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A Merry Christmas

Posted on 22 December 2012

As we close the office for the christmas holiday it is time to wish you a happy and restful Christmas. We shall re open on Thursday 27 December in readiness for those making their plans for holidays in the new year be it a summer holiday or an early winter break. This year has been challenging and again at the time of writing this blog it is raining! The poor weather in the spring and early summer had a significant impact on the market generally and then the Olympic and Paralympic Games caught just about everyone's imagination with little else happening! For 2013 we certainly don't have any Olympic Games to distract us and we cannot expect a repeat of this year's weather, can we?

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The Lighthouse keeps its Stripes!

Posted on 17 December 2012

OK, it's not quite as famous as 'How the leopard got its spots' but to many Sussex residents and regular visitors it's just as important. The iconic lighthouse at Beachy Head with its famous red and white stripes, was in danger of reverting to an ordinary, undistinguished grey appearance because Trinity House, the organisation which owns and operates all Britain's lighthouses, said it couldn't afford the paint job. So a year or so ago some determined local campaigners went into action. It’s something we blogged about last year! Fundraising activities included street collections, book sales and a well-subscribed walk round the lighthouse at a low spring tide (the only time such a walk is possible) and the necessary £27,000 has been raised.  You might think from this reaction that the lighthouse had always been red and white, but strangely enough it hasn't. Originally it was black and white, then red and granite, until 1980 when the iconic red and white stripes first appeared. These would have made it stand out in dark and fog, but these days technical navigation systems at sea are so advanced that the colours are just cosmetic.

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Burning Clocks and other Seasonal Fun!

Posted on 6 December 2012

We couldn't do a December blog without mentioning the festivities, could we? I think Sussex has something for just about everyone in the run-up to Christmas, and whether you like to spend the silly season curled up by the woodburner with a good book in one of our cosy cottages, discovering beautiful country walks and warm, welcoming pubs on your doorstep or just shopping and eating based in one of our lovely apartments, there's a warm welcome for you.  This month many Sussex towns - including Seaford, Worthing, Chichester and Newhaven - host delightful Christmas fares and markets, including special seasonal farmers' markets featuring delicious local produce which anyone in self-catering accommodation (or looking to buy tasty presents) really shouldn't miss, and most towns have special late night shopping evenings. One of the loveliest is Arundel by Candlelight, on Saturday 8 December, with music, a glittering tree, mulled wine, mince pies, hog roast, a carousel and of course shopping, with many streets closed to traffic so that you can stroll safely. There's a candlelight and lantern parade to brighten up the dark evening and of course Santa will be there for the children.

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Saving Hastings Pier

Posted on 3 December 2012

Great news for an East Sussex icon: Hastings Pier is to be fully restored thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of over £11m. The pier was destroyed two years ago by a fire so big that it took four days to put out and was believed, but never proved, to be a case of arson. Its owners appeared to have lost interest - the pier was already in a poor state of repair and had been closed to the public since 2006 - and a few months ago the government allowed Hastings council to issue a compulsory purchase order.  An interim grant has already enabled some structural work to be carried out but the latest cash injection means that Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust can take full ownership, restore the pier to safety and build a new visitor centre. Preserving the original design, engineering and heritage is a priority but the trust is keen to make it a 21st century visitor attraction too. The Western Pavilion was the only part to survive the fire and will become a bar and restaurant.

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A Stroll on Chanctonbury Hill!

Posted on 23 November 2012

A couple of weeks ago we revisited one of our favourite West Sussex walks over Chanctonbury Hill. If you're staying in one of the local villages I'm sure you'll have discovered it by now - and if you're based in one of our lovely cottages in other parts of Sussex, it's easy to access as it's not far from the A24, the London to Worthing road. . This time we took the path that winds up through glorious woods from the north side - it's a fair climb but not too long, and the footing is good. After about 15-20 minutes you reach the South Downs Way and a good view of the famous Chanctonbury Ring. This circle of beautiful trees is planted on the site of an iron age hill fort and although it's not the original, which was destroyed by the infamous storm of 1987, it's looking beautiful now with its autumn colours. Neolithic flint work and Bronze Age pottery have been found there and the site also contains some Roman remains - there was almost certainly a temple, with some other buildings that archaeologists haven't been able to identify.

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Midhurst - Romance, History and good Coffee!

Posted on 15 November 2012

To Midhurst the other day, with a friend who was visiting Sussex. As we both agreed, we don't look at our lovely surroundings enough. Look properly, that is, instead of taking them for granted.  Midhurst is a place I frequently drive through normally en route to somewhere else such as the lovely cottages we have in the Midhurst area. I always think I really must stop here sometime, and driving slowly through the town as one has to makes it even more tantalising when you don't have time to stop.

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Goodbye Bernard of the Bluebell!

