South Downs Wheat Field before a Storm, near Cocking, West Sussex
This field on Cocking Down is one of the last to be harvested this year.
Arable crops have been farmed on The South Downs since prehistoric times, but it was only during the Second World War that production increased extensively onto chalk downland. During the 1930s, cheap imports of corn depressed arable farming in the UK, but with the outbreak of war the national demand for home-produced wheat and barley increased dramatically. Farmers were encouraged to plough up the chalk grassland and by 1942 more than 8,000 acres had been converted to arable crops.
In the late 1980s The South Downs was designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (or ESA) in an effort to return much of the area to its natural state and to convert arable areas back to chalk grassland.