My Sussex Guide shows 10 of my favourite things to see and do, in no particular order!
1. Walk in the South Downs National Park
You’ll find country footpaths within minutes of leaving Rosebud Cottage. Walk down Mouse Lane – just round the corner – or go along Mill Road. Within 20 minutes, you can enjoy wonderful views both beyond Brighton and towards the coast.
If you are a keen hiker you may want to walk on the long distance footpath the South Downs Way – within a mile of the cottage. There are leaflets, books and maps in the cottage with suggested routes.
I particularly enjoy the walk to Chanctonbury Ring. It is 3 miles away and quite a steep climb but you will be rewarded by fantastic views. As you get closer you will go along part of the South Downs Way.
The Ring was originally a small hill fort. Pottery found and carbon dating suggest the fort was built in the early Iron Age, in the 6th to 5th centuries BC. Later the ring was used by the Romans as a religious site and two temples were erected. It’s fame, though, is mainly due to the beech trees, planted in 1760, which became a famous landmark
2. Swim, windsurf or sail at the nearby coast. Or just watch the waves!
The nearest beach on the Sussex coast is at Shoreham-by-Sea – a 15 minute drive or a 20 minute bus ride on the no 2 bus ….
You might also want to visit the beach in Brighton. Make sure you take a walk on Brighton pier – open all year with free admission. If you prefer a sandy beach you travel east along the coast to Climping – just beyond Littlehampton.
If you are a water sports enthusiast you could join a weekend windsurfing course at Hove Lagoon. These run from late April to early October. There are also opportunities for sailing: Lagoon Water Sports offer RYA sailing courses and 1-1 private tuition at Brighton Marina.
The more adventurous could learn how to use a kiteboard with Brighton Kitesurf – based in nearby Lancing – just 6 miles away.
3. Visit beautiful Sussex gardens
You will be spoiled for choice if you are a garden lover! Don’t miss:
Parham House Gardens: RH20 4HS My favourite local garden (near Pulborough). Open mid April to mid October. A short drive or bus ride on 100 bus with a 25 minute walk.
Sussex Prairie Garden; BN5 9AT (near Henfield). It covers 6 acres planted in a naturalistic style. Open from June to mid October. 9 miles from Steyning.
Nyman’s; RH17 6EB: (near Haywards Heath). One of the country’s great gardens created in the late 19th century by the Messel family. Now run by the National Trust it is open all year. 15 miles from Steyning. A 30 minute drive via the B2135 & A281.
Travel a little further to see Denman’s near Fontwell, and the lovely West Dean Gardens near Chichester.
4. Try traditional English afternoon tea!
A cream tea is a must if you stay in Steyning. If you are lucky you may have the opportunity to try a rhubarb or plum scone!
I recommend ‘Scone Wednesday’ at the award winning Steyning Tea Rooms, where you can have a free tea or coffee with your scone.
Find time to call in at the Cobblestone Tea Rooms too. This is a family run business set in a beautiful building. Through their decoration, displays and fine bone china, they hope you will enjoy the quintessentially British way of life.
Finally make sure you visit Chez Joel too…..!
5. Call in at Saxon and Norman Churches
You’ll find a leaflet in the cottage with a walk to three local churches: Norman St Nicholas Church in Bramber (in the photo), St Peters in Beeding, and tiny St Botolph’s Church built around 950 A.D: Saxon construction can be seen in the south wall and and simple round headed chancel arch of St Botolph’s and there are traces of medieval wall paintings.
I also love Coombes Church, BN15 0RS, noted for its 12th century wall paintings. In a lovely rural setting, it dates from the Saxon/Norman period and is mentioned in the Domesday Book (1066) when just 31 people lived in Coombes.
St Andrew’s in Steyning’s Church Street is worth visiting too: Founded by St Cuthman before the 9th century, it was rebuilt by the Normans, from the late 11th century. You’ll see typical Norman decorations across the arches and columns in the nave.