Posted on 7 November 2012

October was a poignant month in the history of the Bluebell Railway, one of Sussex's best-known tourist attractions. The man who founded the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society, Bernard Holden, died at the great age of 104 and a special train carried his coffin from Sheffield Park to Kingscote for the funeral.  Now this might sound like a sad subject to blog about, but it's not: Sussex has good reason to celebrate Holden's life as the Bluebell is a real asset to this region - a great day out for railway buffs, children and families at any time of year, or for a special occasion (a romantic dinner, perhaps?) on certain days you can book a table in its period-piece dining car.

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Arts and Crafts in Sussex

Posted on 1 November 2012

There's no shortage in Sussex of what I call ‘days out houses' which we show under our Places to Visit - historic properties ranging from stately homes to quaint cottages, some privately owned and others in the hands of organisations like the National Trust and English Heritage - but one of my favourites is Standen, the Arts & Crafts house near East Grinstead.  I visited Standen first as a teenager, when grandiose piles that felt like museums did little for me unless they had an interesting art collection or a beautiful garden (which many do, of course). But what immediately grabbed me about this place was not just that it has both of those but also its timeless feel - it's a real house, you could imagine real people living real lives there through many different times. The building, designed by Philip Webb, was so original and ahead of its time and the interior is pure Arts & Crafts, from the William Morris wallpaper to the William de Morgan ceramics. Then there's the setting, on that hillside surrounded by glorious woodland and views over the Sussex High Weald - especially at this time of year, when the trees turn golden before shedding their leaves to reveal the full extent of the vista.

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Ghosts and Ghouls

Posted on 23 October 2012

Hallowe'en and half term mean one thing; you stand a good chance of finding witches, ghosts and ghouls in the Sussex countryside. In the towns too, come to that. I should add that you generally only find them if you're looking for them, so granny and your smallest children needn't be alarmed, but they're bound to be there if you look in the right places. The place to start is Pumpkin Cottage in Slindon, open daily 9.30am till dusk throughout this month. Here you can find your Hallowe'en essentials for making a pumpkin man, as well as tasty varieties for cooking - and they look brilliant. But it's not the only place to buy a good gourd; many pick-your-own farms in Sussexturn to pumpkins at this time of year too - and you can check out our selection of working farm retreats for your half-term break.

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Regency Sussex

Posted on 16 October 2012

One author whose work often features on the bookshelves of our Sussex holiday cottages is the late Georgette Heyer. A hard-working and prolific writer, her tales of romance and intrigue are synonymous with Regency Sussex, as she lived in Horsham, Brighton and Hove during the 1930s and set many of her novels in the county. Apparently she carried out such highly detailed research into the period, its costumes, artefacts and architecture that it's amazing she found time to write so much - but she did, with a light but authentic touch. Some might call it chick-lit, but it's always fun and her historical details are spot on. And there's often smuggling involved - an industry, if you can call it that, which played a huge part in the lives of people in coastal Sussex over the centuries.  Sussex is still full of beautiful Regency architecture, the most famous example of course being the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. But many of our seafront towns have fine examples that tourists and connoisseurs alike will enjoy discovering. At 2, Lansdowne Place in Hove you can spot the blue plaque dedicated to architect Charles Augustin Busby (a man with a passion for Romanesque pillars), who designed the Kemp Town estate and the Brunswick Town development which you might think of as the east and west flanks of Brighton and Hove. Kemp Town, incidentally, was named after wealthy local MP Thomas Read Kemp.

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What's your Tipple?

Posted on 9 October 2012

At this time of year your thoughts have probably changed from the outdoor element of a holiday to the cosy, comfortable or romantic retreats - and where better than a nice Sussex pub? We've got our share of local breweries and a great choice of beers, and many pubs specialise in serving local produce with original recipes. Sussex has everything from gastropubs to gourmet pubs to pubs that serve really good, traditional grub with walker-sized portions, outside in the lovely garden on a sunny autumn day or inside by a warm hearth. Pubs you can hike to, ride to, cycle to or just potter along in the car. Pubs with fabulous Sussex Downs and sea views, or tucked away in picturesque villages.  One thing most of them have in common is that they've had to diversify and adapt in order to survive - and novelty seems to work well. You'll often find exhibitions of local arts, crafts or photography on display; one has trombones for urinals and some sell local produce as well as serving it. From local venison and lamb to fresh vegetables and rape seed oil, Sussex produce is diverse and delicious.

