MADhurst and South Downs National Park Short Story Competition Winning Stories
Here are the three winning stories in each age category for the MADhurst and South Downs National Park Short Story Competition 2021. Enjoy!
A South Downs Adventure: City Girl to Country Girl – Ottie Smith, aged 7
Choo Choo! It was a big day for Bella. She was going to her cousin’s house in the South Downs. Her mum who was now preoccupied helping sick patients in hospital because of the pandemic, waved her goodbye. She was going to miss her lots! She was also going to miss the house, smells and bright lights of London. The countryside sounded boring!
When the train reached Haslemere she saw her cousin waiting for her outside. She hadn’t anticipated that she would bring a tandem bicycle! Emily had a surprise for her, they were going on a camping adventure to explore the South Downs! Boring fields thought Bella.
First they cycled to Cowdray Ruins, an ancient castle destroyed by fire and treasure hunters. It was getting late and they set up their camp under the dark night skies, they decided to star gaze. In the morning they woke to see wooded hills and steep valleys cloaked in woodlands.
Bella was starting to think that the countryside wasn’t boring after all. Just then fluttering past her came an Adonis Blue butterfly over the grasslands. Bella and Emily chased after it until they reached a glistening stream full of fish. Suddenly they heard a noise and looked up. There on the other side of the riverbank was a beautiful otter!
After breakfast they set out on their bicycle down leafy country lanes. What Bella didn’t know was that Emily had another surprise waiting for her. They were going horse riding. They climbed on the horses which were magnificent and rode until they reached the South Downs ridge. Here they spotted buzzards riding the thermals above. The views were breath-taking and they could see all the way to the coast.
The adventure continued in this way over the weeks that followed. Together Bella and Emily explored the South Downs from Amberley Museum to pebbled beaches and the chalk cliffs at Seven Sisters. By now Bella no longer missed the bright lights of London and had grown to love the South Downs! Maybe her time away had taught her about the beauty of the countryside.
When her mum was no longer so busy in the hospital Bella was asked to go home. She arrived at Haslemere station with tears in her eyes. “Don’t worry” said Emily “there is always more fun and adventures to be had here next holiday!”
2nd prize winner
A Dreamy Day at Kingley Vale – Henry Hayes, aged 7
Once upon a time there was a boy called William. His Mummy and Daddy were going on a picnic with him. His Mummy had made a marvellous lunch with all of his favourites. She had made a lot of sandwiches, ten cupcakes, two apples and a bowl of fruit salad. He was daydreaming about dinosaurs with sharp teeth and claws and giant horns.
Suddenly when his Mummy and Daddy were both looking at their phones he ran into a Forest with giant, ancient, mythical trees. He kept on walking until he had reached the middle of the forest. There he saw an extremely large and very ancient tree with a hole under one of its enormous roots. William was peering down into it then he accidentally lent forward too far and fell in. William kept falling for ten minutes and then landed onto something hard. It was a long, thin, emerald green thing. William started to walk along it when it started to move and he wobbled and fell over. He started crawling forwards and as he did he thought he saw some hills in the distance but then he saw some horns on them. He then looked back at the long thin thing he had fell off and saw that it had a face and as he approached the hills he realised that they were in fact hundreds and hundreds of dinosaurs.
William had always loved dinosaurs but he never actually wanted to see them. William walked along another long green thing and then closed his eyes and jumped off but instead of hitting the floor he fell onto something. He opened his eyes and saw a pterodactyl. The pterodactyl flew through the hole from which William fell and flew upwards very quickly. William got to the top and said “thank you”. The dinosaur replied, “You are very special. Not many people can talk to dinosaurs or find us. It is because you look around and see beauty and nature. Adults don’t see us, as they are too busy doing boring things. It is important to go out on walks and see the beautiful world, as you never know what you might fall in! I will give you a present to remember me”. Then she gave him a small talon.
He found himself lying on the picnic blanket. “You’ve had a long sleep” his Mummy said to him. Then William saw a scratch mark on the large ancient tree. It spelt my name is Sienna and below it was a claw mark. He asked his Mummy what it was but his Mummy replied “what’s what?” William reached into his pocket and felt a talon.
3rd prize winner
The Mystery of Cowdray Castle – Audrey Laver, aged 9
It was a dark night and a shimmering crescent moon hung lonely. As the owl hooted, Olive stared up at the peeling pale pink wallpaper, then a creak came from the other side of the room and paper fell onto her bed. Olive brushed the paper off her and stood sleepily up.
