Hilaire Belloc bought King's Land (in Shipley, Sussex), 5 acres and a working windmill for £1000 in 1907 and it was his home for the rest of his life. Belloc loved Sussex as few other writers have loved her: he lived there for most of his 83 years, he tramped the length and breadth of the county, slept under her hedgerows, drank in her inns, sailed her coast and her rivers and wrote several incomparable books about her. "He does not die that can bequeath Some influence to the land he knows, Or dares, persistent, interwreath Love permanent with the wild hedgerows; He does not die, but still remains Substantiate with his darling plains."

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Wednesday, 31 May 2017


Tillington to Easebourne via the Midhurst Way (6 miles).

Leaving The Horse Guards Inn, Tillington GU28 9AF at 9.30, the Midhurst Way goes via the Lodsworth Larder ( cake & loo stop), the lovely Lime Tree Avenue of 70 trees, the Queen Elizabeth Oak (" old when Queen Elizabeth 1 saw it "), Cowdray Golf Club , & lunch at the award winning Cowdray Farm Shop Cafe. THIS YEAR WE MUST BOOK IN ADVANCE FOR THE LUNCH (by Tues. 13th June, please). Lunch, at this top Farm Shop Cafe, is Soup with Sandwiches for about £8 out on the patio. Most walkers stay for Lunch & then catch the 1.30 bus back to Tillington.

No booking necessary for the Walk so do come along & celebrate our heritage. Not suitable for beginners as it 6 miles! Return by bus (15 min. journey) to Tillington every hour - 12.30, 1.30, etc. Bring Bus Pass or cash.

More info. & lunch bookings to Geraldgreshamcooke@gmail.com. Gerald is a qualified HeartSmart Walk Leader. Come and celebrate Sussex Day.


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Song Shanty Workshop - Hosted by Secret Shore and the South Downs Society. Saturday the 8th April between 10.30 and 3PM...

The workshops are held between 10.30 and 1 on every second Saturday at the Beechwood Hall hotel (Wykeham Road, BN11 4JD Worthing, West Sussex) in Worthing. We will be learning shanties, and some of the stories, history and folklore around the songs. We will also be incorporating some of the songs learned during the last shanty workshops so that participants can have a chance to learn those too.

There will be a break for coffee.

The workshops are open to all, whether you have taken part in the previous ones or not.

Any queries please contact emilylonghurst@hotmail.com

This the last set of workshops in the Secret Shore HLF project!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Belloc Concert - Two Temple Place, London WC2R 3BD (22nd April at 7PM)...


to accompany the exhibition Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion 28th January until 23rd April 2017.
Tickets https://opusanglicanum.eventbrite.co.uk

Including the music of Vaughan Williams, Ivor Gurney and Edward Elgar - the stunning sound of Opus Anglicanum's unnaccompanied voices present a retelling of Hilaire Belloc's The Four Men, in which 'Grizzlebeard', 'the Poet', 'the Sailor' and 'Myself', walk across the Weald of Sussex in the October of 1902 from Robertsbridge to Harting, with lively conversation, debate and songs along the way.

BBC Radio 4's Zeb Soanes narrates the story in the words of Belloc; the five singers perform music and include a number of Belloc’s songs sung to his own tunes.

As Belloc's The West Sussex Drinking Song helpfully tells us:

"They sell good Beer at Haslemere
And under Guildford Hill..."

.£22 + booking fee. Doors open at 6:30 and seating is unreserved. This is an intervalled performance.

Hilaire Belloc described ‘The Four Men’ as ‘A Farrago’. ‘The Four Men’ - Grizzlebeard, Myself, the Poet and the Sailor - walk across the Weald of Sussex in the October of 1902 from Robertsbridge to Harting, with lively conversation, debate and songs along the way. Published in 1911, the four figures represent aspects of Belloc’s own character. The story is in turn poetic, reflective, pompous, didactic and humorous.The narrative is the context for some richly varied music:Vaughan Williams’s ‘The Vagabond’ and ‘Linden Lea’; settings of poems by Belloc from Ivor Gurney (‘A Sussex Drinking Song’, and ‘Most Holy Night’) and from Peter Warlock (‘My own country’); and music by George Butterworth and Edward Elgar. Possibly a surprise item will be ‘Deux chœurs’ of Camille Saint-Saëns, reminding us that Belloc was half French, and had done his national service in the French artillery. Also included are a number of Belloc’s idiosyncratic songs sung to his own tunes, as described in the book itself.

Monday, 16 January 2017

A South Downs Year - a new consideration of Belloc...

