I’ve lived more than half life now in Sussex, a county I came to almost by accident and certainly without considering it more than a temporary stop, and while I went through a period of moving every 6 months or so it’s always been within the same 14 mile circle of Brighton, Falmer and for the majority of the time as now, in Lewes.
I admit before I lived here I never really thought much about Sussex. Despite my Dad coming from Brighton and trips down this way to the coast it never really registered as all that different from the Surrey I was growing up in, but there’s something about it which seems to connect with people in a way few other places do. I now find it hard to imagine living in a different town to Lewes, and if I did I can’t imagine leaving Sussex. It goes deep now, family and school and Bonfire and the people in it strengthening the roots I’ve put down here as each year goes by and what I’ve found hard elsewhere – the impossibility of going anywhere without seeing someone I know – has become something I love about Lewes.
There’s a Tennyson quote I like a lot:
“You came, and looked and loved the view
Long-known and loved by me,
Green Sussex fading into blue
With one gray glimpse of sea.”
and I’m lucky that I can leave my front door and within a 4 minute walk be on the South Downs with a view exactly like that: the sea to my left, Firle Beacon behind and the iron age hill fort of Mount Caburn and uninterrupted hills for miles in several directions. There are days I walk back over the hills and through the valleys in the Downs from work in Brighton – around 10 miles – a route I don’t think I’ll ever tire of even as jobs change.
And then there’s the song sung on the way to and from Bonfire outmeetings, and outside the Swan on the 5th:
“For we’re the men from Sussex
Sussex by the Sea,
We plough and sow and reap and mow,
And useful men are we:
And when you come to Sussex,
Whoever you may be,
You can tell them all that we’ll stand or fall
For Sussex by the Sea.”