Few places in the world or moments of the year compete with high summer on the Downs.
The meadows of centuries-old turf become like the skies of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Flowers seem to swirl with dazzling colours of yellow like the Milky Way.
I have seen some sights in my time.
There were the spring crocuses of the Syrian desert suddenly as pink as flamingos over the black and hopeless basalt as we stopped near H5 oil pumping station on the Damascus road to brew tea in billycans.
There were the gentians in the Rift Valley as we took the lorry down to Jericho past that citadel of independent thought at Salt, a town of amateur scholars in Jordan.
On Braunton Burrows as the filming of Powell and Pressburger’s film A Matter of Life and Death was taking place with David Niven crawling from out of the waves having leapt from his blazing bomber, there were the myriads of marsh orchids blooming almost like roses from out the shallow sandy slacks or pools among the dunes.
There were the miniature irises called barbary nut suddenly bringing spring with the swallows and the storks to the cork oak forests of the Alentejo with their brilliant blue petals.
But none so intense as that hot still moment of high summer, last week and in every year past when the ancient turf of our own South Downs brings its moment to crescendo on the meadows with yellow flowers. The flowers are small but myriad. The effect is as the minute stitching on a Persian carpet, laboured over for years by women and daughters in a Tehran hovel with up to 80 stitches to the inch.
These downland meadows have taken many centuries to make, and are as easily destroyed as the finest works of art.
Standing by these acres, each square yard with its 35 different species, all rising up to the sun with mauve and blue, yellow and gold, pink, purple and the pure whites of eyebright and fairy flax, gives a sense of eternity, a fixed moment of everlasting, the feeling that this is how the world should be, always, the moment of perfection.
Many places in Sussex this season have given me this feeling of joy. Not sentiment, not the mushy gushing over spurious rubbish of everyday life with which we are nowadays bombarded to keep ‘the little people happy’.
But a feeling of permanence and deep satisfaction that we can still create and foster the best in the world.
Our Downs and our surroundings are the best and the safest in the world.
Do we live in a bubble? Perhaps. But it is our bubble and we made it.
Our agriculture engineered these Downs and they are the richest habitats – and the most beautiful of anything else to be seen on the planet.
Enjoy them now.