s A Sussex Peep-Show in 2014 writes:

I have just discovered W.W. and am three quarters of the way through ‘A Sussex Peep-Show’. I am born and bred at the foot of the Sussex Downs and a hiker of these Downs. Such is the writing that I can smell the grass and fields and flowers and see the endless sky and the soft slopes and trees, the sun and wind on my face. If I cannot get onto the Downs then all I have to do is pick up the book and read. Absolutely brilliant.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s