“Matilda, was that you?” Olive stammered.
“No, it wasn’t” Matilda her twin replied from out of the eerie evening light.
There was another creak.
“Helloooo!” Olive’s voice echoed around the room.
But just then the flickering wax candle went out.
Meanwhile a shadow crept across the squeaky old oak floorboards, but then as if by magic it was gone!
The girls tiptoed quietly down the narrow wooden staircase, but as they looked in every nook and cranny over and over again they started to think he had gone to Cowdray Castle (as they knew it was surely haunted) and so they wandered out the navy front door. As they stumbled outside , the trees whispered as a breeze whipped past them, the girls noticed the further they went the darker it got.
“Oww!” Olive cried, for some reason she had bumped into something hard and rocky.
“Umm, I think we’ve made it.” Matilda said nervously.
Then they looked around and didn’t find the shadows, but then they heard the rustle of a bush, so very, very quietly they walked across the sandy bridge and over to the bush, where they found a small little squirrel.
“Phew, I thought it was something big” Olive whispered, so as not to scare the poor creature. But when the girls tried to go home they didn’t know which way to go, so they stayed till midnight to try then.
The bell chimed as midnight struck, and from a street lamp the light was whisked away and carried over to the cold stone of Cowdray Castle, then the magic began.
“Woah, what’s happened here?” Olive wondered aloud.
“What happened?” Matilda yawned.
“Look you dummy” Olive murmured
“I!” Matilda shouted.
Suddenly the lights flickered in the top window and then the others until the whole castle was lit up. Olive and Matilda stood up and gazed at what used to be ruins but now a wonderful castle.
They went into the castle and found it like how it would have been in 1793. Then floating in mid air they sound a potion saying drink me, and so they drank it and found themselves in the same castle but it looked newer.
“I think we’ve gone back in time” Matilda exclaimed,
“Ohh yeah I think you’re right, but hang on what’s that burning smell?”
“I don’t know”
“Ohh no I think we’re back in the 1790’s” Olive backed away from where the smell was coming from.
“Help!” Someone shouted from round the corner
“Come on, let’s go!!” Olive went round the corner, but only to find herself back at the old bridge with Matilda sitting next to her.
A Place to Remember – Holly Lambert, aged 11
Aria tumbled out of bed, hitting her alarm violently as she flung herself over to her wardrobe. She tugged on a pair of old dungarees and stripy top and pulled her hair into a messy bun. She picked up her silver locket, engraved with an azure blue swirly A and did up the clasp. She grabbed her large black satchel and started rapidly packing; torch, blanket, hoody, three apples, a packet of plain digestives, phone, charger and a map. She also packed a small red purse with a gold clasp and put a handful of coins – enough for the train ride.
She looked at the dirty window, condensation dripped down slowly creating a small puddle on the windowsill. She looked out at the busy London Street and sighed. She had to get away. She opened the door silently, her keys jangling in the red coat pocket. She stepped out the door and mounted her scarlet red bike. She placed her satchel in the wicker basket. She took one last breath at the polluted London air and pubs and the shouts and loud music of the teenagers down at the park and set off down the road. The bright streetlights shone all around her and she could barely hear any bird song.
She boarded a bus followed by a train and finally made it to the tiny village called Amberley. She had only been here once but she felt like she had lived here her whole life. Aria walked round past the quiet tearoom. She dodged past a handful of cyclists. Suddenly, a young boy around the age of 14, with chestnut brown hair and bright blue eyes, strolled past whistling a tune she could vaguely recognise but couldn’t put her finger on it. “Excuse me sir!” She called to the boy. “Yes?” Answered the boy. She looked down at her scuffed converse boots. “Do you know the way to the churchyard?” The boy pointed towards the lane filled with thatched cottages and cats roaming the streets.
She set off clutching her satchel, breathing in the sweet-smelling flowers. She arrived at the big stone and flint church and sighed. This was the moment she had been waiting for her whole life. She walked along the thin rows of graves, the ox-eye daisies waving their heads at her. She sat by the huge grave, the swirly writing spelt out Madeline Murray. Suddenly, it all came back to her, the smell of wildflowers, the squawks of the peacocks sitting high up on the wall. She remembered the hours she spent exploring the woods, making dens and splashing in the River Arun. Aria looked up at the trees tops and saw fragments of sun shining through like a broken glass bottle, spilling its contents. She heard the different calling from numerous birds the high-pitched whistles and low sounding chorus lines. She smelt the sweet smell of lavender and roses climbing up the wall of the red brick houses. This was it… this was always what she wanted… a place to remember….
