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“I leant such a lot about the spiritual past of Lewes and the hills around it,” he says. “The word ‘Lewes’ comes from the Old English ‘Hlaews’, which means ‘sacred hills.’ Lewes was an important spiritual area in Neolithic times, with seven such hills, all man-made. The Tump is one of them. Brack Mount is another. It is probable that they built the castle on another.” His journey made him appreciate Lewes and its surroundings. “I learnt to love the countryside around me from investigating it. It made me appreciate the town I live in.” The book sold 30,000 copies, and, for a while, Philip became something of a minor national celebrity.

In the days after our meeting I read Philip’s book. You can buy it in the tourist office on School Hill. It is like a travel book, using his journey as a backbone to the narrative, and explaining the rites and philosophies of druidry along the way. During the writing of his book a good friend of his, a young girl, died in a car crash; Philip’s journey is affected by his mourning, and his mourning is affected by his journey. It is very moving. The book is powerful enough to make you understand the relevance of Paganism - the worship of the mother earth - in the present day.

Back to the interview. Before we part, I ask Philip to accompany me to the Tump. He is disappointed to see they have built an ugly fence along its side to stop people from getting into the bowling green. As we approach the top, we realise a teenage couple are making love under a blanket there. “One of the roles of the sacred hills was for the rites of fertility,” says Philip, smiling. So we stay on the path halfway up, looking over the hills, towards Caburn, towards the Long Man of Wilmington, feeling the strength of the landscape, taking in the power of our natural surroundings. AL

One tump or seven? Philip Carr-Gomm returns to his
journey’s muse. Unfortunately this disturbs a bout of
fertility rites at the top.