These photos are from Beating The Bounds, an event held yesterday as part of the Save Whitehawk Hill campaign.
Brighton and Hove Council and Hyde Group want to partner up to build 217 new ‘affordable’ homes across five tower blocks on Whitehawk Hill, a nature reserve made up of ancient chalk grassland.
It’s a controversial subject. I feel a connection to this bit of land. It’s been my route out of Brighton to the Downs for years, and I love how fast the city turns into nature here. It’s beautiful, in a rough way, and full of birds, bugs, beasts and plants worth preserving.
But Brighton is crying out for more housing. And in all honesty if this was social housing I might feel differently about it. But it’s not, it’s ‘affordable’ housing, which is a hollow and meaningless term when an average home now costs 14 times the average salary in the city.
Beating The Bounds is an old tradition. People used to walk around the edge of their parish, beating the natural and manmade monuments that marked the edges with sticks. It was both a good luck ritual, and a way of transmitting local knowledge about the landscape.
Reviving that ritual at Whitehawk yesterday was fascinating. I heard so many interesting historical and personal anecdotes about the land from the 100 or so people who came along.
I learnt that the Race Ground was saved from enclosure and given to the people of the city in 1822, and that the edges are marked with boundary stones that still stand today. I found out more about Whitehawk Camp, a Neolithic enclosure older than Stonehenge, where archaeologists found pottery tools and human remains, including a woman and her unborn baby. I heard about dog walking, fruit picking, sledging, and spotting adders, rare butterflies and birds.
If you’re interested in finding out more, the campaign has a website: https://savewhitehawkhill.org.uk/