RICHARD WILLAMSON: Peaceful walk in the steps of our ancestors

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It all looks so peaceful now.

You stride the Sussex hills and feel refreshed in the sunshine. You may see hardly a soul. Wild flowers and butterflies share your journey.

Far below are the noisy towns with all their trouble and strife. And there, glittering in the distance is balm again for the soul, the sea.

Human activity is forgotten. Maybe a lonely tractor far away, or another person on the path are the only links you have with the herd.

Then you come to a large green mound on the very top. What a convenient place to sit in shelter from whichever way the wind is blowing.

If the wind is westerly, you can shelter on the east side. If northerly, on the south. There is nalways a view as you have your picnic, too.

Perhaps you wander homeward through the woods.

Do you notice that on this downward slope beneath the trees there is a sort of bank across your path every so often? Every 55 yards or so?

Do you stare at the ground to be sure of proper footing as you go?

Perhaps now and then you see a white flint, shaped like an arrow, or a rudimentary little axe, or one that has a chisel shape, or an edge like a knife.

The fact of the matter is that you are treading on ghosts at every step, those of your ancestors.

Across these empty fields they hoed and scraped the flinty, chalky ground 3,000 years ago.

You would have seen scores of them, dressed in worsted and skins, thin, sunburnt people of no more than middle age, the farmers of the Bronze Age.

They brought their culture with them out of Spain, mixing with more rugged Palaeolithic types in the Rhineland then sweeping on across the narrow Channel to this country.

We sit on their cemeteries for our picnics. We cross their arable field banks in our woods. We find bits of these so-called Beaker-folk’s pot shards on our paths, and we find masses of their rough flint tools scattered across the fields among those of earlier Neolithic peoples.

What were their names? We have no written history of them here. I have always been fascinated by them.

Now we can find out a lot more from the expert himself: Mark ‘Boxgrove Man’ Roberts, courtesy of the Murray Downland Trust.

You are all invited to hear him speak at the Cobden Hall, Heyshott, next Wednesday, October 23, on how the Bronze Age people lived and worked the land between the River Ems and Arun. You will be given a glass of wine and light refreshments, starting at 7pm. MDT manages two prime Bronze Age downland sites at the Devil’s Jumps, Treyford, and the 12 round barrow cemeteries at Heyshott.

Both are kept clear of scrub, open to the skies, yet are wild reminders of who we are and where we came from. Meet your ancestors next week at the talk, then visit them on their home ground having with a greater understanding of how they lived.