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the £ton versus East Chiltington chronicles
Visit report from the Plumpton Show (no not that one). This was the first public exhibition run by the campaign group Don't Urbanise the Downs.

what's a book about the Sussex Weald got to do with stopping the Eton new town?

Zsolt Kerekes - editor August 1, 2021

This is how it started. It was a hot Friday afternoon - July 23, 2021 the date - and I was visiting Plumpton Village Hall - a building I normally only visit to vote at elections.
Plumpton Village Hall July 23, 2021
There wasn't an election going on. I was there to see the first public exhibition run by the campaign group Don't Urbanise the Downs - which had been born under Covid lockdown #3 (February 2021) as a reaction to news of a hostile development plan by Eton College which announced its intentions to build an entirely new town in East Chiltington on the edge of the South Downs National Park.

East Chiltington doesn't have many residents or a village centre or a village hall - and that's why Plumpton (whose parish boundary includes fields adjoining the Eton site too) was chosen for this venue.

I was in the car park - taking some pictures of signs and the building when a car arrived and parked in a space just in front of where I was standing. When the driver emerged I thought I'd seen him somewhere before - but I couldn't remember where or when. And he already had a mask on. I thought I'd go and say hello when he pulled a book out from his car. His name was on the cover.

the Land of the Brighton Line -  by David Bangs - book cover David Bangs.

"Are you the David Bangs who wrote that (very detailed) letter about the Sea Trout during the Caviar Farm campaign 5 years ago? And the David Bangs who spoke so effectively at the planning committee meeting in defence of their conservation needs?

(editor's note - at the November 23, 2016 caviar farm planning meeting - David said - "this unique animal - the Sussex race of sea trout - is to Sussex what the lady's slipper orchid is to the Yorkshire Dales or the otter is to West Country rivers.")

And are you the same David Bangs who wrote a book about walks on the South Downs?" A Freedom to Roam Guide to the Brighton Downs.

I felt such a plonker not making the connection when I was rearranging my bookshelves a few years after that 2016 campaign and saw his book. There had been so many letters and documents in that earlier campaign. And I had indeed been wondering a few weeks before this meeting in the car park in Plumpton whether I should try and contact him about what was going on now with the Eton new town thing.

I knew he lived somewhere in Brighton and I might have his email address from 5 years ago. I didn't - follow up on that instinct - because I didn't want to come across like a stalker - who tracks down old email contacts. And I didn't know if he would be interested in this Eton Mess planning issue. Yet here he was. The right person at the right time.

"Yes. I remember coming to your house for the caviar farm meetings." He'd come to walk along the stream and the gravel ponds in my garden where the sea trout began and ended their lives. "Here - take this book - I've got a lot more."

He went to his boot and pulled out some heavy cardboard boxes.

I had been admiring the book he gave me. It's called - the Land of the Brighton Line - a field guide to the Middle Sussex and South East Surrey Weald. (Over 350 pages and published in 2018).

"My book has information in it which will be valuable for the campaign and will help people understand what could be lost."

I couldn't agree more.

"What's your plan with the book?" - I wondered if he would be offering them for sale.

"I'm giving them away free. To anyone who is interested enough to campaign to protect this landscape. I've got a boot load of books here and I'll take another load to the next event at Wivelsfield. (He did.) Take me to your leader and I'll explain."

I said - "I'm not part of any group. I was about to switch off my wrongthingwrongplace website just before this whole thing kicked off and now writing about the Eton versus East Chiltington story means I don't have time to join groups. I'm very interested in your book. And I do know some people in DUTD who would be very interested too."

I had already been at the event for an hour or so - and although I hadn't met most of the DUTD people who were at this event before - I did know a few of them very well. So I had an idea who to introduce David Bang to.

"Can I keep this one?" I said.


"And if I find any useful snippets in it which - would help to add detail to future articles I might write such as quotes and facts and maps - can I reference them on my web site?"

"That's the whole point."

"And if I get enough readers later on - would you willing to do an interview to help explain stuff?"

"Yes." And he gave me his new contact details.

He was keen to get into the exhibition and make sure that his books would get used as quickly as possible. (Visitors I spoke to later at the drop in day in Plumpton and a week later in Wivelsfield - were genuinely moved that such impressive and expensive books were there for the asking - to help educate the anti-urbanisation campaign.)

