Monday, 17 September 2012
Heathland Through the Ages event, Iping Common nr Midhurst, 15th-16th September
Warm golden sunlight bathed the heathland, illuminating an unusual scene. Between the purple ling and cobweb strewn gorse, painted tents arose, flags and standards saluted the sun, against a backcloth of far reaching views where bracken and birch studded lowland heath stretched into the distance toward deep ancient woodland, above which rose the rolling slopes of the South Downs. Forgotten music floated across the landscape, mingling with laughter and the smell of wood smoke and cooking. A Victorian butterfly collector stalked through the heather, whilst medieval knight and Roman centurion shared a joke, unaware of the highway-woman on her black horse waiting silently in the trees. The clash of sword blades and the rattle of armour rang out from the arena to the delighted cheers from the gathered crowd. A stone-age man working the old ways of flint knapping, a story teller with a moral lesson to teach and a gypsy caravan with lucky heather completed the scene. Alongside the history, the modern day uses and values of heath, the wildlife found on them and the conservation work that is ongoing, were all patiently explained to visitors whilst lizards and hairy caterpillars, beetles and whirring dragonflies amazed young and old alike.