Like the Spitfire, or Westminster Abbey, or the Mary Rose, or Shakespeare’s literature, or Dartmoor with its Baskervilles, the South Downs are one of the national treasures of this sceptred isle.
Wonderful that they are now in the national collection, declared a National Park.
Not everyone agrees I know but it is a dream fulfilled for many after 80 years of trying.
Woken by a dawn chorus of downland birds this morning I lay snug in bed thinking of the best bits I have been happy to experience of these green mountains over the past 47 years here in Sussex.
Top of my list, as for most others, must be the smooth green fusion of curves which swoop down to the sea to one side or Anderida to the other.
How sweet the sunsets rest upon this green and velvet chain: how mysterious the dawns that with their sea of mist float the tops as islands.
We feel like eagles soaring as we walk the heights. Far down plunge those tracks with their history of 10,000 years of human travel.
Easy to imagine families in skins around their fires, staring in wonder at the stars, touching the glow worms in the summer nights, cracking open their flints for arrow heads and knives.
My second thought goes to that mine shaft at Birling Gap, split in half by a cliff fall, showing 500 steps in circular climb down to their flint seam at sea level. It has now been washed away.
Third of my own treasures are the burial mounds of the Bronze Age, once white pyramids glittering in the sun for other tribes far and wide to marvel over.
I think of the flowers next: the 400 species of the chalk. Which ones? Surely the bee orchid is the Sussex emblem with its conundrum of patterns, an enigma to us, liberation to a special insect. Or could that be the round-headed rampion, a Mazarine blue cluster of corrolla tubes gleaming in the sun of high summer.
Of the 45 different butterflies of the Downs the chalkhill blue must be emblematic too.
One memory I cling to of the past, which lately has returned, but only just, is the twilight swirl of that strange bird the stone curlew which seems like a walking pattern of bare ground but whose dusk songs used to charm the old shepherds.
I love the silent combes with their migration floods of redstarts and willow warblers, stonechats and nightingales, and the house martins circling in hundreds before their southward flight.
I love the hares and their mad joustings on the wide open fields in spring.
I love the yew woods with their half-seen flocks of thrushes feasting on autumn berries; the roe deer wandering on their dew-dawn trails through meadow grasses; the quiet villages and their gaunt yet always friendly flinty churches filled with acerbic light slanting down the centuries through lancet windows.
This was the land The Few were fighting for as those old wartime propaganda posters showed. I can’t imagine anywhere better, worth protecting, treasuring, handing on down the generations in good order, as our South Downs National Park.