My favourite Sussex: Tor Lawrence of Sussex Wildlife Trust
PUBLISHED: 15:43 17 November 2020 | UPDATED: 15:43 17 November 2020
The nature charity’s chief executive lives in Lewes, where her family have been for generations. Her favourite local night out involves a moth trap in Brede High Woods
Lewes. I grew up in what had been my grandma’s house in Lansdown Place, which they’d bought in the 1960s for £1,000. My grandma came from Plumpton and her dad owned some of the water meadows by the railway land, which my uncle now owns. The family has been based in and around Lewes for several generations and two of my uncles are commemorated on the war memorial in the High Street.
I left when I was 18 to go to university, then lived in London for a while – I needed to experience city life. I moved back when I was about 33 when I had my son.
Your earliest memory of Sussex?
Climbing the big hill up to Mount Caburn. As you walk from Lewes, there’s a very steep, big hill – you’re going up an Iron Age hill fort – and when you’re very little, maybe I was four, it’s incredibly boring. I just remember moaning “How much further is it?”
We had an allotment on the railway land, which is such an interesting place to experience over the decades. Later on my son did reptile surveys there, so then I experienced it again through his eyes. The other place that was special was the Grange gardens, arguably one of the best examples of municipal gardening. There’s a lovely tulip tree and a mulberry tree and lots of great places to play. I went to Southover School so that’s the place I remember playing most when I was little.
Where do you go to unwind?
The sea is really important to me. I love Pett Level and Rye Harbour – finding interesting pebbles, just sitting and looking, or going for a swim. We have such a rich diversity of habitats here and the High Weald meadows – the ones we have left – are just exquisite. You can sit, lie and doze in them and hear the buzz of the insects. I do like a good walk on the Downs as well.
Favourite Sussex walk?
Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Malling Down to Mount Caburn at burnt orchid time. Can I have two? Both would be in May. Lewes to Kingston over Juggs and up onto the ridge and Castle Hill Nature Reserve, to walk amongst the butterflies. There’s something about the big skies of the Downs when contrasted with the details of something like the burnt orchids. It gives us the sense of perspective we all need paired with a reminder of nature’s treasure and diversity.
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Favourite place to spend time with the family?
Either the beach or the Downs, but it’s all about sharing food with people. That might be a special picnic – perhaps a thermos of hot chocolate to the beach on Christmas Day, or the ingredients to make a gin and tonic on the beach. I love that feeling when people get so excited about what everyone has brought – that delight, experienced in a beautiful place, is joyful and necessary.
Best Sussex night out?
My partner works for the Woodland Trust and he manages Brede High Woods near Battle. One Friday night the Hastings Moth Group had organised four or five moth traps and they’re obviously set up with these very bright lights. I got literally covered by these spectacular creatures and I had that feeling of not blinking, because I was trying to take it all in – it was a visual overload but I remember feeling how beautiful the world is.
Going out looking for glow worms outside Brighton also stands out – it was twilight, and the joy of finding these glowing green jewels is just like unearthing treasure. There’s just something about exploring at dusk and in the dark.
If you could move anywhere in Sussex where would it be?
Right here in Lewes. There’s so much more to explore and there are so many things to love about it. It was quite a big deal for Lewes not to have our bonfire celebrations this year – it’s such a big part of the Lewes calendar - so I’m sure they are building up to something phenomenal next year.
Your Sussex life in three words?
Sussex. Wildlife. Trust.
Sussex Wildlife Trust has around 34,000 members supporting its work to protect the rich natural heritage of East and West Sussex, and Brighton and Hove.