2nd prize winner
Weavers Down (A Buzzards View) – Joshua Hermon-Taylor, aged 11
I caught a thermal and rose into the sky, soaring like my buzzard ancestors have mastered for years. The wind was strong and it blew the sandy soil below me, covering any potential prey’s tracks. Up and up I went, gliding just below the clouds, scanning the ground.
Something moved in the undergrowth. Before I could react, it scuttled into the cover of the tree. I moved on, settling in pine tree above a fallen log where a family sat – one man and three children, a picnic blanket in front of them and snacks in hand. They were regular visitors to my territory so I knew they meant no harm.
A steep, rocky slope lay beneath me and a forest stretched out behind me. Banks of sand surrounded a small lake. Humans on bicycles rode past me. “Hoooonk”, went the sound of a train in the distance.
It was getting late now, disappointed that I was not returning with any food for them, I started to head back to my nest to see my chicks. It would not be long now until they were ready to fledge. The sun shone in my eyes, forcing me to open them. A few miles away I saw a long row of fir trees. This formed the edge of my territory and I never ventured beyond it.
I flew over a field of acid grassland full of beautiful wild flowers swaying in the breeze. Flying further over heathland, purple heather, just coming into bloom, hid adders and nesting birds. On a sandy bank, a rare sand lizard bathed in the glorious sunshine.
A single rabbit lay just over the edge of the gorse bush. I rose up into the air like… well, like a buzzard, until I was directly above it. Suddenly, I dived, plummeting down at what felt like the speed of light. I extended my claws then “Aaaagh!” The rabbit scuttled into the gorse, leaving me with nothing to cushion my fall. With barely a split second to spare, I gracefully pulled up, skimming the ground for a moment. My heart was thundering in my chest.
I did not think there was enough food on this patch so I did the only logical thing to do, I went to the line of fir trees. As soon as I crossed it, I knew it was paradise, the true beauty of Weavers Down. Great oak trees flanked the firs and rabbit upon rabbit inhabited the area. There was more than enough food for all the buzzards.
I spotted a rabbit in the long grass, surrounded by cows. I swooped and twirled, shredding through the air like a propeller in water. My surroundings melted away, all I could see was my target as I grew closer. I lengthened my talons and… let’s just say, my chicks won’t go hungry tonight.
3rd prize winner
The Seven Sisters – Teddy Enrich, aged 12
I looked down to saw what could indefinitely be my fate. ‘Run!’ he bellowed, my legs were programmed to respond. Solid, booted feet pushing against soft yielding grass, a flurry of insects rose to greet me.
The gradient and gravity over took the chalky ground, and my shuffle became an uncontrolled downhill sprint. I could see the edge. Nearer and nearer. Every sound was drowned by the drumming of my heart in my ears.
Suddenly the resistance beneath my feet disappeared, I looked down to see my boots galloping but no longer touching the ground. My stomach flipped before we dipped and the wind whisked me upwards.
Only moments before, I had been standing at the centre of what looked to me like a bowl of spaghetti. The straps and strings circled around my feet, each leading to a mysterious clip or knotted junction. All threads converged upon my giant singular wing. The material had lain lifeless, only rippling occasionally when a gust of wind climbed the pale cliffs.
The gentle chattering of my instructor tried to calm my nerves. He was scrutinising every thread whilst feeding my subconscious vital instructions. I was hypnotised into a calm, so when his sudden command came, my shocked brain lagged behind my willing legs.
Now the force of friction was a distant memory. Up here the air ruled. A cool salty wind whipped around me, cutting into my cheeks, bringing tears to the corners of my eyes. But as we moved further away from the cliff edge, a thermal engulfed us, and we rose up, up, up.
The sun won the battle with the wind. Now we were soaring among the open expanse of the downs. Muffled laughter of happy people on the beach, and the gentle crashing of the waves were drifting further away.
‘Take the handle’ he commanded confidently. i was in control now. Sweeping and soaring. The Seven Sisters looked like mere rocks. As we swept over the crystal clear azure water, a sense of happiness filled me.
Nothing could have prepared me for the simultaneous joy and terror paragliding above the Seven Sisters would bring. I don’t want to talk about the descent that brought me down to earth. Not because the noise of land and humans once again crowded my ears. Not because of our crash landing into a gorse bush. But because I want to remain in that perfect suspension between man and bird, until the next time I fly among the Seven Sisters.