Anyway - after David emerged from the event I pounced on him. That's the author stalker side of me coming to the surface.

We talked about some of the environmental issues which arise from the Eton project:- mainly the water and the threat to sea trout, and the way in which some land owners degrade the environmental value of the land they want to develop - over a period of decades to help them create sites which look ideal for building.

We discussed was how some anti greenfield development campaigners don't seem to value highly enough the ecological benefits of unimproved grassland - and think they need to plant trees over it to make it look more natural. Or even (I said) to populate it with new creatures - like Jurassic Park. (Rewilding.) At another end of the green spectrum - are those who think that any large area of grass looks better if it's manicured like a golf course.

David and I both seem to like the messy look. He said it's remarkable how creatures can treasure local indentations by the side of tracks and tractor tracks which for years become reliable traps of water.

David Bangs is a passionate advocate for the character of the Weald - and despite admiring the efforts of the DUTD - doesn't like the name of the group - which doesn't have the word "Weald" in it.

We had a conversation about this too. Choosing names for organisations and products is a big deal. I said - whatever you may think about the name "Don't Urbanise the Downs" (and I've heard a few other local people saying they don't like it too) the campaign group will become known for and associated with the work it does and reactions to it - rather than simply a literal interpretation of the words in its name. So I think we agreed on that.

Editor's later note:- The power of a brand (like Nike or iPhone) is what it means to people in their daily lives and the ideas they associate with it. Don't Urbanise the Downs is already becoming a force to be reckoned with - and events like the drop in days - show that it can effortlessly perform like a purposeful organisation - despite being a volunteer force less than 6 months old.

After David had gone I took this photograph of his book on the grass by the car park.
the Land of the Brighton Line -  by David Bangs - book cover
"We live within a tragic paradox. It is only our class, working people, who have the power to halt the destruction of nature and the blind drive of capitalism to ceaseless expansion. Those rich owners who monopolise the Weald and profess their love for its countryside will not stop this process, for their wealth is dependant on the destructive exploitation of nature. Yet our class, crammed as we are in towns, cities and megacities are also the most alienated from nature. We do not lead the fight against its destruction because that process is invisible to us and means little to our current lives. What the eye doesnt see, the heart will not grieve over. It is for that reason that I have written this book."

David Bangs - in his article - Our countryside: use it or lose it - in which he explains the politics of his latest book, a field guide to the middle Sussex and south-east Surrey Weald.
Editor's comments:- Information is empowering. I'd like to thank David Bangs again for his generosity to the campaign to protect East Chiltington and Plumpton from past, present and future noxious developments. And I will try to collect together all the scattered fragments and links about the sea trout which have previously appeared in these pages too.

and what about the DUTD drop in day in Plumpton?

I had been intending to write a visit report about the DUTD's premier public event in Plumpton. That's how this little blog got started. It went in a completely different direction. But I hope you find it interesting nevertheless.

Was the visit worth it? For me...

  • I made new friends.
  • I learned that the Eton owned land extends its tendrils much farther up the lanes in East Chiltington than I had realised before. (I'm colour blind and can't read maps. So I got a big shock when it was related to some nearby photos.)
  • I learned that responding to the Lewes Local Plan Consultation - which is a very daunting proposition when you get confronted by all the web pages and documents surrounding it - can be done by civilians with the help of the materials which DUTD has prepared. They've been testing the help guides and FAQs packs on volunteers, visitors to these events and online. There's no getting away from the fact it takes time. But you can even choose - which version you want to engage with depending on the time budget you're willing to dedicate to it.
  • I learned that a committee date for the Fairfax Nolands Farm planning application (in fields near the western end of the Eton site) is unlikely to be before September. This came from a conversation I had with Councillor Rob Banks at the DUTD event.
  • I've got a new book to read.
  • I picked up ideas for more things to write about.
I was impressed by the commitment, serious willingness to engage in discussion and courtesy of everyone I met. And that includes the other attendees I spoke to at the show - not just the DUTD volunteers. Well done to everyone involved. And congratulations that all the pictures were the right way up too!

PS - more about the book.

