Tales from the South Downs in the 1930s collated for a book

Tales of tramping over the South Downs have been reproduced in book form, 90 years after they first appeared in print.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 10:03 am
Updated Thursday, 25th March 2021, 2:43 pm

Bill Fowler has collated and edited a series of articles written by his father, Edward Girling Fowler, when he was chief reporter and staff features writer for the Worthing Herald in the early 1930s.

Bill says the book is a bit like a written copy of Radio Four’s programme Ramblings with Claire Balding.

Under the pseudonym of The Tramp, Bill’s father wrote interesting articles detailing his walks through downland, the people he met, the places he saw and the odd quirky experiences.

A Worthing Herald publicity photograph for E.G. Fowler on his appointment as chief reporter, where he is seen on the phone with his usual pipe in the mouth

These articles, together with some other pieces by the same author, have been transcribed from the original press cuttings and put together with some of the original photographs for the book Tramping Through Downland by The Tramp.

Bill, who lives in Lincoln, said: “The Sussex Downs is not an area I know, so it has been interesting to read about them, albeit 90 years later.

“It is very much of its time but fascinating nevertheless. I have done it mainly for family purposes, especially as the original cuttings are turning somewhat yellow with age, and have only done an initial print run of 12 copies.”

Edward was born in Waterloo, Liverpool, in 1909 and was educated at King William’s College, Isle of Man, in Pembroke College, Oxford.

Edward Girling Fowler in 1989, at the age of 80, reading a facsimile of the Worthing Herald editions for June 13, 1931, and May 21, 1932

He completed a diploma of journalism at London University and after a short time at the Birkenhead Advertiser, he joined the Worthing Herald.

On a walk to Bramber, Edward encountered Walter Collins at Potter’s Museum, also known as Bramber Museum.

The Tramp wrote: “In a large glass case I found a number of kittens stuffed to represent a wedding scene. Now, I have done a little taxidermy myself and know something about natural poses. But expressions are another matter.

“How this taxidermist had conveyed such a fatuous look on the face of the groom or such an appearance of rage to that of the jilted one passes my understanding.”

Amberley Castle and the view down to the ferry point at the time of the visit by The Tramp, when the River Arun was in flood

At Patching, The Tramp spoke with a hurdle maker about his craft.

He wrote: “As he talked, he was splitting the hazel wands. One tap with a kind of flattened hammer and the cleft branch was pressed against a post, one half on either side. A little pushing, a little wangling with the hammer, and he had split the whole eight feet of it as easily as you would peel a banana.”

The Tramp visited Amberley when the River Arun was in flood and described the scene as he arrived from Findon, walking along the northern ridge of the Downs.

He wrote: “The long blue sheet of water spread over the Wild Brooks and even lapped the walls of the castle. A farm waggon, caught unawares, stood axle-deep in the new-made lake.

The remarkable Mr Collins, 'a showman to the tips of his fingers'

“A gateway many paces from the shore still held aloft its legend ‘No Road for Vehicles’. It was a scene of surpassing beauty. But a farmer, wandering about his sunken meadows in a leaky punt, shook his head and grumbled, ‘Amberley, God knows’.”

While in the village, The Tramp visited the studio of Edward Stott, the English painter, who died in 1918. The first thing that caught his eye as he crossed the threshold was a small tortoise.

“The misguided creature had awakened from his winter nap on the 14th of January, under the impression that summer had returned,” it seemed.

In Steyning, The Tramp visited Stone House, once a prison for ‘recalcitrant inhabitants’ and commented on its ‘walls of immense thickness’.

The Tramp said the mint of Steyning probably stood there. He had seen a Steyning penny at Bramber Museum, from the time of Edward the Confesor.

He wrote: “It is about the size and appearance of our shilling and bears the subscription ‘Stenig’. One one side is a cross and by its aid you could cut the coin into a halfpenny or a ‘fourthing’ when in need of small change.”

The Stone House, Steyning, the former prison, at the time of the visit by The Tramp

Edward met his future wife, Kate, when she was sent on placement to the Herald from King’s College. Edward then returned to Liverpool and joined the family business before getting married in 1934.

Apart from a period of service with the Royal Navy during World War Two, he remained in the business until he retired in 1969. While living in retirement in North Wales, he started to write again, mainly for pleasure but also for local magazines.

Edward died in 2002, having survived his wife by 20 months.

Edward Stott's cottage at Amberley at the time of the visit by The Tramp
‘I passed across the green and up the quaintly named Pook’s Hill’ wrote The Tramp after a visit to Angmering in the 1930s
Weaving with wood, a man 'engaged in one of the oldest crafts in England'