Get chatting with a regular in the Bat and Ball pub in Hambledon, and you are likely to hear how the village was the birthplace of cricket. This was where the third stump was added to the wicket and the width of the bat decreed. Pause in Petworth high street to ponder the curious wrought iron streetlamp, and you’ll discover it was made by Sir Charles Barry, who also designed the Houses of Parliament. And if you find yourself in Midhurst as the sun goes down, some local wag may recount how John Wyndham based his terrifying novel The Midwitch Cuckoos in this market town. And that it was later filmed as the Village of the Damned.
Across the National Park are villages like these with stories to tell. The hymn “Morning Has Broken” was written in Alfriston. Alec Guinness’ favourite pub was the Harrow Inn in the Hampshire village of Steep. And in East Sussex, Plumpton is supposed to be the inspiration for Seventies children’s classic Trumpton.
In all 117,000 people live and work inside the South Downs’ boundaries, more than in any other national park. We buy local produce at one of the many weekly farmers’ markets. Attend gigs inside an independent record shop in Lewes. Sell artwork at studios in Selborne and Arundel. Enjoy tea and cakes at One Tree Books in Petersfield, winner of national bookshop of the year in 2010.
It’s this combination of countryside and community that makes the South Downs National Park distinct. The open spaces are ideal for an invigorating walk. Our towns and villages are perfect places to potter.