In my own response to Issues and Options - Lewes Local Plan - question (1.8) - I said this...

I am 100% in agreement with the messier traditional grassland and wealden character described by the author David Bangs. His books about the character of the countryside around here - should be essential reading before you embark on making the countryside "more natural".


No Eton New Town

say signs in East Chiltington

no Eton New Town in East Chiltington
In May 2021 - signs began appearing in the lanes and hedges around East Chiltington to alert friends and visitors to the risk that this countryside they're enjoying now will be lost forever if Eton College succeeds with its devastating new town plan. ...read the story

Eton versus East Chiltington earlier news reporting from the very start

In February 2021 the residents of East Chiltington learned that Eton College had plans to destroy their way of life by concreting over vast swathes of Sussex downland to build an unasked for and entirely unnecessary new town.

see also:- the Nolands Farm digression

South Downs Eton by Dog - wrongthingwrongplace.com

Plumpton village sign at the 1st no Eton new town drop in day

no Etin new town sign in Plumpton at the DUTD's public exhibition


Don't Urbanise the Downs exhibition welocmes Plumpton visitors

picture panel inside the Plumpton no Eton new town show

East Chiltington looking at the Downs from the Northern edge of the Eton site

Eton's new town zone in East Chiltington
silent spring and concrETON image wrongthingwrongplacedotcom"Concreting over precious green fields - when brownfield sites are available - in the 2020s in South East England - is more reckless and careless of the well being of future generations than spraying the 1950s fields of North American farms with plane loads of DDT pesticides."

Zsolt Kerekes - in the article - Final Spring in Novington Lane? (March 30, 2021).


what links - intra-colonialization, Eton College and East Sussex?

There are harms being done to our friends and neighbours by agencies which regard the poor grassland parish of East Chiltington in the same way that 19th century prospectors regarded the gold-fields of California and as the European colonial powers, with cold cruel reckoning gaze, looked to the mineral resources in Africa.

Our unspoiled downland fields today are the strip mines of the planning-gain, legal-ninjas.

Resources on far away maps to be exploited and destroyed.

Residents' objections? - bows and arrows facing cannon. ConcrETONization looms...

It seemed hopeless. A community of less than 200 households facing a billion dollar (in assets) corporation masquerading to the rest of the world as a quirky educational charity.

But did you hear that story about Katniss Everdeen and her bow? We were roused to defend. We fight to win..


"if people living in the proposed new town like nature they can buy planters"

land promoter answer to a question about concreting over fields in another new town development presentation
let them eat cake (read the article)


the landscape assessment walks in East Chiltington

What do you like in this landscape?

What makes you happy being here?

Do you recognise the dogs?

Was it really that long ago?
. the landscape survey walks in East Chiltington remembered

Editor:- May 20, 2021 - Published today - a new article - the landscape assessment walks in East Chiltington - looks back at an event which has particular relevance today - when we're thinking about what it is we're trying to protect. ...read the article

the Bald Explorer video - Eton College Plans to build a New Town in Rural East Sussex
Editor:- June 21, 2021 - In a new episode of the Sunday Chat - Richard Vobes - discusses the Eton new town plans in East Chiltington. Among other things he says...

"It's just abhorrent that somebody can take what is farmland that has been farmed for centuries and they're the custodians of and then sell it prevent it from being farmed for future generations. It doesn't seem right. It doesn't settle with me at all that somebody can say no - from now on I'm the one that's going to make the decision and take a profit and not let anybody in the future farm on this piece of land."

Richard said in his Sunday Chat he'd publish a video of his walk around the Eton new town site on Monday. And he did. ...watch the video


Recognising extinction in our verdant landscapes

"Most of us do not notice extinction's progress, even though its hallmarks and outcomes are all around us. This is partly because, if people think of it at all, extinction is happening in far away lands and the connection with their own lifestyles eludes them.

Closer to home extinction is generally about the little things, bees and other invertebrates, which a lot of people dont really miss. But perhaps the biggest factor is that each successive generation does not recognise what the former has lost, a phenomenon called shifting baseline syndrome.

We have to read historical accounts of how the world once was to appreciate life's diminution."

Simon Leadbeater in his article Meat: The Alpha and Omega of Extinction in the ECOS Archive