Giant E on the South Downs will celebrate Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

The project to create a big 'E'
The project to create a big 'E'

A massive project to create a giant letter ‘E’ for Elizabeth on the South Downs is nearing completion.

It has been formed from woodland as a tribute to The Queen in the Diamond Jubilee year of her reign.

The striking letter, some 100 yards in length from top to bottom, has been created on the north face of the Downs above the village of Firle, near Lewes.

It echoes the ‘V’ created at Streat to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee in 1897 of Queen Victoria.

But the latest scheme has not involved the planting of trees. Instead, existing woodland has been cleared to form the shape.

It was plotted using satellite images of the site, which belongs to Lord Gage, of Firle Place.

The ambitious scheme has been many months in the planning. It involved finding an appropriate location and obtaining permission from Natural England and the South Downs National Park Authority.

The driving force has been Sussex farmer Carola Godman Irvine, who first mooted the idea in February to mark the royal milestone year. In 2012 it was not considered appropriate to plant trees on the South Downs, parts of which are a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Therefore, the letter has been shaped by clearing a large area of existing scrub and trees which had become severely overgrown over a period of about 30 years.

“The clearance work has increased the area of valuable open grass chalkland which is of great importance for the conservation and encouragement of rare species of butterflies and wild flowers,” said Mrs Godman Irvine, of Wivelsfield.

“The scrub and trees which have been left behind represent a giant ‘E’ as a lasting tribute to Her Majesty. This iconic image will be visible for miles around including those travelling along the A27 and from villages and areas to the north such as the Ashdown Forest.”

The project had received no funding and she paid tribute to the volunteers who had toiled to bring it to fruition, and the local companies that had lent invaluable machinery and expertise.

David Allam, the High Sheriff of East Sussex, said: “It is hard to exaggerate the effort and determination that Carola has used to bring about this lasting memorial to the Jubilee.

“Without her vision and hours of simple hard work by a group of her friends and farming contacts this unique project would never have been considered as viable or achievable.”

While many trees, copses and woods have been planted, Firle’s contribution to the Diamond Jubilee year is understood to be the only one of its kind in the UK.

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