Page:Highways and Byways in Sussex.djvu/299

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XXVIII
271
ALCISTON

Alciston is a little hamlet under the east slope of Firle Beacon, practically no more than a farm house, a church, and dependant cottages. It is on a road that leads only to itself and "to the Hill" (as the sign-boards say hereabout); it is perhaps as nearly forgotten as any village in the county; and yet I know of no village with more unobtrusive charm. The church, which has no vicar of its own, being served from Selmeston, a mile away, stands high amid its graves, the whole churchyard having been heaped up and ramparted much as a castle is. In the hollow to the west of the church is part of the farmyard: a pond, a vast barn with one of the noblest red roofs in these parts, and the ruins of a stone pigeon house of great age and solidity, buttressed and built as if for a siege, in curious contrast to the gentle, pretty purpose for which it was intended. Between the church and the hill, and almost adjoining it, is the farmhouse, where the church keys are kept—a relic of Alciston Grange (once the property of Battle Abbey)—with odds and ends of its past life still visible, and a flourishing fig-tree at the back, heavy with fruit when I saw it under a September sun. The front of the house looks due east, across a valley of corn, to Berwick church, on a corresponding mound, and beyond Berwick to the Downs above Wilmington. And at the foot of the garden, on the top of the grey wall above the moat, is a long, narrow terrace of turf, commanding this eastern view—a terrace meet for Benedick and Beatrice to pace, exchanging raillery.

In Berwick church, by the way, is a memorial to George Hall, a former rector, of whom it is said that his name "speaks all learning humane and divine," and that his memory is "precious both to the Muses and the Graces." The Reverend George Hall's works seem, however, to have vanished.

Wilmington, north-east of Alfriston, occupies a corresponding position to that of Alciston in the north-west; but having a "lion" in the shape of the Long Man it has lost its virginal bloom. Wilmington is providing tea and ginger beer while Alciston nurses its unsullied inaccessibility. The Long Man