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Tattoo With a View

Posted on 13 December 2013

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Sussex resident and keen sailor David Dimbleby - he of the recent tattoo admission - has become the first chairman of Eastbourne's Towner Gallery. I can highly recommend a visit to the Towner if you haven't already been, or a repeat visit if you have, as along with the Pallant in Chichester it's one of South East England's premier art galleries. 

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Wild Swimming

Posted on 6 December 2013

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Wild swimming...  it's December and you're thinking I've gone mad, right? But I'm sure a lot of people have thought about it or been tempted to try on their next Sussex holiday; especially if you've read Waterlog by the late, great Roger Deakin. 

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Say Misty For Me

Posted on 2 December 2013

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I wonder how Misty the diplodocus felt on being transported half way round the world. We take travel and holidays so much for granted but for Misty's generation, well, it was something pretty big. Almost as big as Misty, in fact. 

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Why Tourism Matters

Posted on 26 November 2013

Few industries are as important to Britain as tourism. The UK's fifth largest, it supports three million jobs, over 200,000 small and medium sized enterprises, and contributes £127 billion to the country's GDP each year according to a new report commissioned by Deloitte.

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Historical Pride

Posted on 22 November 2013

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The Battle of Hastings is a cornerstone of British history and I'm already excited about plans to celebrate its 950th anniversary in October 2016. A committee has been set up to decide how it will be done, but we know the day's myriad events will include a memorial service for the Saxons and Normans who were killed, a military band and marching display through Battle town centre and a dusk flag-lowering ceremony.

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Flights of fancy

Posted on 15 November 2013

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Exotic butterflies and moths have been flocking to Sussex. They won't be much in evidence at this time of year, but the warm summer and autumn attracted species such as the European long-tailed blue butterfly, which doesn't usually come this far north, and rare moths such as the rosy underwing, have been spotted in recent months.

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Fish and dogs

Posted on 8 November 2013

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Don't you love it when the long-range weather forecasters start casting their die for what the winter will be like? Last year, as I recall, someone learned predicted a few months of cold weather, some of it wet and much of it unsettled... hello, it's called winter...

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Rye Bonfire

Posted on 1 November 2013

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Remember, remember the 5th of November Why not book a stay in one of our properties and celebrate a bonfire night, like no other? The Sussex Bonfire Societies are responsible for the series of Bonfire festivals around 1066 Country and Kent, from late September to November.  Commonly known as Bonfire Season and  it extends over 10 weeks.  The celebrations mark both Guy Fawkes Night and the burning of 17 Protestant martyrs in Lewes High Street from 1555 to 1557, during the reign of Mary Tudor.    

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Sussex speak

Posted on 25 October 2013

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Spending holidays in Sussex you might have noticed that we have a distinct dialect around here. To my ear it has a rural, laid-back sort of sound, as befits a largely rural county, that's not so far removed from the sounds of neighbouring Kent and Hampshire and in some parts influenced by 'immigrants' from London - Brighton has its own version of Cockney with a Sussex twang. I've no doubt that some regional words are shared with other parts of the country. Twitten, meaning a little alleyway, is a good example as I've heard that used up north as well. And those tiny, winding streets in Brighton known as the Lanes are really called the Laines, with an i, the Sussex word for open land at the base of the downs - you'll still see that spelling on street signs.

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Ghosts and other friends

Posted on 18 October 2013

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October means half term, Hallowe'en and the run-up to Bonfire Night festivities. I'm thinking cosy cottages with a woodburning stove to snuggle round, country pubs with a log fire and lovely local food and beer, stunning red, gold and russet colours in the woodland and that beautiful, clear light you get at this time of year. Not surprisingly, however, all the kids I know are thinking costumes, ghosts, witches and fireworks. One of the regional Sussex highlights for Hallowe'en is Tulley's Farm Shocktober Fest, at Turners Hill West Sussex, which has a host of attractions for kids of all ages. There's a Creepy Cottage, a Boo Barn and a Circus Maze among others, but the one that intrigues me most is the Horrid Hayride, because it's billed on at least one website as having 'live actors'. Given the occasion, I'm quite glad they made the distinction. Another highlight is Drusilla's Park, at Alfriston in East Sussex, which this year boasts a Shriek Week full of surprises for half term.

