When Peter Owen-Jones arrived in the South Downs to take up a new post as a parish priest his whole world changed.
“When I saw the gently rolling hills, the light and the sea, it was love at first sight,” says Owen-Jones. “I’ve travelled the world, but nothing compares to this. The only way I’ll leave is if I’m carried out in a box!”
Following the South Downs Way along the spine of the park, from the iconic Seven Sisters cliffs to Winchester – the ancient capital of England, Peter unravels a land steeped in history. From some of the largest Neolithic forts in the British Isles, and the flint mines that formed one of the first industrial landscape in Britain, to King Alfred and the dawn of the English nation, right to the present day, Peter explores how our relationship with the Downs has changed to create one of the richest and most diverse landscapes in Britain.
As the seasons unravel, he meets today’s custodians of the land; Peter Hall, one of the founders of the UK’s wine-making industry; Katherine Birch, a young wildlife ranger who looks after a haunting 2000 year-old forest at Kingly Vale; And his friend, sheep famer Andrew Barr, whose traditional grazing helps keep the rare chalk grasslands intact.
Within it’s ancient landscapes are natural treasures that can be found nowhere else on Earth; from rare heathlands that are home to every one of the UK’s reptiles and amphibians, a wood that has more kinds of bats living in it than anywhere else in the UK, and rare chalk grasslands are home to a profusion of butterflies and orchids.
The Seven Sisters and the Downs beyond became an iconic symbol for the British Isles during the Battle of Britain and today they are recognized around the world. Now at last protected as an area of outstanding natural beauty, the story of the South Downs National Park can finally be told.
This first time film is a magical portrait of what was described by William Blake as “England’s mountains green”.