Wherever he traveled, he yearned for The South Country, where his breath would be snatched “along the sky the line of the Downs, So noble and so bare.”
He was a prodigious walker who won his bride after tramping after her half way across America. He chronicled his hearty hikes and mellow conversations in Sussex courtesy of countless books, after settling in 1907 at King’s Land, Shipley, near Horsham. This he discovered while out cycling and bagged this dreamy home for £1,000, complete with windmill (familiar to television viewers as home of Jonathan Creek).
Belloc’s great fear was that the charm he found in Sussex was dying. And despite the best attempts of folk musicians and storytellers, some of the songs and legends are as lost to us as the birds that once chirruped contentedly along our path. Other changes are surely for the better: when Belloc wrote, the countryside was in the grip of recession, and he found large swathes of Sussex abandoned. It is hard now to imagine just what a poor county it was, so whilst we might lament the closure of the village shop or the conversion of a pub to a Chinese restaurant, not to mention the thrum of traffic, Belloc would be astounded by the prosperity.
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