Dick Freeman

A part of my heart will always be at Furlongs Farm, on the South owns near Lewes. Childhood holidays there were a truly formative experience for me. It is still an area where I feel utterly at one with the world.

Back in 1969 I was introducing my girlfriend (now wife) to the delights of the place and had driven her down there at lambing time. We went to the farm and there was Dick Freeman, the tenant farmer, tending his charges just at the back of the cottage.

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Dick was a true countryman. On the face of it he led a rough sort of life, occupying one room of this lonely cottage and sometimes heading off to a sister’s house a mile or so away. The cottage had limited amenities. Water was available but electricity and sewerage were not. I’m afraid I wouldn’t know the extent of Dick’s travels. Many a blog these days seems to imply you are incomplete if you don’t travel. Dick proved otherwise. Here was a wise and knowledgeable man on all sorts of issues. This was not just local knowledge. It truly was worldwide. Looking at the scruffy old man in the photo, you’d be amazed to know how many friends Dick had, but if you joined him, sitting on a log around his roaring fire, you’d have seen his wall of postcards which people he knew sent him. Amongst his friends were top rated artists for the bulk of his cottage was let out to such people. They kept in touch afterwards. My dad may not have been in that league, but from the time we got a car and sometimes went elsewhere for a few days, Dick always got a card from him.

I really couldn’t tell you where Dick picked up information, but I can tell you he was woefully lacking in knowledge of local bird life. Small birds in hedgerows had a generic name. Dick called them all linnets.

Time moves on. Dick and his wider family are no more. The cottage is let to I know not who and there is not the same incentive to visit. I find it hard to be a stranger in a place I once saw, almost, as home. However, the nearby field, where we camped is in a right to roam area and that retains all its old magic for me.

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