Posted 23 June 2014 by Andrew Gardner
"When standing at the entrance of his dugout he looked north and saw, or dreamed he saw, Sussex, with her gentle downs scattered with sheeplike grey boulders, and thorn trees bent and wracked by the wind, and the sheltering folds where the wind never came"
These beautiful words come from Helen, the widow of war poet Edward Thomas: when he travelled to fight on the Western Front, she said, among the things he carried were the memories of his "South Country"; and he wasn't really a Sussex man, just one who'd been touched by its landscape.
It's only fair to attribute my discovery of them to Robert Macfarlane's inspiring book The Old Ways, my current wind-down, evening read. Macfarlane's fascination is with the impact landscape has on mind and being. He tells us that Virginia Woolf compared "striding the crest of the Downs to flying through the air" and I love his own interpretation of this: "There is little to impede the free movement of the eye or the presumed free movement of the body: no ravine or cliff that might detain you, few forests to tangle your sight. The repetition of the down-form suggests infinite distance and unlimited regress."
Hardly surprising, then, that he picks up on the work of Sussex artist Eric Ravilious, whose work often featured paths - a deep lane here, a garden path there - and the changing light that could alter the landscape in a glimmer; the interaction between movement and light that create "the sensation of occupying a space between two worlds". I missed the brief Ravilious exhibition at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester last winter but have seen several of his lithographs displayed in the Print Room there - and this vibrant gallery is always worth a visit. Now it's time to explore Sussex for yourself, tread those pathways, revel in the changing light... we have the perfect holiday cottage or romantic retreat to start from, so if you haven't already booked your holiday in Sussex , click here to have a look at our tempting offers now.