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You may have noticed a man with a long purple-grey beard, a woollen skirt and grass shoes who spent much of last week living in the doorway and extravagantly-decorated window of May’s General Store in Cliffe High Street. We went to investigate this strange character, and he gave us the following statement, never wavering from his character or hinting at his real identity.

“In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when grottoes became fashionable in gardens and landscapes people were hired as ornamental hermits to add realism and to surprise and delight the guests as they ambled round the grounds. Some of them spent their time in prayer, others, as they had so much time on their hands and they were living with nature spent their lives helping and rescuing various forms of wildlife. With so many of our native species of wildlife disappearing we must help to protect what we have left. The grotto in May’s General Store was created to spread the word and to collect for three different charities: Folly’s Wildlife Rescue, East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (07815 078234) and Compassion in World Farming. A big thanks to Tim and Sue May of May’s General Store for their philanthropy and many thanks to all the businesses and shops that have sponsored me. The people of Lewes have been wonderfully generous and supportive in their response. With love - Herbaceous Borderline, ornamental hermit.”

Hermit and the Herbals: Herbaceous Borderline in May’s
General Store window. Pic by Hugh Fox.