A new book has just been published. Jon Edgar’s Sculptor’s Journal records his time as the artist for a project to produce a sculpture to mark the National Trust's largest ever woodland re-planting in Slindon, West Sussex.

The stone was moved to eight different locations to engage with as many people as possible during the sculpting; 1350 people were involved in everything from a small chip to hours of work on the stone. Jon uses an unusual working method which involves ‘a raw exploration of the material’ with no pre-planning - a sort of improvisation in stone; in this case three tonnes of Portland stone.

He spent much time researching local history and unearthing figures such as Charlotte Turner Smith and William Hayley as part of being open to the local landscape informing the final work. The book reflects these researches and the process the stone went through. The artist added:

“Belloc was everywhere in connection with this landscape, who seemed to revisit the area at every opportunity. Printing the Journal seemed essential to revisit the historic material found, including a previously unpublished painting by Bessie Belloc in the Boston archive. It forms another permanent legacy to support the stone itself, rather than that material remaining in my own head.” 

‘A South Downs Year - Creation of the Slindon Stone: The Sculptor’s Journal’; Jon Edgar
Hesworth Press 
limited edition of 300 ISBN 978-0-9558675-2-1 £10
or order direct for £11 posted info@jonedgar.co.uk

paypal http://paypal.me/1JE

Wednesday, 21 December 2016


December requires a Christmas essay. In the back of my somewhat unremembering mind, I recalled seeing an essay of Belloc on Christmas. After looking through a number of Belloc books, I finally located his essay, "A Remaining Christmas", in the Penguin Selected Essays. Somehow, the date of this essay is not given in the list of acknowledgments that J. B. Morton gave about the essays' sources. I have not had time to check further, but that is not so important here when we deal with timeless things that happen in time.

After I began the essay, I realized, of course, that I had read this lovely essay before. In fact, the title of the Chapter on Belloc in my Another Sort of Learning is taken from this essay -- "The Immortality of Mortal Man." Indeed, this curious juxtaposition of mortality and immortality is what Belloc called a "shocking, and intolerable and, even in the fullest sense, abnormal thing." Christmas for Belloc was something that made this thoroughly wrenching situation of immortal beings who still die to become somewhat "explicable, tolerable, and normal." How so?

''A Remaining Christmas" is about a man and his home. It is about a place wherein the things that change, and rapidly change, can find themselves confronted with things that do not change, with things that are. The very first sentence in Belloc's essay alerts us to our condition: "The world is changing very fast, and neither exactly for the better or the worse, but for division." The title of the essay "A Remaining Christmas" gains its wording from the question that people ask, even more at the end of the century than in Belloc's time, "how much remains of the observance and of the feast and its customs?" Belloc's essay is essentially an account of a single traditional Christmas. It takes place in an ancient house, the older parts of which date from the fourteenth Century. It is a mile in the countryside. Off the central upper room of the house is "a chapel where Mass is said." The house is constructed of oak and brick. In the fireplace, only oak is burned.

In this large upper room is a huge oaken table which was originally built for an Oxford college, but looted from there by the Puritans. It was finally purchased from the family that inherited it from the Reformation. This table was made "while Shakespeare was still living, and the whole faith of England still hung in the balance; for one cannot say that England was certain to lose her Catholicism finally till the first quarter of that (17th) century was passed." The room was light with candles, "the proper light for men's eyes", as Belloc rightly put it.

This is how Christmas eve is spent in this house. On the morning of that Eve, large quantities of holly and laurel are collected from nearby trees and lots of the farm. Every room in the house is decorated with fresh smelling leaves, berries, needles, and boughs. A Christmas tree twice the size of a man is set up, to which little candles are affixed. Presents are there for all the children of the village, household members, and guests.

At five o'clock, already dark in England that time of year, the village children come into the house with the candles burning on the tree. There is first a common meal. Next the children come to the tree where each is given a silver coin and a present. Then the children dance and sing game songs. Belloc does not see this as quaint or accidental: "The tradition of Christmas here is what it should be everywhere, knit into the very stuff of the place; so that I fancy the little children, when they think of Bethlehem, see it in their minds as though it were in the winter depths of England, which is as it should be." The coming of Christ to Bethlehem is also His coming to the winter depths of England.

There is a Crib with animals, stars, shepherds, and the Holy Family. The children sing their carol at the Crib -- "the one they know best begins, 'The First Good Joy that Mary had, it was the joy of One.'" I am sorry I do not know that carol. After the carols, all leave except the members of the household. The household dines, and, with the Christmas fast, await Midnight Mass. The Yule log is carried in, so large that it takes two men to carry it. It is put on the great hearth. If it lasts all night and is still shouldering in the morning, this is supposed to be good fortune to the family. At Midnight, there is Mass and all take Communion.

