Archives for category: South Downs

Bobtails, swallow’s breast,

Old man’s beard frosts the trees –

A white autumn.


(c) Jackie Le Poidevin

The area of Eastbourne at the foot of Beachy Head is called Holywell. The name comes from a spring that seeps through the cliffs and emerges underneath a chalk outcrop known as Pinnacle Point. Most of the springwater is now collected at a pumping station next to the point, and only a trickle comes out on the beach at a little grotto.

Holywell is pronounced “Hollywell”, so no one knows if people once thought the site was holy or if the well was simply near a holly tree. But it certainly feels magical, far removed in time from the town’s apartments and ice-cream kiosks. When I was out walking there a couple of days ago, there was a guy playing an alpine horn (one of those horns that’s so long the base rests on the ground) in front of the grotto, which was unexpected! Even more surprising, there were flowers growing on the cliff face, including several of these blue spikes. I believe they’re Viper’s Bugloss or Echium Vulgare.

Photo 23-05-2015 16 12 25

I was particularly struck by this one pointing towards the pinnacle.

pinnacle point

Well’s miracle,

Chalk towers flowering blue,

Pinnacle points.


(c) Jackie Le Poidevin

Linked to Carpe Diem: A lovely name. Holywell and Pinnacle Point are certainly both lovely names but none of the Echium’s many names do it justice – it’s also called blueweed, adderwort, blue devil and snake flower, among other things.

High on a chalk ridge

Too few to weave a garland –

Ophelia’s orchid.


(c) Jackie Le Poidevin

For Carpe Diem: On a mountain path

We found a few of these flowers on the South Downs Way today between Eastbourne and Jevington and believe they are the Early-Purple Orchid or the “Long Purple” as described by Gertrude in Hamlet:

There is a willow grows askant the brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead-men’s-fingers call them.
There on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like awhile they bore her up;
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element. But long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.

And here is Ophelia, as painted by Millais.

Sir John Everett Millais, Bt ‘Ophelia’, 1851–2

Muttering hoarsely

Bent under ragged cloak

A wandering crow.


(c) Jackie Le Poidevin

For Carpe Diem: Wandering Crow

A felled beech

Overgrown with moss

Ever green.


(c) Jackie Le Poidevin

For Carpe Diem: buried in moss

Downland drizzle –

Behind his shower curtain,

Does the Long Man sing?


(c) Jackie Le Poidevin


For Carpe Diem: Misty Showers

The watercolour is by Eric Ravilious.

Chalk headland,

A block breaks away –

France-bound ferry.


(c) Jackie Le Poidevin


Showy daffodils

Trumpet through the parks, snowdrops

Throng in sheltered glens.


On wind-blown clifftop,

Only ‘shrinking’ violet

Dares to flower.


Low under hawthorn,

Without fanfare she unfurls

Her tiny, bold buds.


(c) Jackie Le Poidevin

For Carpe Diem: Violet

I hadn’t been planning to write anything for this prompt but we were walking on the Seven Sisters (a row of chalk cliffs overlooking the English Channel) yesterday. The sun had gone in, the wind had picked up and it was feeling rather bracing. So I was amazed to spot, sheltering under a low bush, a patch of violets – and it’s not even mid-March yet.

The term ‘shrinking violet’ was apparently coined by the poet Leigh Hunt.


Startled sheep

Survey flooded fields –

New flocks.

(c) Jackie Le Poidevin

For Carpe Diem: Meadow

Commuter-belt home –

Family of house martins

Resides mortgage-free.


(c) Jackie Le Poidevin

For Carpe Diem: House

The coat of arms of East Sussex is six gold martlets (stylised house martins or swallows) on a red background, with a  silver wavy line representing the coastal boroughs of Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings, and a Saxon crown. They look like pigeons to me but there you go.




Sussex artist Mark Greco’s illustration of house martins, on the other hand, is lovely –