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Lifeboats - the other Emergency Service

Posted on 3 October 2012

If you've been on or in the sea during your holiday on the Sussex coast this summer, spare a thought for the local lifeboat crews. The RNLI famously speeds to the rescue of stricken ships, but its dedicated and brave volunteers also help a wide variety of leisure craft and all sorts of people, from professional and amateur sailors to swimmers and people whose holiday fun goes a bit wrong. Lifeboats operate from Shoreham by Sea, Littlehampton, Selsey, Hastings, Newhaven and Rye, as well as Eastbourne, whose new, state-of-the-art Tamar-class lifeboat, aptly named Diamond Jubilee, took part in the Thames pageant this summer.  Incidents logged for the Eastbourne lifeboat in August included locating a swimmer in trouble - who it seems had a track record in undertaking risky swims; rescuing an exhausted kayaker who had the sense to call for help; finding that a 'floating body' reported off Pevensey Bay was, thankfully, just a log; and helping the crew of a catamaran that lost its outboard engine overboard while in the outer harbour. That happened on the same day they provided cover for the Eastbourne Air Display and took part in a demonstration with a search-and-rescue Sea King helicopter. The day seemed to develop something of a theme, as the volunteers were later called out to tow a motor cruiser and help a sail-training yacht that both had engine trouble. Thankfully all these incidents had happy endings.

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Getting the Wind up!

Posted on 24 September 2012

This year's Glyndebourne festival details of which you can read under ‘What’s on’ was billed as the first one ever to run on wind power, thanks to a 67-metre turbine that was officially unveiled last January by Sir David Attenborough. It hasn't been the best summer for outdoor events but at least Glyndebourne, which claims it's the first UK arts organisation to generate its own power, could make positive use of some of the poor weather. If you're planning to come back for next year's festival, do check out our superb selection of East Sussex cottages.  Individual attempts to create renewable energy generally seem to be well received, but when they travel in packs and turn into offshore wind farms they usually provoke mixed feelings. Some people think they're beautiful and well worth the cost from an ecological point of view, others see them as an expensive waste of time that cause havoc among birds. A long-running consultation for a proposed wind farm off the Sussex coast closed in August and it will be interesting to see what happens.

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Tindall's Cottage - Raising the Frame!

Posted on 17 September 2012

No this is not a new addition to our own portfolio of Sussex holiday cottage!  The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum,at Singleton, near Chichester, is currently working on the reconstruction of ‘Tindalls Cottage’, an early 18th century home which will, when complete, become the latest addition to the Museum’s superb collection of rescued historic rural buildings. The project which began last autumn will celebrate a landmark stage this September, at a special public event – ‘Raising the Frame’ – next weekend of 22nd and 23rd September, during which the timber frame will be erected in its location on the site.

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Flaming Autumn - almost!

Posted on 11 September 2012

One of our larger traditional market towns, Horsham in West Sussex was thrilled to host the Paralympic torch on its progress towards the second half of London 2012. This torch, rather than being flown in from Greece like The Other One, was lit with flints and taken on a more modest but nonetheless exciting tour of the country. The good burghers of Horsham had been a little miffed not to be part of things the first time round - especially when arch-rival Crawley got the nod - and the local press enjoyed some lively correspondence on the subject.  But hosting the Paralympic flame was a great honour and Horsham is good at occasions like that, with its lovely park - fittingly, with the leisure centre backing onto it - creating the perfect setting despite a dodgy weather forecast. I headed back to Greenwich Park to watch the Paralympic dressage, an event in which the British team has an unrivalled medal record, and it was great to see the Olympic spirit alive and well.

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A Medieval Hall opens at Great Dixter

Posted on 4 September 2012

Today sees the opening of a 500 year old medieval barn together with three 19th Century oast houses at Great Dixter Gardens in Northiam East Sussex, once the home of horticulturist Christopher Lloyd. The timing of the opening could not be better as we enjoy some fine late summer weather here in Sussex that is forecast to run to the weekend.  The Grade II listed barn is one of the south east's largest surviving medieval timber framed barns and along with the oast houses has been restored as part of an £8m conservation project over a four year period. The threshing floor and a cattle feeding trough have been preserved thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

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A Town for all Tastes!

Posted on 29 August 2012

The other weekend we took some friends to Bognor Regis, because they'd never been there and felt it was 'one of those places you ought to see'. They weren't sure why, except that it's one of those famous Sussex seaside resorts, possibly the enticing mixture of its royally-decreed name and what is perceived a slightly tacky reputation. For one of them the fact that there's a good model shop in the town was good reason, but anyway, they wanted to see it for themselves.  Bognor Regis has a good beach. It's pebbles at the top, and quite a steep slope in places, but that makes for a clean place to put your gear down. When the tide goes out there's plenty of sand and as we walked the length of the beach, starting near the tranquil sailing club, we passed several very good sandcastles, a few games of football and volleyball (yes, beach volleyball actually on the beach!) and several kites..The sand was firm to walk on and I love the red seaweed. A good breeze was blowing and further along a couple of kitesurfers were having fun; at the other end, away from the few hardy swimmers, the jet skiis were in full zoom.

