The Harvest Hill, or The Mount as it is more commonly known, stands at the head of Mountfield Road in Lewes, East Sussex. It is an artificial mound make of chalk and covered with turf standing forty-two feet in height. The base is 170 feet in diameter, and the flat top is twenty feet in diameter. A spiral path winds its way about the hill, originally starting at the north-east and completing one and a quarter turns before reaching the summit.

A number of theories have been put forward to explain it. It stands next to a set of salt pans (now a football field) and some say it is the spoil from the construction of these (although why it was shaped into a mound with a spiral path – occasioning a great deal of extra work – is anybody’s guess). Others claim it is a Norman motte. Lewes is unique in having a castle with two mottes, but they stand on the highest point of the town. The Mount is by the old seashore and has no supply of fresh water. Others claim it was a Calvary, citing the fact that it stands on the edge of the grounds of what was a huge Cluniac monastery. Christians plant a cross on its peak at Easter.

The limited archaeological investigation that has taken place suggests it to be far older than any of the above theories would suggest. It stands on an old seashore and would have been reflected in the largely still waters of a lagoon. From its summit, a number of significant astronomical alignments can be made with artificial structures on the surrounding downs. It has an uncanny (and possibly deliberate) resemblance to Silbury Hill. The road that runs beside it follows the same course as a pre-historic Trackway. All this adds to the distinct possibility that the Harvest Hill is Neolithic in origin – a chalk downland version of the stone circles to be found in the west where rocks are more easily obtained. It is a sacred place, a place of power, a place of birth.

A large chunk was cut out of one side in order to create a municipal bowling green so it is no longer possible to climb completely by the original spiral path. However, one can still reach the summit and enjoy magnificent views of the South Downs and the Ouse Valley – the Lewes by-pass notwithstanding.

Quite apart from its antiquity – or perhaps because of that - it has exerted a magical influence on my life. I moved to Sussex when I was 12 years of age and went to one of the secondary schools at the other end of Mountfield Road. Twice a day (sometimes more often) I would pass the Harvest Hill. It became a familiar site in what was a fecund and largely happy time of my life.

The Hill itself was a favourite haunt – far enough from school to get away from the less edifying aspects of state education (of which there were mercifully few for me) and close enough to reach without wasting too much time. And, when I began my first tentative steps along the Druid Way, it featured strongly in my life.

On that Hill, I would enjoy the long summer days everyone seems to have had in their youth; watch the summer stars and listen to the distant sounds of the worlds; talk with friends and share hopes and ideas; write poetry; read; listen to music; and dream. Within its shadow, I fell in love. It was also the hub of a wider circle in which much of my social life was lived and in which I developed my love of words – both spoken and written. It was also at the heart of that place where spirit flowered and I began to think seriously about the path I was following.

Wherever I go now, the Harvest Hill is always with me, part of my sacred inner landscape – a place where the latent spirit within me was given form and shown a way to travel that would honour the spirit of the Land and the Goddess in whose honour the Hill was first raised.

© Greywind

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