Owen’s ears pricked up, and his jaw dropped.
“WHAT? Are you thinking of moving? You never told me! You never tell me anything!”
They tactfully moved through the ticket office and out onto the street before answering. “It’s not really even got that far,” Barbara said. “We just said ‘what about getting out of London’, and the next thing Dad was planning on travelling down to Eastbourne and maybe looking there.”
“And now I’m wondering about Tide Mills, and whether we could make a go of that,” said Max.
“You’re not really?” asked Barbara. “It looks horrible and if it’s not being used much it’ll be run down. And what d’you think the houses would be like there? Probably no bathrooms, all the toilets would be at the end of the gardens like your mother’s used to be…”
It’s spring 1963, and a chance, fleeting glimpse of a girl from a train between Newhaven and Seaford brings Owen back to Bishopstone Tide Mills. His sudden interest in her is later matched by his father’s interest in the old, failing Mill which he believes might interest his employers who run a large mill in London. For the Tide Mills in the story is still fully built, running, and housing its staff in the adjoining cottages.
A piece of paper found as Owen and Ruth, the girl, explore the Mill House, leads to a search for the inhabitants of fifty years previously. It unearths a story of lost love, a tyrannical husband and father, and his mistreatment of his wife and the child he knows is not his.
Friendships are made as plans for the mill develop, buildings are restored and Tide Mills is readied for its new, successful life. The characters of the old story are brought together. Ruth endures a major operation and befriends another patient. Unusually for the time, staff and management of the Mill have an easy-going relationship which pays dividends in goodwill.
At last, smuggling rears its head again, demanding courage and perseverance from young and old alike.
This is a tale of families, of the ups and downs of life, of some little adventure. But it’s also a tale of the real Sussex of the time, with its old customs, its history, and some of its Characters.
And yes, it’s a tale of the County’s legendary obstinacy. Sussex Wunt be Druv.
Paperback, 6″ x 9″, 26 chapters + maps and glossary, 355 pages.
Image courtesy of Seaford Museum