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Flying High over Sussex!

Posted on 23 August 2012

Taking a hot air baloon flight on a balmy summers evening is certainly on my list of things to do. It's funny but when you live here in Sussex you somehow never quite get round to grabbing the opportunity to get up there and see our fantastic county from the air. However now that my colleague Diane Lay who handles all our bookings for us has enjoyed such an experience then it is certainly quickly heading up my list of things to do. Here are a few words from Diane following her and husband Brian's flight from the outskirts of Petworth in West Sussex. I can't think of a better place to start a flight and if you too are tempted we have some great holiday cottages in and around Petworth to offer you.

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Sussex's version of the Voice!

Posted on 13 August 2012

A nightjar was heard at Woods Mill earlier this year. Not quite 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square' but still great news as the bad weather has been disastrous for many birds. Last summer there were two evening walks with Sussex Wildlife Trust - one to hear nightingales, the other to hear the elusive nightjar; these take place on several evenings each year and I recommend them highly.  For the nightingale walk a beautiful evening is always a bonus. Setting out from the Woods Mill visitor centre, two miles north of the South Downs, after a fascinating slide show and talk by SWT expert Mike Russell, someone claimed to have heard our first nightingale within minutes. Others remained sceptical but in any case we heard a song thrush, which was delightful in itself. Mike led us to a spot where he was fairly sure nightingales were nesting and sure enough, right on cue, one began to sing.

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Cheers to a Sussex Olympian!

Posted on 3 August 2012

Just back on the planet after watching Findon girl Kristina Cook help the British three-day event team to its Olympic silver medal. What a fantastic performance. Sad that Tina didn't win an individual medal too, despite being in contention until the bitter end, but that's how it goes. Greenwich Park looked glorious and the cross-country course worked well; it was tricky and twisty but the Brits rode superbly. It was also cleverly designed to showcase magnificent views of London and I'm sure some of the iconic images of London 2012 will come from the equestrian events.  Sure, I queued with the other 54,999 people to get into Greenwich station at the end of the day, but it wasn't bad and the trains to and from Sussex worked very well. In fact, if you're based in one of our lovely Sussex holiday cottages this might be a good time for a day trip to the capital now that the athletic events have also started - I gather all the warnings about staying away have worked so well that you can get a seat on the Tube in rush hour!

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Checking the Water Level!

Posted on 1 August 2012

It's hard to believe that not so long ago I was writing about the depleted levels of water in our Sussex reservoirs. Back in April I couldn't recall having seen Ardingly Reservoir so depleted, but when I drove over there last week it looked full to the brim, although I've no idea how the underground reserves are doing. We had a picnic near the Ashdown Forest Visitor Centre on what I think was the first dry, clear evening in ages and it was such a pleasure to be outside, enjoying the glorious view as it changed in the evening light.  Sussex was one of the last drought-ridden counties to have its hosepipe ban lifted since we are the sunshine county, but that didn't happen until it had poured non-stop (or so it seemed) for months. When the bans were introduced, didn't some boffin say it would need to rain every day between then and Christmas to replenish stocks? It did seem like tempting fate... Happily, it's looking much brighter out there now.

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Big holiday cottages. Planning a large group get away?

Posted on 1 August 2012

Sussex truly is a picturesque part of the British Isles and is adored by thousands of tourists annually. Whether they're visiting for the sun drenched coast or to explore the National Park, Sussex hotels and campsites fill up quickly with returning guests. So what are your options if you're planning a holiday for a large group of people?  ...

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Up on the Downs!

Posted on 27 July 2012

But it's a boon for holidaymakers. It's hard to go wrong with a tranquil holiday home within the national park, which covers more than 1,600 sq km containing so much history and culture. Staying in a lovely self-catering cottage within its boundaries you'll have leisure amenities right on the doorstep, from walking, riding and cycling opportunities to paragliding, hang-gliding, mountain boarding and zorbing - that's the one where you roll down a hill inside a transparent bubble, and I say 'you' for a good reason.  A great idea for families is to look for a holiday cottage on a working farm and see how Sussex farmers help look after the environment - we have a great selection of properties. I was very glad the Big Butterfly Count last month, with teams covering East Sussex and West Sussex, managed to be on quite a nice day amid all the rain. We're proud of our biodiversity round here!

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Going Underground!

