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Oral Histories

Oral Histories

People’s knowledge and memories are as important a part of our history as the archaeology in the ground. As part of our Secrets of the High Woods project we have collected stories to reveal the history hiding in plain view around us.

Inspirational local nature writer Richard Williamson shared his memories from a fifty-year career setting up the nature reserve, removing unexploded bombs and recording butterflies at Kingley Vale.  Listen to extracts from Richard’s interview.

Peter West lives and works in East Dean and shares a business, Wests of East Dean, with his brother where they make a huge range of wooden products. He shared the history of his family’s business, his adventures growing up in the woods and the different types of wood. Listen to extracts from Peter’s interview.

Adrian Hill got into forestry by ‘circumstance’ having come from a farming family. He left school at 14 and started work milking cows on the Eartham Estate but filled time doing estate work such as fencing, tree limbing and small amounts of tree thinning. When the estate stopped farming he became self-employed. Listen to extracts from Adrian’s interview.

You can listen here to more extracts from the oral history interviews recorded for the project.

These extracts, from 24 interviewees who either live, work or have strong connections to the wooded parts of the South Downs National Park cover themes including the specialness of the Downs, landscape management, farming, working in the Downs, coppicing, tree species, uses of wood, storms in the 1980s, threats to the woodland, deer, relationships, the secret army and World War 2, life in the Downs, and childhood in the Downs.


"The Downs...too much for one pair of eyes, enough to float a whole population in happiness."