RICHARD WILLIAMSON Nature Trails December 16

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These are troubled times. Safety catches have slipped on State secrets, nuclear strutters, spending freezes, seismic graphs, suicide bombers, and even snow ploughs which get stuck.

Should we sink the ‘S’ word, and stay sane? No, we should simply start again.

The word susurration for instance – let us relax with that. I often say it slowly, it almost becomes soporific as I think of what it is saying.

It means whisper, a gentle sourdine sound. It is what you hear when the wind blows in the long grass of a summer’s day on the slopes of the Downs.

It is the rustle of a breeze through the reeds by the sea’s side. The reeds sway, and roll in rhythm like the song of shallow Brown.

It is the sigh of wavelets on the shore, and it is the sound of your shoes on the shingle.

Down along the Sussex shoreline there are shoals and shoals of shingle.

There is no hurry to go marching along them unless to keep warm.

There are groins and markers to sign your way, there are paths between the stems of evening primrose and seabeet, there is the strandline of seaweed that curves like a woman’s brow over the glistening eye of the sea; the sea that stares at the sky and takes all its colour from deepest space.

So much inspiration, such depth, such journeying.

Distant shorelines might look like foreign lands if you will allow.

Often in winter from the Sussex shore you have a painting of turquoise and sepia, of grey and gold, scarlet and saffron, as the sun sets.

There is to be found too shelter on that slope of ancient, smoothly-polished stones that started their life 65 million years ago inside the equatorial sea where now lies Africa.

They are nice to sit on, not soft but not sharp, flattening themselves together with the shells into a shaped seat smooth enough for the most sensitive bottom.

There, like Peter Grimes, you can find sense and stability with the world. You can look at the myriad of small things enriching your sight: turnstones searching for sandhoppers amid the flotsam; a line of geese low and far out; the seagulls which the poet Swinburne called seamews and which helped save his sanity.

How lucky we are that we have Sussex-by-the-sea. Even Slough might be satisfying with no need for that plough, if it were Slough-by-the-sea.

I say the S word is not the snake in the grass. It is sumptuous, not sombre; sweet and salicional, salubrious and salving, sanative and satisfying, and such endless seriation. (Not to mention Scrabble!)