A reflection at the end of the world – Jude Tedder, aged 14
An awakening layer of peace glides from the ocean, fluttering in the wind before sitting beside me. I try to listen to its simple whisper, the methodical pulsing of the oceans’ waves. The godlike white walls encourage me to watch them prosper, and I happily surrender to their superiority. I take a deep breath in, and tune out of stress.
I tune into the bold, charismatic rhythm of the wind and the sea. The fire crackles and bursts with life, warming the night like a blanket on my soul. I sat by the end of the world, and wondered if I can rest any longer.
I can delay my future temporarily, but the simple fact is that life runs faster than me. The long time between now and the future is going to implode and I will be left with no way to move. Why is time like this? Why am I like this?
The Seven Sisters is the end of the horizon. It is the end of time. It is the end of everything. And it is a magnificent thing.
Why should I care about the future? I sit above the clouds, above the end of time, watching the perfection of life spring up with me.
I might have to do something about the future, but I will enjoy it.
Why am I like this? Because I want time to run at me.
2nd prize winner
The Sailor’s Coin – Matilda Gray, aged 16
The Coin had been dropped a long time ago. Almost long enough for it to forget the exact number of years, long enough for a good amount of soil to build up, but not quite long enough for it to forget … um, well. To be completely honest the coin had forgotten what it was meant to be remembering. But that was beside the point. The coin had been dropped. It still remembered that. The sinking, twisting feeling as it fell through the air and landed with a thud.
The poor coin was mortified, left for dead by the side of the road. At first it expected to be picked up, but long story short it wasn’t.
Coins aren’t usually stationary objects, they’re constantly being passed from hand to hand, going off on all sorts of wonderful adventures. It wasn’t long before the coin was very bored; after all it had nothing but the occasional worm for company.
This particular coin had seen many different hands in its time. It had travelled quite a distance, though it hadn’t seen much. Most of the journey had been spent bouncing up and down in a leather pouch (no one ever said travel was glamorous). It had missed the rolling hills, as well as patchwork fields, not to mention those small birds that seem to hang in the air only to suddenly dive towards the ground. The Hill on which the coin had fallen rose high above the rest, sloping proudly towards the sky. They say the devil lived nearby, that he had reached down and scooped a great bowl out of the earth.
Over the years the road was very busy, the coin felt many feet passing overhead, but still no hands reached down.
Many people walked along the road, merchants, sailors, even famous authors travelled that way. The last owner had been a sailor, his hands had been rough, cracked and raw from strenuous labour. The coin thought it remembered visiting an inn, the room had been loud; filled with the sickly-sweet scent of tobacco mixed with sweat and ale.
It was growing dark when they left, the last rays of gentle sunlight piercing the tree tops, the coin’s owner was not alone anymore, three other men had joined him. They exchanged only a few words as they climbed the hill, leaving the warm glow of the inn far behind.
The five of them were alone, the three men, the sailor and the coin.
Then the world turned upside down. The coin remembered falling, twisting and turning through the air only to land with a thud, a sickening reverberating thud.
The coin lay where the hand fell, left for dead by the side of the road.
The three men were sentenced to hang upon the hill, but the missing coin was never found.
Eventually a stone was placed where he fell, they say the stone is cursed. Perhaps the coin is too, but until it’s found we may never know.
3rd prize winner
Life in the Rain – Darcy De La Cruz, aged 14
A simple glass barrier, one that makes you feel isolated from the rest of the world. You could be millions of miles away, but you can see clearly.
As if the world were put in slow motion, he could recall the characters story. The elderly couples that sat for a good hour recalling life and laughing as it started to cloud-over. The young couple dancing together in the rain making sure to splash in the puddles. The Samoyed dog running loose relishing the feeling of freedom and enjoying cooling down in the rain, shaking its fluffy wet fur after swimming in the river.
Underneath a weeping willow tree, a girl sits in the grass reading a book. Her expression is calm and joyous while reading a classic Shakespearian novel about the impacts of unanswered love. She has no need to worry about the rain, the tree is protecting her from the downpour.
Tiny little droplets in a big rainstorm. The water flowing down the lake, boosting the ducklings down the stream. Mother duck pushing them along while winding through the reeds.
Yet, the artist sits alone among his canvas and paints. For him, time is frozen.
The artist is peacefully painting Arundel noticing every detail about the castle, painting piece by piece. The castle sits on the hill like a prized possession.
Then, as if by magic, the world slowly comes back alive, the birds continue their song, and the bees go from flower to flower. Finally, you know that the artist has finished and the paint on the canvas is left to dry.