Green fields and blue skies on the South Downs Way

Events, poetry and pipelines

25th November 2014

One thing I love about this job is that no two days are the same and I’m always involved in a wide variety of things; you certainly couldn’t get board!

Over this last week or so my team and I have been dealing with rainwater run-off and flooding issues, creating wildflower meadows, trying to avoid digging up gas pipelines, installing new signposts, talking to regular event organisers and seeing how the SDW has inspired a local poet.

It is amazing how many underground utilities are buried in quite remote locations and how a very simple job suddenly becomes a whole lot more complicated. We need to regrade part of the SDW, but a quick check of utilities this week found that just at our spot runs high pressure gas mains, openreach telephone cables and mains water! I now have to meet each utility company on site to determine exactly where and more importantly how deep each of there apparatus is. Fingers crossed they’re deep enough!

I also met recently with some of our regular organisers of large events that use the SDW. These meetings are extremely useful for me and the events themselves. We are now working closely with most organisers to ensure their events run smoothly with as little impact on other trail users as possible. Many are also working with us though a voluntary donation scheme to help contribute to trail maintenance. This is really positive joint working.

A great thing about the SDW is how it inspires people. Some get inspired to just get out more, some produce stunning photography, art or sculpture, but this week I’ve been talking to a poet, Lizzie Ballagher. Lizzie is walking the SDW in stages starting in the East, walking west and writing as she goes. So Lizzie is our first official poet in residence for the SDW. Here is Lizzie’ first offering.



Beeches & chestnuts sigh and sough

& open mottled windows full

Of leopard light on chalky banks,

On ancient sea-laid seams

Etched & edged with starfish mosses.


The fierce gold of autumn paces south.

Paws of yellow velvet pad:

Furtive, still deceitful.

Cruel claws (for now retracted) stamp

& brand the hilltops, woods & ways.


Shrugging long, lean shoulders, the South Downs ridge

Shakes out showers of fiery leaves;

It is indifferent: to the hot-headed longing

Of the human heart; to the harvest’s old lie

That dark days, stark days…will not come.


For the South Downs Way goes west

As well as east; along this westward path

Autumn slopes on, slinks on—

In spite of blazing golden eyes—

To the smouldering cold of winter.


© Lizzie Ballagher


If you like Lizzie’ work you can read more of her poetry on her own blog


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Eastbourne start finger post
Lizzie Ballagher