6. Get close to nature at a local reserve
The nearest smaller reserve is at Woods Mill;BN5 9SD. Enjoy woodland, meadows and a reed-fringed lake. Free admission. Open all year. A 12 minute drive by car; a 15 minute ride on the 100 bus (Mon to Sat).
Pulborough Brooks; RH20 2EL boasts a great variety of habitats including wetlands and woodlands. Free to RSPB members. Open daily, except on Christmas Day. Free entry to the Visitor Centre. Drive there in 20 minutes. Travel on the 100 bus (Mon to Sat) in 33 minutes!
I love the Wildfowl and Wetland Centre in Arundel. Don’t miss their excellent guided Wetland Boat Safari. Centre and cafe open all year (except Xmas Day). Free parking. 15 miles from Steyning – a 30 minute drive.
7. Experience A Working Windmill
Jack and Jill Windmills stand on top of the scenic South Downs with spectacular views.
They are 7 miles north of the city of Brighton and Hove and are easily accessible by road at the end of Mill Lane from the A273. Free parking.
Jill (in my photo) is a post mill originally built in Dyke Road, Brighton, in 1821. In 1852 a team of horses and oxen moved her to Clayton. Read more about Jill Windmill
Jack – in private ownership – is a five storey tower mill built in 1866. It was worked as a pair with Jill. Unusually Jack mill has a male name.
The working life of the mills ended in 1906 but Jill has been restored. You can visit Jill most Sundays between May and September. When the wind is blowing and Jill is in operation, a guide is available to explain the process of milling. Admission is free.
8. Have a drink and a bite to eat in a local pub
There are three local pubs in Steyning High Street – all within a 5-10 minute walk from Rosebud Cottage! All serve food throughout the year.
The nearest, the Star Inn dates back to the early 1700’s. In the summer you can relax outside in their garden. A little further down the High Street you’ll find The Chequer Inn – a 15th century Coaching House. It retains many of its original features, including open fires. Finally there’s The White Horse Inn, dating from the 15th century.
Venture a couple of miles to the village of Ashurst & you’ll find the Fountain Inn: This classic English 16th century pub has ancient flagstones, oak floors and inglenook fireplaces. Good quality food is on offer 12 noon until 9.30pm – seven days a week. Sit outside in the summer
Other pubs I like are the Shepherd and Dog in the village of Poynings at the foot of the Downs, the Black Rabbit – just outside Arundel and the Snowdrop Inn in Lewes – seen here in my photo.
9. Enjoy local history and architecture
Go down the road to nearby Bramber and see the remains of Norman Castle. There are superb views of the river Adur and the surrounding countryside. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic in the summer…
The castle was constructed around 1070. The most prominent feature is the Gatehouse tower. To the north is the original castle motte, its earthen mound rising to a height of some 30 ft (10 m). Nearby is a section of the curtain wall with a height up to 10 ft (3 m).
If possible visit St Mary’s House – a 15th century, grade 1 listed, timber framed house. Open May to the end of Sept: Sun, Thurs and Bank Holiday Mon, also Wed in Aug from 2 – 5. A 5 minute drive, or 9 minute ride on the 2 or 100 bus.
Travel further afield within Sussex and you will find fascinating historic buildings: Among my favourites are Elizabethan Parham House (open Easter to Oct) Lewes Castle – (open all year), nearby Anne of Cleves House ( Feb to mid Dec), Fishbourne Roman Palace (Feb to mid Dec) and Singleton Weald and the Downland Open Air Museum (Jan to end of Nov).
10. Make a trip to Beachy Head
Beachy Head and its lighthouse are close to the start of the South Downs Way. Its about an hour’s drive from Steyning – just outside Eastbourne.
The cliffs here are part of the Seven Sisters – not the white cliffs of Dover, which are much further east in Kent.
There is a car park near Beachy Head where you can leave your car and take a stroll but if you are a keen hiker you might want to walk the 8 miles along the Seven Sisters between Eastbourne and Cuckmere Haven.
A short distance inland from Cuckmere Haven you will reach Exceat which also has a car park. A bus service runs between Exceat and Eastbourne.
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