West Sussex author goes In Search of Fifty South Downs Villages

In 2020 during the first lockdown Andrew Berriman wrote and published a history of Lavant village.

Andrew Berriman
Andrew Berriman

It proved such a success that during lockdown two in 2021 Andrew decided to write a similar book, this time not just about one village, but about 50 of them.

All of them are within 20 miles of Chichester, all within the South Downs National Park. Its title is In Search of Fifty South Downs Villages’(268 pages, £13.95).

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“I am secretary of the Chichester Local History Society and during lockdown we had to cancel our live monthly programme of speakers at the New Park Centre. We were keen to keep in regular contact with our members, over 100 of them, many of whom weren’t keen at all on our meetings using Zoom – and nor I suspect were most of the speakers!

“I had been undergoing immunotherapy treatment at Portsmouth QA hospital, which went well but it did mean that I was immuno-compromised and classified as extremely vulnerable.

“Unfortunately my body wasn’t able to produce any antibodies to protect me against Covid, despite having had the two jabs. This forced me to shield really strictly for 18 months.

“I have spent many happy hours in what my wife, rather unkindly but accurately, calls my man shed, my upstairs study, where I have written the book. However, just because I’ve not been in any shops, restaurants, theatres, or indeed anywhere inside apart from hospitals for over 18 months, I have still been able to walk the Downs and Harbour.

“Back in 2009 I retired as head of sixth form at Chichester High School. Since then, for over a decade, again until lockdown, I led weekly HeartSmart walks for Chichester District Council.

“The walking group is so friendly, and the walks aren’t too strenuous, at least when I lead them, not more than three miles. During these walks we visited all these 50 villages, and after each walk I researched the village’s history.

“When I came to prepare the book I had all the material to hand. I was also fortunate to know many village inhabitants, as down the years I played village cricket against them when I was the captain of the Lavant Saturday XI. After every match we went to the village pub and chatted about what made each village tick.

“Since January I have written two articles each week and finished all 50 by July. I have tried to mix my thoughts about what makes each village special with stories about their history. Some of the villages, such as Didling or North Marden or Upwaltham, have few residents, but all have their hidden secrets and remarkable pasts. I can’t deny that I do have my favourite villages…. and some that aren’t. If you’re wondering which, please buy and read the book.

“The book has six chapters: Along the Lavant, Westward Ho, Near Stane St, Up the Arun, Under the Scarp, and Beside the Rother. All the villages, apart from Buriton, are in West Sussex. The articles are clusters of these villages.

“I am confident that the book will be even more successful than the Lavant one. Potentially it will appeal to a much wider public, and is again an easy read. Despite my academic Cambridge history background I dislike lengthy footnotes and tedious references which ruin the flow and the pleasure of reading. However, I’m a big fan of maps and colour photographs, of which there are over 200 in the book. A perfect Christmas present!”

The book is available from Kim’s Bookshops at 28 South Street, Chichester and 10 High Street in Arundel or directly from Andrew by contacting him on [email protected]