On the bus

Paul’s bus with some of the crowd

Last week in Lewes, saw the launch of a bus with a difference.  Named after Paul Millmore, long time South Downs campaigner and Network member, the gleaming hybrid bus, with fuel consumption 30-35% less than a standard bus, was launched by Norman Baker, MP for Lewes and Under-Secretary of State for Transport.

Helping with unveiling the bus name was Bridget Millmore, Paul’s widow, and Roger French, managing director of Brighton & Hove Bus Company.  Watching was the Mayor of Lewes, Councillor Michael Chartier, along with a crowd of over 70.

Roger French, Bridget Millmore and Norman buy cialis online Baker MP unveil Paul’s name

Brighton & Hove Buses has a popular tradition of naming its buses after someone (who has died) with a strong local connection and who has made a significant contribution to the area in some way or another.  After his death earlier this year, Paul’s name was put forward.  It was accepted in recognition of the huge role he played in the National Park campaign and conservation generally, his love of Lewes, and his active contribution to community life.

Appropriately, the bus is being brought into service on the 28 route from Brighton to Lewes, which passes through the National Park and Lewes.  It is a fitting tribute to a person who gave so much and with so much passion.

So don’t be shocked if you see Paul back on the streets of Lewes.  Maybe you’ll even be lucky enough to take a trip with him through the National Park.

Down Your Way

This year has seen the 40th anniversary of the South Downs Way.  It is one of only 13 National Trails which exist in some of England’s finest countryside and the only trail to be wholly within a National Park.  Over the years it has been a great success, with many thousands of people using it every year on foot, bike or horseback.  Indeed it is one of the most popular National Trails, being easily accessible and running along the spine of the South Downs from Eastbourne to Winchester with great views along its whole length.  At weekends it can became particularly busy and is popular with charities and events organisers.

The official South Downs Way National Trail guide was written by Paul Millmore, one of the first people in modern times to call for a National Park, and a key member of the South Downs Network.  He’d just completed his latest revision before his untimely death earlier this year.  The guide provides a wealth of information about the area, its history and local contacts and facilities.

As to what the future holds for the South Downs Way is uncertain.  It undoubtedly is popular and is good for people’s health and well-being, but it also supports the local economy.  It draws people to the area who then spend money in shops, pubs, on campsites, farms, B&Bs, hotels, etc.  Yet with a number of pubs and other local community assets under threat from property speculators, will the trail remain the attractive proposition it is now if these are lost?  That’s not to say things are perfect and cannot change, but the future viability of the South Downs Way and community facilities nearby are somewhat interlinked.  Therefore it is imperative that both are taken seriously and properly supported at all levels.

At a national level, there appears to be uncertainty over the future of Natural England, the champions, if you like, of National Trails at present.  At the same time, Natural England is looking at devolving the responsibility of National Trails to local authorities.  With the South Downs Way being wholly within the South Downs National Park that may be less of an issue, but funding could still be a problem.  Overall funding levels may reduce and unless the National Park Authority is given the money directly, money spent on maintaining and promoting the trail may fall considerably.

While the future is uncertain, with the advent of the National Park and the current popularity of the South Downs Way, this National Trail, at least, is likely to be around for us all to enjoy for some considerable time yet.

National Park Celebrations

This weekend marks the first anniversary of the South Downs National Park Authority and the second anniversary of the National Park coming into existence.  To celebrate a number of people and organisations are holding walks

across the Downs on Sunday, 1 April.

Birling Gap – 10am in the car park, for a 4.5 mile walk organised by the South Downs Society.

Clayton Windmills – 9.30am in the car park, for a 14 mile walk organised by the South Downs Society.

Lewes Station – 9.30am, for a 12 mile walk with 6 mile option.  Organised by Mayor of Lewes – dedicated to the memory of Paul Millmore.

Queen Elizabeth Country Park – 10am, for a 6-8 mile walk organised by Hampshire and Sussex Ramblers and supported by CNP and CPRE.

Rowland Castle Station – 10.15am for a 4.5 mile walk organised by the South Downs Society.

See our Events page for more details.

Tribute to Paul Millmore

Paul at the start of the South Downs Way

As many people know, Paul Millmore passed away peacefully on Sunday morning.  A tragic loss for his family, but also for the many people whose lives he touched throughout his career. For anyone who knew him, he was a veritable force of nature with his bushy beard, red braces and indefatigable Yorkshire spirit.  He was passionate, imaginative and determined in furthering conservation and didn’t suffer fools gladly.

He was one of the first people to reignite the calls for a South Downs National Park in the 1980s and was a stalwart member of the South Downs Campaign throughout its 20 year existence.  He lived to see the successful creation of the National Park and it was his drive and energy that was largely responsible for the inclusion of Lewes.  No one who was at the inquiry can forget the look on the inspector’s face as Paul thrust a large knife into a block of clay to demonstrate how well Lewes was embedded within the South Downs’ landscape.

His one regret was the failure to get the marine area included in the National Park, but even then he convinced the inspector of the value of doing so, but unfortunately not the Government.  Even so this setback was far outweighed by the success of the National Park and the many other areas he helped to change for the better.  From the tributes that have poured in to date, it is clear that his spirit will live on and his legacy will be felt for many generations to come.

In the meantime the South Downs Network has lost a valued member of its executive and a true friend and supporter.  Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.