It was a couple of days after the funeral of my sister that we (my wife and I) visited Furlongs. It was an emotional visit for me because Furlongs was where we camped each year from 1954 for at least 15 years. A little ledge on the South Downs was, and remains, a very important place for me. I know I spent about 6 months of my life there, over those years. They were six summer months and six months which did a huge amount to form who I am. In fact it did much to form who we were as a family of which I am now the sole survivor. Actually, there are a couple of other family members who ‘camped’. One is my wife although she was a mere girlfriend back then. The other is my dad’s second wife. I won’t say that camp had quite such an impact on them but at least I can still share experiences with them.
And there are other survivors too. There’s a past boyfriend of my sister who spent some time with us one year and there are day visitors some of whom remain good friends of mine.
Anyway, this post is about my rather emotional return to the camp site we loved just those couple of days after that funeral.
We found a spot from where we could look down on ‘our’ ledge.
Sheep used to graze the field by day and that meant it was a smoother shorter grass sward generally with less shrubbery on the hillside beyond.
I, of course, made my way to the ledge.
And that’s me with our ‘classic’ view of Mount Caburn across the valley made by Glynde Reach. That view can just take me to a state of happiness as enjoyed by me as a child up to 60 years ago. I can point out changes but essentially, it looks very much the same.
I think my sister must have taken this 1954 picture. The four people I see in it are me, my mum, my dad and my brother.
There are no tents, of course, in 2014.
A zoom in on a passing train (a mile away in Glynde) reveals differences.
The most notable one would be the streetlamps along the main road. Back in the 50s and 60s it was a dark world at night. There was a spot where cars (occasional of course) came over Ranscombe Hill on the road where the headlights pointed straight at us at camp. For an instant it was possible to read a book by that light from a couple of miles away.
By the way, my dad attempted a photo of a train back in 1954.
Interestingly, 60 years on I can tell you this was a train going from London to Hastings without going in to Eastbourne. The make up of the carriages makes it clear to me.
This, then, was our ledge, where we camped each year and where I spent 6 months of my life.
I was pleased to find a September flowering scabious.
Another view of our camp ledge, this time from one of the arable fields.
Now Eric Ravilious produced a picture (Downs in Winter) from a similar spot which shows our ledge
I decided I’d match his 1934 picture with a 2014 Cambridge roller which was actually elsewhere in the same field. So the picture below is edited and has the roller added.
Well, the rollers have certainly got bigger in 80 years!