Posted on 24 July 2012

No, it's nothing to do with The Jam or the Jubilee - it's even older and nonetheless intriguing. Petworth House, near Midhurst, opened its network of tunnels on 21-22 July for a rare opportunity to get right below stairs at this iconic stately home. They may have been originally designed to enable servants to go about their business without being seen, but they found a highly worthwhile use during the Second World War as air-raid shelters for children - some local, some evacuees from the Chelsea Day Nursery that was set up in the servants' quarters, others from areas where their homes had been bombed. We have plenty of lovely cottages in this area and it's easily accessible along the A272 if you're staying in one of our Petersfield and Winchester properties.  One thing you're sure to find in a dark tunnel is bats. If you want to see and hear them a little less up-close-and-personal, go along to Buchan Country Park between Crawley and Horsham, which is a real haven for the crepuscular creatures. Sussex Wildlife Trust's wonderful evening bat walks are worth a try, with a sonar detector that lets you hear their amazing sounds as they flit around the lake.

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The Torch Relay comes to Sussex!

Posted on 16 July 2012

The Olympics are less than a month away now and at last the exciting Olympic torch relay is coming to Sussex - getting closer and closer to the end of its journey. It crosses the border into our lovely county on the morning of Monday, 16 July at Rogate in West Sussex, then travels to Chichester, Bognor and Arundel before finishing the day with a massive party on the seafront at Brighton. The party is free to attend and there'll be music, dance and cultural performances - the sort of thing Brighton does so well.  If you want to keep following the torch's progress you'll need to get up early, as it leaves Pavilion Gardens at 7.20 the following morning (Tuesday 17th) for its journey towards East Sussex through Crawley, East Grinstead, Lewes, Eastbourne, Bexhill and Hastings - where another evening celebration is on the cards, at the Stade Open Space. Then, early on the Wednesday morning, the torch will be borne off to historic Battle Abbey and on to the funicular railway in Hastings old town, before disappearing into over the Kent border (feel free to check out our sister website for holiday cottages with a bird's eye view of that leg of the relay). This is no low-key affair: quite apart from all the people lining its route, the torch is accompanied by something like 35 runners, who are each putting in up to 30 miles a day, along with support motorcyclists and cyclists to protect it. One of the torch-bearers on the East Sussex leg will be daredevil motorbike stunt rider Eddie Kidd, from Peacehaven, whose career came to an abrupt end when he suffered brain injuries in a crash back in 1996. The torch-bearers aren't all celebrities but what they have in common is that they've been nominated by people who think they truly deserve the honour, so come along and cheer them on wherever you are in Sussex - and if you haven't already booked your cottage, try our late availability page now!  

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Water Way to Celebrate!

Posted on 11 July 2012

Blue flag beaches abound on the Sussex coast, from West Wittering all the way round to Hastings and beyond, and July is the month when holidaymakers start flocking towards the water in the hope that it's warm enough to swim. Some, of course, swim anyway whatever the weather and I take my hat off to this hardy bunch given the weather we have had! As a kid I used to take trips to Worthing in the school holidays and will always remember the white-haired gent who walked to the sea every morning, swam for five or ten minutes, stood on his head on the beach and then strode off. Even the shortest swim is worth the effort - just make sure you've got a nice warm towel and a flask of hot tea waiting! It's part of the great British seaside tradition, after all.  For those who don’t want to get quite so wet, though, the Paddle Round the Pier at Hove Lawns is the world's biggest free beach and watersports festival and alongside watersports it features street sports, live music and of course plenty of 'have a go' opportunities.

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Sussex Holiday Cottages are far better than hotels

Posted on 10 July 2012

 For large group's of holiday makers traveling to the sunny depths of Sussex and the South Downs, an ideal option is to stay in one of the many holiday cottages on offer.

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Hickstead Ahoy!

Posted on 6 July 2012

Copywright Samantha Lamb. What's the connection between Sussex and the London Olympics? Well, if you're an equestrian enthusiast, the All-England Jumping Course at Hickstead, which we in Sussex call our 'local international', wanted to stage Olympic events and could easily have done so but the powers that be decided to put them in the thick of things, up there close to the Olympic Park. Actually the riders quite like that idea in some ways, because they felt pretty cut off competing in Hong Kong for the Beijing Games; someone commented that it was like being at a World Championships but lacked the atmosphere of a real Olympics. Anyway, I digress: it's exciting when the Hickstead opens for the year's competitions, it’s a sign that summer is finally here!. They branched out into arena polo recently, with an international fixture that created quite a buzz around here so I hope it'll be repeated. You can now buy your tickets for both the Derby meeting – that's the one where they have to tackle the formidable Derby bank – and the Longines Royal International in July, which hosts the famous King George V Gold Cup and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup and is a top 'showing' show as well.

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Sussex Produce is the Best!

Posted on 18 June 2012

We've had the sort weather that makes getting out on the allotment seem worthwhile. Wet weather often feels much better when you go out and do something than when you just look out of the window, but working on the allotment is an exception: you just sink into the ground, although the weight of all the Sussex Weald clay on your boots probably does wonders for muscle tone. Still, I'm pleased to say that my attempt at boosting Sussex produce is now well and truly under way.  But it's a drop in the ocean compared to many people, and you only have to visit one of this county's fabulous farmers' markets, or the little independent Sussex farm shops dotted around, for proof of that. From artisan bread, fresh fruit and vegetables and locally-reared meat to deservedly popular cooking alternatives such as rapeseed oil, Sussex has so much to offer that you'll never go hungry in your self-catering cottage.