All sleep late the next day to await the great Christmas dinner at midday. There is "turkey; and a plum pudding, with holly in it and everything conventional, and therefore satisfactory." The great feast lasts most of the rest of the day. Of the critics of these things, Belloc says, in an aside, that "they may reprove who will; but for my part I applaud." Then follow the twelve days of Christmas, ending with the Epiphany. All the greenery is to remain till this Day of the Magi, but by the end of that day, nothing is to remain. All the greenery is burned in a coppice reserved for these Christmas trees, "which have done their Christmas duty; and now, after so many years, you might almost call it a little forest, for each tree has lived, bearing witness to the holy vitality of unbroken ritual and inherited things." This unbroken ritual and the inherited things are our defense against meaningless change and our reminder that trees too are living vestiges of the work of God.

On New Year's, the custom was to open all the windows and doors of the house so, they say, that "the old year and its burdens can go out and leave everything new for hope and for the youth of the coming time." Some folks say this is superstition, but, Belloc pointed out, it is as old as Europe and goes back to forgotten times. At Midnight, all go outside to listen hushed for the arrival of the New Year. The people wait the boom of a gun in a distant village to be sure that Midnight has arrived. The bells of the churches ring. When the bells cease, there is a silence. Then all go inside, the doors are shut, and all drink a glass.

Not merely death, but many things die and change all the time, and we can hardly bear this reality -- "all the bitterness of living." And yet in this ritual, it all becomes "part of a large business which may lead to Beatitude." All these events of life are connected "holy day after holy day, year after year, binding the generations together."

In this house that celebrates what remains of Christmas, all the tragedies and joys of life have occurred within its rooms and halls. "But its Christmas binds it to its own past and promises its future; making the house an undying thing of which those subject to mortality within it are members, sharing in its continuous survival." The immortality of mortal men -- Belloc sees in this ancient house with its tradition, with its yearly celebration of Christmas, a way to bear the our lot, with the beloved things that change and pass. "There is this great quality in the unchanging practice of Holy Seasons, that it makes explicable, tolerable and normal what is otherwise a shocking and intolerable and even in the fullest sense, abnormal thing. I mean the mortality of immortal man."

Without these rituals of Christmas, their unchanging practice, we see that what is in fact shocking and intolerable and abnormal becomes inexplicable, becomes our lot and our culture. This is the nature of our times. We can no longer explain ourselves to ourselves. In failing to understand our immortality, we do not understand our mortality. And at Christmas, which we should see, as Belloc did, in our family tradition, such that Christ could also have come to the wintery depths of England, or to anywhere, we find in the Nativity the response to both our mortality and our immortality, in the Child with His parents, while the neighboring children sing, the carol I do not know, "The First Good Joy that Mary had; it was the joy of One."

From Schall on Belloc, Generally Speaking, December, 1996.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Secret Shore Project: Smuggling, Folklore, South Coast Songs and Shanties. CD and book...

There have been two very interesting Secret Shore Project developments recently...

Firstly, Chris Hare will be launching his book Smuggling and Folklore in Sussex and Hampshire on the 30th of November at the Beechwood Hall Hotel at 7.30pm in Worthing.

Chris will be giving an illustrated talk about the book and also about how the research was undertaken. He will introduce some of the researchers and explain how important their work was in the writing of the book.

Two hundred years ago the coast of Sussex and Hampshire were alive with the illegal activities of local smuggling gangs. In this book, Chris recounts the real events of those days including the bloody confrontations that frequently took place between the smugglers and the authorities.

This book also delves into the folklore of the south coast and contrasts a survey of local superstitions carried out by pioneering folklorist, Charlotte Latham in Sussex in 1868, with the findings of the Secret Shore folklore survey carried out in 2015.

The book is lavishly illustrated and will make ideal Christmas gift. Copies can be ordered from here 

Secondly, the Project has launched a CD of Traditional songs & shanties of the South Coast towns. They are brought to life by local singers who learnt them at workshops run by Emily Longhurst and Chris Hare, as part of the Secret Shore project managed by the South Downs Society. The words to all the songs are included inside, so that you can learn them yourself.

The Secret Shore project, managed by the South Downs Society, was funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund and this CD is the culmination of the project.

Copies of the book can be ordered here.

Well done Chris!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

BBC footage of the recent Belloc walk in Sussex...

Further to the last post you can watch the BBC South programme which, amongst other things, contains footage of the recent Belloc Walk here.