Green fields and blue skies on the South Downs Way

Christmas is coming!

24th December 2014

The run up to Christmas is always busy. There is a rush to get projects finished off and loose ends tied up before everyone breaks up and lets their hair down. Over this last couple of weeks I've been trying to finish organising some clearance and surfacing works, finishing a long list of new sign installations and drawing up plans for a new signage scheme on part of the trail. This time of year also means gathering data on work achieved over the last quarter and looking ahead at the next and final quarter of the financial year.

Unusally for me I have spent quite a few days out of the office with the assistant trail officer and National Park Rangers installing new signs and clearing back vegetation. Really getting my hands dirty. This is very important as it reinforces my motivations for improving the South Downs Way. I am also drafting an updated management plan for the trail, which will outline what we want to achieve over the next 5 years, so motivation and remembering what is important is more valuable than ever. Look out for a consultation on the new plan in the new year.

If you need any further inspiration or motovation to get out and exlplore the South Downs then this second poem from Lizzie Ballagher should help.


Beach Book, Bird Book

No fiction, this!

Table of contents:

Item, cover of pebbledash, grist & gravel;

Item, countless undulating lines of ship-wrecked bladder-wrack;

Item, cowry shells edited out by the sea’s sharp tongue

And empty now, curled round a salty void.

Item, blotting pads of sponge absorbing nothing

From the bleaching, half-deleted pages of the beach:


Once this was a gilt-edged book, no doubt,

Though not a volume I can so far read

With wavy watermarks along the spine

And jumbled punctuation, pitter-patter

Of bird-claws; the jabbing, jabbering

Commas & colons, dashes & full stops

Of dunlin & sanderling & bunting

Scuttling with delicate feet to scribe

Precise but crazed calligraphy

Across sand-scribbled folios.


But here’s a wonder!

Against the sky’s blue-ink-washed sheet

Four stilted illustrations of curlews stand upper case,

Statue-still by water’s lowering tide,

With curving beaks for quills & bubbling lamentations

No book of ornithology could hope to reproduce.

And then, over bowed birds’ heads, the afterword—

White-black, black-white, white-black—

Of oystercatchers’ whirling wing-print,

Incomprehensible, illegible, yet full of every meaning,

At last requiring not one clumsy syllable

Of maladroit translation.


© Lizzie Ballagher

If you enjoyed this, find more poems from Lizzie Ballagher at


So all that remains is to say Happy Christmas to all and ejoy the expected fine weather over the Christmas week.


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