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Horses Galore!

Posted on 11 June 2012

Hickstead is a fabulous international equestrian venue right on our doorstep in Sussex. But this month something really special is happening, and it's free, yes a holiday day out for nothing!.  On 18-19 June, the All-England Jumping Course at Hickstead hosts the British Para Dressage Championships – a major event in itself, but this year it's also the final Olympic selection event. The organisers want lots of supporters there to boost the para dressage profile and help the squad (both human and equine) get a feel for the atmosphere of a major show. The entry list includes top riders Sophie Wells, Natasha Baker, Anne Dunham and Sophie Cristiansen, as well as nine-times gold medallist Lee Pearson.

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Art Trails - Get Creative!

Posted on 8 June 2012

June is the month when many parts of Sussex hold their annual Art Trails, or Open Studios. There's a wealth of talent in East and West Sussex from painters and sculptors to jewellery and textile designers, wood turners, furniture makers and much, much more, and each year many of them open their studios to visitors. Not only do you get to see some truly inspiring work in a relaxed, friendly environment – it's not like visiting a formal gallery – but the artist will usually be on hand to chat about their work, or about the art scene in general. Most of the work is for sale but although you may well end up buying a lovely keepsake of your visit, there's no pressure to buy.  The Adur Art Trail (now to 17 June) showcases the Adur Art Collective, based around Lancing, Shoreham-by-Sea and Southwick. Most of the studios are open between approximately 10am-5pm at weekends, but some open during the week too – pick up their leaflet in local tourist outlets and libraries. There are workshops, talks and demos too, and if you're too late to book a place on one of those why not join in the One Big Drawing event. This will be a huge, collaborative mixed-media creation, anyone of any ability can take part for a small donation towards materials. Burgess Hill Open Studios event takes place over this weekend and then the weekend of

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Jubilee Celebrations and how to make a Splash!

Posted on 31 May 2012

June is Jubilee month, as I'm sure you already know unless you've been visiting another planet (though we haven't branched out into space with our holiday cottages... yet!!). This month Britain is celebrating the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II, and there's nothing like a royal event to get this country in a party mood. There will be street parties and festivals in towns and villages throughout Sussex – far too many to list here, but do check the internet and local press for information as there's bound to be something happening near your holiday cottage. Possibly even within walking distance, so you won't have to worry about driving.  Sussex certainly has its fair share of the 4,000 Jubilee beacons that are being lit around the country. Towns all along the coast from Chichester to Hastings, inland to Crowborough on the Ashdown Forest and west to the Sussex Weald, will see festivities galore as the beacons are lit on bank holiday Monday, 4 June. Lighting times are being co-ordinated throughout the country so do check local information to find out what's happening and when. If we're lucky enough to get clear weather, and probably even if we don't, it'll be truly spectacular. If you're bringing a large party to the parties, I hope you've found one of our lovely town and country house retreats to stay in that sleep eight or more guests.

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It's Show Time!

Posted on 24 May 2012

A Sussex country show that's always worth visiting is Heathfield Agricultural Show this coming weekend (26 May) – a true traditional agricultural show whose purpose has always been to show visitors the provenance of meat and the important part farming plays in getting food to our tables. There'll be farm animals to look at and learn about, plus showing classes for sheep, cattle, pigs and horses which always make a lovely spectacle. An Olympic-themed flower show (with classes for both professionals and novices) and a display of vintage tractors complete the line-up, so whether you're watching or taking part it promises to be a great day out. View our East Sussex cottages where we still have late availability and given our god weather at long last many are taking the opportunity to get away.

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Horsepower of a different kind!

Posted on 15 May 2012

e Whatever your interest in horsepower whether it's at Goodwood or Cowdray, we have two superb and high quality Sussex executive homes to offer you that are perfect for your executives and corporate guests who enjoy the high profile horsepower events here in Sussex! Shopwyke Manor dates back one thousand years, a manor home steeped in local history and today presented to the highest standard complete with maid service. For top executives and key guests it is a special place to stay allowing you to entertain in style during our premier events..  

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Festival Fever

Posted on 10 May 2012

May is the month for festivals in Sussex, with some of the best you'll find anywhere.  Running from 5-27 May is the famous Brighton Festival, England's biggest arts festival, with this year's guest director Vanessa Redgrave inspiring a whole range of events that explore some of her favourite themes ranging from theatre, literature and politics to humanitarian and social issues. Alongside it runs the Brighton Fringe, the third-largest fringe festival in the world with something like 675 events over three weeks. Just about every one of Brighton's fabulous arts venues, plus some quite unexpected temporary ones, is pressed into action and it's always a showcase for major and up-and-coming talent as well as a forum for ideas and debates.

