Chalk gives the South Downs its distinctive white hue enabling it to stand out against the green of the Weald and the blue of the sea.
But chalk is also useful in building and over the years many pits have been dug to excavate it for making concrete.
One of the biggest and most noticeable was on the road between Shoreham and Upper Beeding, overlooking the Adur valley.
The cement works developed in the site employed hundreds of people and it was so big that it had its own railway sidings.
But the site has been largely derelict for many years and is one of the biggest eyesores on the Downs.
There have been many ideas put forward since the 1970s for making the best use of this huge hole in the South Downs.
At one time it was suggested as a possible ground for Brighton and Hove Albion but it was too far away from the homes of most supporters.
Another project was to use it as an artificial Alpine winter sports resort with skiing and tobogganing among the attractions.
More recently there have been plans to develop the site for housing but this would have to be affordable in an area where thousands are unable to buy decent homes.
The latest proposal is for a £200 million eco holiday village which would also include an arena for live performances.
Instead of demolishing the cement works main building, it would be restored for cafés and restaurants while solar panels on the roof would provide much of the energy.
Many adventurous sports would be featured on the site including wakeboarding and mountain biking.
The developers describe the project as being like the Eden Project in Cornwall transferred to the South Downs of Sussex.
But I would be surprised if investors came up with the large piles of cash needed to make this scheme a reality.
I can also see no point in retaining the hideously ugly cement works building which is completely alien to the downland landscape.
No one should forget that the South Downs is now a National Park and the site would not be considered at all for development if it had not been used for industry.
It is also in a remarkably sensitive position with much of it highly visible from both sides of the river and the downland north of Lancing.
The site’s sheer size can be partly appreciated from these viewpoints but to get a complete view of how vast it is you have to walk on the downland immediately above it.
At 118 acres, the site is almost twice the size of Preston Park in Brighton or three times bigger than Hove Park. The cliffs created by chalk mining are a couple of hundred feet high.
Any proposal to develop the site fully would create enormous traffic problems along the Shoreham to Beeding road with a large intersection needed at its entrance.
Restoring the old railway line would not be viable.
Imaginative uses have been found for some former industrial sites on the Downs including the open air museum at Amberley which used to be called the Chalk Pits Museum.
But the development at Beeding, even if given an ecological spin, would be far too big for the Downs.
All National Parks are under pressure for development.
However, none are more so than the South Downs because they are in the overcrowded south east of England. The land near Brighton is especially vulnerable.
The best long-term solution, which was first proposed about 20 years ago, would be to use the site for landfill.
There is a desperate shortage of suitable sites in Sussex and rubbish which cannot be recycled and has to be taken a long way to be dumped.
Millions of tons could be deposited there providing a solution to a pressing problem for much of the Brighton area. When the site was full it could be greened over and returned to natural downland.
And anyone who believes it cannot be done should take a look at Sheepcote Valley off Wilson Avenue which was for years the main rubbish tip for Brighton.
It is now an attractive addition to the Downs.
The eco project has some attractions but is too large and I fancy it will join the long list of plans for this site that have failed.