THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15 A warm evening for mid-October. The barometer is going back to stormy… more rain I suppose. Go to bed about 11 o’clock.
FRIDAY OCTOBER 16 2.30am Awake to noisy gale force winds. We are used to gales up here, but when the trees that surround us are in full leaf, as they still are, we know from experience that some damage may occur. It is amazing what these old trees can stand up to. Some giant beeches were planted over 299 years ago. They look so beautiful, especially in the spring and autumn… cannot sleep… get up and make some tea. This old cottage seems full of the stormy wind… it’s coming under the doors… down the chimney,. forcing its way in. The noise is getting louder, the wind is roaring continuously like a rough sea, while every now and then it seems to increase in strength. Something crashes outside. Upstairs we look out through the windows. It is almost pitch black, but we can just see tree shapes at strange angles being thrashed to and fro. The noise of the wind seems to me like a living thing… a great disturbing, threatening being… the cottage has thick walls, but the roof and large chimney stack are vulnerable. Another crash seems to be an echo of other crashes nearby… the vibration comes up through the floor. As a child in London during the war, I remember that when bombing was near, shock waves came up through the floor… the noise of the wind is awesome…
AT FIRST LIGHT. Hardly any wind now… through the windows we can just begin to see outside… is it fog? No, it is not fog… it is just open space… open space where all the trees should be. Most of the trees have been uprooted… all around great trees lay smashed and broken, one on top of the other. The lane is blocked both ways by falling trees… we are surrounded by fallen trees. Splintered tree trunks point jagged fingers to the sky. Instead of great trees all around us, we can now see as far as Kingston Ridge and Firle Beacon, the skyline has completely changed.
By 9am some of the family arrive… pleased to find us still alive. They have had to leave their cars in Ditchling Road and climb in over fallen trees and branches… no telephone or electricity… People with chain-saws come and begin to cut a way in from the road. We put on our oldest clothes and go outside to help.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 17 Bright and sunny but utter devastation all around. Giant trees lay criss-crossed on top of each other, like heaps of broken matchsticks.
SUNDAY OCTOBER 18 Was it all a bad dream? No… it is real as they see the wreckage all around. It reminds some of war-time… Someone said… Armageddon.
MONDAY OCTOBER 19 Very sunny and warm, life-giving sunshine, shining strongly on the upturned chalk encrusted roots of giant trees. The green woodpecker calls again and again. Has he found a new supply of food in the splintered tree trunks, or can’t he find his way about now so many trees have fallen? All the birds seem distressed… flying from one remaining branch to another. There are fallen apples everywhere in our garden and more butterflies than I have ever seen before, feasting on the rotting apples. Red Admirals, Peacocks and Commas, nine of these to one apple, their wings closed making it look like a small porcupine.
TUESDAY OCTOBER 20 Raining… no electricity yet and no telephone. The transistor radio is a real lifeline… shares are falling.
WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 21 My birthday… usually I enjoy the wonderful autumn colours all around… leaves of gold and copper and flame, but now they are all withered, dried and dead from the salt wind… Oh my lovely Stanmer trees… you have waited 200 years… for this…