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The Ashdown Forest - Drought and Rain!

Posted on 1 May 2012

Dust off your hiking boots and head for Ashdown Forest. It's fabulous at any time but on a clear, sunny day and with the trees filling with new leaf growth you can see so much. It's not just the views, though – just look at the textures. Windswept grasses against soft heather, dark birch and oak trunks... if you're given to taking a sketchbook on holiday, do bring it here. The walking doesn't have to be hard; plenty of hills but if you start from one of the car parks (which are free, by the way) and do a circuit, there's nothing too arduous.  The forest has plenty of lovely places to see even if you don't really enjoy walking. Winnie The Pooh country, around Hartfield East Sussex, is delightful, and it’s worth calling in at the visitor centre, which has plenty of information – from maps and trails to how to recognise different types of newt – and usually an art exhibition. The volunteer staff are well-informed and helpful.

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Run for Fun or a PB!

Posted on 13 April 2012

I'm thinking fitness with the Brighton Marathon taking place this weekend and the Olympic torch relay route - with its Sussex sections, of course – being announced recently. I just wish the thinking could translate into a bit more doing... don't we all?  The Brighton Marathon course always takes in the best local scenery, from lovely Preston Park and the Regency-era Royal Pavilion to some fabulous stretches of coast with magnificent views. This year's route is designed to be a bit faster than usual, with one of the big climbs around Ovingdean East Sussex taken out and an extra loop added around Portslade, West Sussex instead. A good knock-on effect should be some extra trade for the local shops and cafes around Portslade as the run draws a host of visitors..

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Easter in Sussex!

Posted on 3 April 2012

Well I’m happy to report that finally the Easter holidays are here. We’ve had a busy lead up to Easter in Sussex this year – and if you're spending your Easter in one of our pretty Sussex cottages as I know many are, you won't be disappointed. I really think there's something here for everyone. Sussex has lots of lovely old churches and, of course, two magnificent cathedrals – Arundel and Chichester; National Trust and other stately homes and gardens start opening up for the summer season, complete with Easter egg trails in many cases; and, as if you could miss it on the South Downs, it's the tail end of lambing time. If you appreciate ecclesiastical architecture from outside as well as in, I recommend the view of Arundel castle from the train. I caught the train from Pulborough to Chichester the other week and as the line curves around Arundel you're treated to the most glorious sight of the cathedral and castle towering above the flat coastal plain. Look the opposite way and you're faced with the South Downs escarpment. In fact the whole journey is beautiful and really shows some of the scenic variety Sussex has to offer.

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A Bird in the hand!

Posted on 21 March 2012

Do you fancy a fabulous day out with birds of prey?. You can do this at several places in Sussex – including the Sussex Falconry Centre in, appropriately named Birdham, and West Sussex Falconry at Compton, near Chichester. There’s also Huxleys, in Horsham, where owners Julian and Steph and their team give a day to remember. We have some handy holiday cottages in this part of the county as well so take a look! The 'Raptor Experience Day' at Huxleys starts with coffee and owls, a bit Harry Potter-ish. Gloves are lent out with an introduction to the little owls who squeak happily, and a tawny owl who loves having his feathers stroked. Perhaps the highlight of the day is: the hawk walk with Denver the Harris hawk snug in his travelling basket, At the appropriate place usually with the cover of Sussex woodland he displays his skills. It's a bit like walking a dog, except Denver flies and sits in trees. The walk they take you on takes in impressive views over the Sussex Weald and south towards the South Downs at Truleigh Hill.

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On the Pier at Brighton

Posted on 8 March 2012

That bastion of British seaside tradition, the pier, is disappearing fast. These iconic wooden structures seem to burn down or get ravished by storms at an alarming rate and those that remain become national treasures. So when you find a fully-functioning pier – and the Brighton Pier is one – what's the attraction? It's tacky, it's noisy and there's probably a cold wind blasting through the boards. You'll burn cash in the amusement arcade, perhaps feel a bit dizzy as you peer at the surging sea below or shudder at the recollection of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock gangsters, and the kids will clamour to go on the fairground rides before demanding candyfloss; but there's an indoor fish-and-chip restaurant and three bars and, let's face it, there's just something about the atmosphere. Perhaps because it's been enjoyed by so many people for so long, or perhaps because – and it's easy to forget this – back in 1823 it was the landing stage for ferries to and from Dieppe, it has a certain je ne sais quois, a timeless, feelgood experience for anyone and everyone.

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A Gorgeous Garden and some gruesome facts!

