The South Downs are chalky downland of approximately 260 square miles running along the south-eastern coastal counties of England from the Itchen Valley in Hampshire in the west, to Beachy Head in East Sussex, in the east.
The chalk was formed by marine deposits when the area was covered by warm seas between 65 and 100 million years ago. The chalk layer sits on top of greensands and gault clay that were laid down during the 45 million years before the chalk. These layers, known as ‘strata’ were pushed up and created the downland landscape by the same geological processes that formed the Alps.
My great, great-grandparents and their heirs farmed on the South Downs; in and around the village of Findon in West Sussex. My father grew up working on the farm and later, upon returning from service after the second world war he drove tractors clearing the local farmland of incendiary devices.
My great-grandfather passed away in 1945 and due to his son and heir having already died and his grandson (my father), being young and away at war my great grandfather left instructions for the farm to be sold upon his death.
My father loved Findon Village and the surrounding downland and where-ever he was in the world the South Downs was always close to his heart.
After he passed away in 2016 my father’s ashes were scattered under a Beech tree close to where he grew up. His ashes are clearly visible, dispersed in the soil and amongst the fallen Beech leaves and husks. I am fascinated by the visual similarity between the ashes in the soil and how natural chalk appears in the soil on the surrounding downland.
‘Chalk and Bones’ is a study of the chalk downland.
Part 1: Samples