On a warm sunny day last weekend I went for a drive in the South Downs of West Sussex. It was a picture-perfect-postcard kind of day when flowers bloom, sun shines and the sky is blue. The sort of day when traffic queues shimmer and flicker in the mid-day haze, and thoughts turn to ice-creams and finding a patch of cool grass in the shade.
It seems as though this month's heatwave is almost trying to apologise for the months of cold and wet. The season is progressing in a hurry, flowers bloom and go over within days, allotments are glutting and salad bolting, as if the summer is rushing; trying to catch up after the long winter and cold spring.
The cricket season ignites county pride, and beneath the white canvas of village fêtes old rivalries play out in the competitive displays of home-made cakes, vegetables and flower arrangements.
As the sun bakes the fields and shrinks the shadows on the slopes of the downs, it is cooler by the side of a hidden steam that giggles between the roots of trees in the ancient woodlands. Inside the shepherds' churches the centuries-worn stones are smooth and cold, soothing to weary feet and aching palm. Light streams through the lead-light windows where, beyond the candles, those who look can catch a glimpse of six martlets on blue, proudly flying over thorn and thyme-clad hill-top, and valley of grazing cattle and waving corn.