Posted on 29 February 2012

It's 25 years since the Great Storm of 1987 that wreaked havoc across Southeast England. Arguably we've had a few 'great storms' since then, but the 1987 one really did change the landscape. Well-known views disappeared overnight as 75mph winds swept through and felled trees and shrubs – many of them centuries old – in their path. Ironically, though, there was a silver lining for visitors as many other vistas across the Sussex Weald reappeared that had long been hidden. At Wakehurst Place, the country estate near Ardingly in West Sussex which is now linked with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the damage was keenly felt both in the gardens and in the surrounding woodland. More than 25,000 trees came crashing down and it took five years to clear the damage, let alone begin the restoration process. But in the aftermath of that storm features such as the Asian Heath Garden were created that are now much-loved parts of the scenery, and some of the trees planted then now reach 50ft (you might not be surprised to hear that they're eucalyptus).

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A Bit of Animal Magic!

Posted on 20 February 2012

Appropriately for a region that's so popular with walkers, some of our country and coastal cottages can accommodate your dog as well as yourself. We don't discriminate, but we'd love to see more of our very own Sussex Spaniels visit, as this lovely breed – stockier and stronger than other spaniels – is on the Kennel Club's 'at risk' list. It's always described as having a sort of rolling gait, which makes me think of sailors and seems rather appropriate to our coastal county.  Although they're working dogs they have a kind, confident nature that makes them good pets too. The English Setter and the Irish Terrier are also on the list as more people turn to exotic breeds of the sort favoured by slebs, sorry, that's the breed formerly known as celebrities. Paris Hilton and her Chihuahua have a lot to answer for. It's always sad when a native breed begins to die out. It's not just dogs – ponies, cattle and sheep are affected too, and I'm sure there are other examples. We don't have our own Sussex ponies but our local Southdown sheep are having a bit of a revival, mainly because they grow fast and taste good but let's face it, the Downs just wouldn't be the same without flocks of these no-nonsense, leg-at-each-corner creatures. No country walk is complete without the sight and sound of local sheep. Another Sussex breed that's still popular is our very own chicken. They seem to come in all sorts of colours, from brown or red to speckled, lavender or even golden (these apparently popular in Australia). They're good foragers and very productive on the egg front and they get on well with people, so they're popular as garden pets. The Sussex Weald is full of deer, of course – anyone who's walked in the woods will have come across the signs, if not seen them. But if you're after something a little more exotic – barring the odd escaped wallaby – another inhabitant that's on the increase is the wild boar, a nocturnal fella so you're less likely to come across him, although you may well see the signs – look for rubbing posts and wallowing holes as well as tracks, especially in woodland on the Kent/Sussex border. They're a bit controversial as they can damage crops, but it's sad to hear they're popular with poachers. So keep walking, keep looking... you never know what you might meet.

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Sussex Half Term Fun!

Posted on 10 February 2012

Half term is here, and our lovely Sussex countryside offers so much to see and do. Walks are always an option, but as it's February we thought you might like something warmer.  The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton makes a lovely day out (it occasionally has to close when conditions are too icy, so it's worth phoning ahead if the weather's iffy). You get to stretch your legs strolling around the scenic site and its outdoor attractions, but if the rain or snow descends there's plenty of indoor stuff too. Discover how our ancestors lived, how they built their homes and worked their land as you explore the museum's village which includes farmsteads, a Tudor kitchen and a working watermill. There's also an amazing collection of buildings 'rescued' from the local area – historic structures that would otherwise have been demolished.

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Sussex Winter Walks!

Posted on 3 February 2012

We're enjoying a winter cold snap here in Sussex with beautiful crisp clear days, in my view that's what winter is all about and it's pleasing to avoid all the snow that blighted us last winter!. Our winter booking activity has been far more active with many guests enjoying short breaks away in Sussex even at this coldest time. I read an article in the Independent recently on the best winter walks. We have long held the view that getting on to the Sussex chalk downland whether walking the South Downs Way or enjoying the myriad of paths and bridleways that cross Englands latest National Park is a wonderful way to enjoy the winter air and our stunning scenery when it's at its bleakest time.

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A Devil's Playground

Posted on 17 January 2012

The legend of Devil's Dyke on the top of the South Downs above Brighton is far more romantic than the down-to-earth explanation offered by geologists: that Britain's largest dry valley was formed during the last Ice Age by the ebb and flow of ice over its chalk landscape. Ancient parisoners took it as gospel that the valley was the Devil's work, carved out of the land by the Devil himself so the sea would flood the Weald and drown all its God-worshippers. Man has lived on this landscape for 5,000 years, building farmsteads in the Bronze Age and hillforts in the Iron Age to defend against invaders and farming corn and grazing sheep at Devil's Dyke in the Middle Ages.  

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