The heights of the South Downs, and their chalky structure, make winter hikes less muddy. On a fine day, there can be fewer more invigorating places to walk. The views are incredible, whether enjoyed through opaque curtains of mist, gradually lifting to unveil the landscape, or through a clearer lens, when the wintry sunshine manages to burn through the morning’s foggy damp, revealing clear, astonishingly bright, long vistas.
Start this walk from the car park next to Jack and Jill, the proud windmills. You will pass through a busy livery, with paddocks full of quiet wintering horses and brightly coloured wheelbarrows, standing neatly to attention, ready to be woken and put into use. Pass by, through and then around the huge, well tended greens of Pyecombe Golf Course. Over the restless A23 and up, up to the top of the Down’s ridge – the chalky path mounting vast fields of rough grass, home to shaggy coated cows, standing still as though posing for Antony Gormley, and plump, cosy, sheep; busily munching.
The unexpected highlight of this panoramic walk is on the home leg, where you will come across the beautiful Chattri Memorial. In honour of the Sikh and Hindu soldiers, it stands quietly, but magnificently on the Down’s South Ridge. The smooth, stark white structure juxtaposed against the green and blue hues of the natural landscape, 500ft (150m) above Brighton.
The soldiers it honours came from afar, and their memorial is alone. Standing tall. Elegantly surveying the country they gave so much for – a stranger in the landscape, miles from the nearest town, village or city, where it may seem more fitting. A stunning surprise and stark reminder of the sacrifice that so many made, so far from their home, for us,
The word Chattri means “canopy” or “umbrella” in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu. Architecturally, ‘Chattri’ refers to a memorial, usually very ornate, built over the site where an important person’s funeral or cremation was performed. ‘Chattri’ can also be used to denote the small pavilions that mark the decorative corners and roof of the entrance of a significant building. In this case purely decorative, and to display the status and wealth of the owner.
The South Downs Chattri was designed by E.C.Henriques from Mumbai and is built from white Sicilian marble, with 3 large granite slabs lying over the original concrete crematory bases. It’s design symbolises the protection offered to the memory of the dead.
Injured First World War Indian soldiers were hospitalised in the Dome, in Brighton. The Hindus and Sikhs who died were cremated on the Downs. In 1921, the Chattri memorial was constructed on the cremation site.
The Chattri memorial was unveiled by the Prince of Wales on the 21 February 1921. It bears the following inscription, in Urdu, Hindi and English:
“To the memory of all Indian soldiers who gave their lives for their King-Emperor in the Great War, this monument, erected on the site of the funeral pyre where the Hindus and Sikhs who died in hospital at Brighton passed through the fire, is in grateful admiration and brotherly affection dedicated”.
Click this link for an informative ‘Windmills and Chattri Memorial’ leaflet.
Follow this link to find the free route for this energising walk on View Ranger. It can be printed or downloaded to your phone for following live, as you walk.
Unknown author:‘Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it.
It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it’.