A Christmas eve walk

The day of the eve before Christmas
and all of us out for a walk
Taking in Sussex, the river and downs
for a jolly good laugh and a talk

Conversing about the things we have done
whilst out in the fair countryside
Dusting off cobwebs, eight miles or so
Family and friends to confide

And much later on at ‘The Lion’
we’ll put up our feet with a beer
The laughter is sure to continue
as we celebrate good Christmas cheer

©Jemverse

Photo – the traditional ‘Croucher family’ Christmas Eve walk – Jempics

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Adventure Planning

Around about this time of year
my brother Dave and me
Take maps and pens and paper
to our local hostelry
And there we’ll plan adventures
whilst sharing a fine ale
Recalling all we’ve had before
with memories to regale

It’s something to look forward to
now winter’s come to stay
A plan for when the springtime comes
and April’s turned to May
For then with backpacks we will go
for several happy days
Along the paths we’ve trod before
on splendid Sussex ways

©Jemverse

Photo – Jem & Dave Croucher, South Downs Way, Sussex, May 2017 – Jempics

Wild Rose

By a first morning light
in the sunshine out here
I took a walk in the woods
whilst the skies were still clear
and there in the hedgerow
where late hawthorn grows
I found the delicate pink
of a lovely wild rose

So I paused as you would
to admire it a while
before resuming my wander
for another long mile

©Jemverse

Photo – wild roses, Riseholme woods, Lincolnshire – Jempics

For the birds

On Ditching Down we found ourselves
‘For the Birds’ – a mystery tour
Part of the Brighton Festival
at midnight, what was more

A trail of lights led up the hill
which we followed to the crest
all adding to the mystery
which put us to the test

And all was really quiet
as we delved into the trees
The darkness all consuming
The moment there to seize

Then gradually the sound of birds
or something up ahead
A whistling and a chirping
it could, I think, be said

What followed was incredible
magnificent and more
as we discovered installations
in the woods upon our tour

Celebrating feathered things
and magical to see
It was truly an experience
to fill our hearts with glee

©Jemverse

For the Birds‘ – a meditative and immersive journey through a secret South Downs woodland location – took place during the annual Brighton Arts Festival in May 2017.  It was a self-guided journey through a wild landscape at night, transforming woodland and downland with a series of thirty-something bespoke light and sound installations produced by some of the most dynamic sound artists currently working in the UK. It was, without a doubt, the most magical and beautiful experience I’ve had in a very long while. Truly breathtaking.

Photo – ‘Swanee Whistles’ by Kathy Hinde – Jempics

Achievement and Pride

We’ve walked a hundred miles
my brother Dave and me
The South Downs Way from Winchester
to Eastbourne by the sea
And when we reached the signpost
at the end we both agreed
that the feeling of achievement
was very good indeed

We’ve puffed and we have panted
up some really big, steep hills
But the views have been rewarding
with amazement yes, and thrills
And the fact that we have done this
over ten days as a guide
turns the word ‘achievement’
into one that’s tinged with pride

©Jemverse

Photo – Dave & Jem Croucher at the end of the South Downs Way at ‘The Kiosk’ on Eastbourne Promenade – Jempics

Day Five (Alfriston to Eastbourne)

And just when we needed the sunshine
there it was just like a friend
to enrich us and encourage
and spur us to the end

Warm and bright and wholesome
with reflections on the sea
as we crossed the Seven Sisters
my brother Dave and me

And as we neared Eastbourne
as all good friends just should
it stayed as our companion
as we always hoped it would

©Jemverse

Over five days, starting on Tuesday 2 May, my brother and I walked the second half of the South Downs Way – from Washington in West Sussex to Eastbourne in East Sussex. Day five was from Alfriston to Eastbourne.

Photo – three of the ‘Seven Sisters’ from the top of ‘Rough Brow’  – Jempics. The ‘Seven Sisters’ (Haven, Short, Rough, Brass, Flagstaff, Flat and Baily’s Brows) are a series of high chalk cliffs bordering the English Channel in Sussex and part of the long distance ‘South Downs Way’. An eighth ‘sister’ is currently forming – ‘West Hill Brow’ – as a result of coastal erosion.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little capture of the ‘South Downs Way’ as much as my brother Dave and I have enjoyed walking it. We’re dedicating all eleven poems to Peter Owen-Jones, another lover of Sussex and presenter of the BBC documentary ‘South Downs: England’s Mountains Green’

And here are the links to the other ten poems in the series and reflecting all 100 miles of the South Downs Way from Winchester to Eastbourne:

Day Four (Rodmell to Alfriston)

Arriving here at Alfriston
we found the Smugglers Inne
A sixteenth century ale house
for the sale of beer and gin
And although it’s not imposing
many secrets here it hides
for behind its small exterior
more than twenty rooms inside

And more than forty doors
with six staircases to boot
All there to fool the Customs Men
when hiding all the loot
For us though there was purpose
which provided lots of cheer
A welcome stopping point to rest
and have a well-earned beer

©Jemverse

Over five days, starting on Tuesday 2 May, my brother and I walked the second half of the South Downs Way – from Washington in West Sussex to Eastbourne in East Sussex. Day four was from Rodmell to Alfriston.

The Smugglers Inne at Alfriston has late 16th century origins and was originally called ‘The Crossstone Beerhouse’. In the early 19th century it was home to one Stanton Collins, the leader of the Alfriston gang of smugglers, who extensively remodelled its interior to provide hiding places and boltholes from the Customs Men. It has 21 rooms, 48 doors and 6 staircases. Photo – Jempics.

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