A new alphabet for the South Downs National Park

Dr June Goodfield, with Ella West 9 and Jack Hyde 10
Dr June Goodfield, with Ella West 9 and Jack Hyde 10
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CHILDREN and the older generation have joined forces to create a new Sussex alphabet of poetry.

The project is a partnership venture between the South Downs National Park Authority and The Write House – an independent group of local historians and writers.

The celebration of Sussex heritage and the establishment of the UK’s newest national park is inspired by the work of writer, Eleanor Farjeon, who wrote the words to the much-loved hymn, ‘Morning has Broken’, that later became a world-wide hit for Cat Stevens.

Her series of poems, A Sussex Alphabet, was published in 1939.

School pupils, all aged between seven and ten years old, from Midhurst, Stedham and Conifers Schools met their new collaborators from the University of the Third Age for the first time on Monday at the South Downs Centre in Midhurst.

Together they acted out some of Eleanor Farjeon’s original work and started to think about the themes for their poems.

And over the coming months more school children from across Hampshire, West and East Sussex will join up with retired and semi-retired people from the University of the Third Age, to think and write about the landscapes, wildlife and people of the South Downs and start to write their poems.

These will be developed into a new poetry book, to be published in December alongside a reprint of Eleanor Farjeon’s original collection.

Amanda Elmes, learning and outreach lead for the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “From Jane Austen to Virginia Woolf and Eric Ravilious to Rudyard Kipling, so many writers, artists and poets have been inspired by the landscapes of South Downs. We’re really excited to be able to bring young and older people together and see what they will create to inspire future generations.”

Lynne Truss, author of many books, including best-seller, ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’, added: “What people will respond to, I hope, is the playful nature of Eleanor Farjeon’s Sussex Alphabet. This new project will celebrate the South Downs, and demonstrate talent, but will also be a lot of fun.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has given £18,500 towards the project, which is also being supported with £14,100 from the national park authority.

Snake River Press, a much-respected publisher of beautiful books about the art, culture, personalities and landscape of Sussex, is covering all the costs of printing and publishing the final edition.

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