Cissbury Ring, North of Worthing, is the site of an iron age hill fort. It’s well situated with stunning views of the surrounding downs. It was a hive of activity until the dark ages. Back in the iron age people were mining flint through the chalky soil. The Romans didn’t make full use of it but they had a temple there. All dust now, of course. Chalk and scrub. A destination for a walk.
It’s just a few miles from Chanctonbury Ring, but feels completely different. Chanctonbury feels holy and still. Cissbury feels busy and practical. It doesn’t have the scent of a place of power. Just geography.
There are ponies up there, free to wander the hillside biting back the scrub. Apparently they are a reintroduction after the Romans ate or put the original ones to work. Their munching and their wandering is helping the ecology up there. I’m not sure we were though, trudging through chalky mud in our great big clumpy boots. We went the wrong way, so ended up vaulting fences. By the time we were on the right track we had mud everywhere. The chalky mud has a good squelch to it. Eventually we hit the ring. At Chanctonbury the ring is around a stand of trees – oxen and mushrooms and something ancient in the dark. This ring tracks round the foundations of the iron age fort – it was built up back in the day like Offa’s Dyke, and modern councils have opted to shore it up with chicken wire rather than put fences around it to stop us walking. Good on them.
You’d never normally find it so crowded on a Wednesday. Fuck all else to do these days. Lou and I would likely have been there anyway, but it was surprisingly good to see so many families enjoying a walk in nature. That’s an effect of this shitshow that could be described as positive. Much as I miss the cinemas and all the joys of indoor fun, some people will have good ingrained habits of getting the hell out of the house and looking at a tree. The kids seemed to be actually enjoying themselves, absolutely covered in shit and gleefully howling at each other. We enjoyed ourselves too, also covered in shit, also howling. You can see Lou’s flat from up there. It’s good to have a car – invaluable in this bollocks.
I guess when everything gets a shot in the arm some groups will look back on the simple things that have come out of this. The parties on Hampstead Heath in summer that would normally be in pubs. The long walks with family without anybody moaning because they’d rather be indoors doing whatever. There’s plenty of beauty in the world around us, and we can get there without anybody shouting at us. Ok, getting out of the UK might be about to get much harder, and we’ve already got enough on our plate. But going to the ancient sites near your home – (there’ll be something) – even if they aren’t that magical they can be a powerful way to take your daily permitted exercise and connect with the past. Maybe you’ll find a portal to somewhere better…