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Autumn colour!

Posted on 9 October 2013

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Every year I'm blown away by the autumn colours - and I'm talking not about the new season's fashion collections, but about trees. At this time of year trees do it for me every time. Every shade of red, russet, orange, yellow, gold... just look at our magnificent Sussex views for inspiration and pure pleasure. Sussex may be famous for its open downland but it also has a lot of beautiful woodland, some of it ancient and historic. We can only hope that acute oak decline doesn't take too high a toll, as oak in particular is very much a part of Sussex heritage - there is a species called Sussex oak, hence all the pubs named for it.

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A pier is reborn and an orchestra saved!

Posted on 4 October 2013

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Hurrah for Hastings Pier! Or rather, hurrah for those determined people who fought to preserve it and restore it. We were so delighted to hear that it had been promised a £14m restoration job which is due for completion in spring 2015, thanks to hard work and campaigning by the Hastings Pier Charity. The 'peerless pier', as it became known, was owned by an overseas company that neglected it so badly that a compulsory purchase order was issued last year and Hastings Borough Council, which is providing some of the funding, took over ownership in August. Most of the grant comes from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with other significant contributors including the Coastal Communities Fund - also using Lottery cash - and East Sussex County Council. Shares in Hastings Pier go on sale tomorrow (Saturday 5 October) which can be purchased at £100.00 per share if you fancy making your own investment in its future.

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An innocent game!

Posted on 27 September 2013

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Sussex can lay claim to the origins of stoolball - a game we've probably all played at some point, usually in the local park after work and involving a few pints. For the uninitiated, I can tell you that stoolball is described by its governing body as somewhere between Twenty20 cricket and baseball, although I always thought it was a version of the game of rounders we played at school. So you get the drift: it involves wickets, bats, bowling and boundaries and the scores are made in runs. I don't wish to sound glib though: stoolball is recognised by Sport England and has a serious league, particularly in the South-East corner of England, and teams can be ladies only or mixed. But its history is very much a part of Sussex, dating back to the 15th century and originally, so it's said, played by milkmaids who used milking stools as the wicket. Not to be confused with Stow-ball, which was played elsewhere in England.

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Visitor numbers

Posted on 23 September 2013

I have some interesting tourist statistics from Visit Britain regarding visitor numbers to the UK from overseas. In our own case we have found that our overseas visitors have grown by almost 50% over the last twelve months however our own findings tend to be distorted through the growth of our business as we continue to target visitors from the international market.. It is therefore interesting to share a few statistics nationally to get an indication of how tourist traffic has been over the year to date.

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Festivals with a difference

Posted on 18 September 2013

Mumford and Sons' Gentlemen of the Road festival back in July generated great excitement round here. With the Lewes stopover taking place less than two months after bassist Ted Dwayne had surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain, it felt really special - and coupled with decent weather, Sussex was onto a winner. Lewes traders reported a surge in business as visitors flocked in and the atmosphere was great. Local residents and people staying nearby were delighted with the readmission policy, even if gate queues were rather slow. Feedback has been brilliant so let's hope this becomes a regular event. And if you can't bear to see the music festival season drawing to a close, then why not see it out in style at Shakedown in Stanmer Park, Brighton at the end of the month? A luxury holiday let in the Brighton or Hove area would make the perfect base.

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Rye festival 2013

Posted on 14 September 2013

The beauty about a historic town like Rye in East Sussex, is that it naturally attracts the 'arty and musical types'. With this brings enthusiastic and talented individuals who wish to share their exuberance for the love of the arts, meaning locals and guests from afar benefit. The town lends itself easily to being a perfect backdrop for these art events, whatever the season.

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Cycling in Sussex

Posted on 11 September 2013

Positive news for Sussex cyclists with the recent announcement of more than £5bn - much of it from the government - being earmarked to improve cycle routes in the South Downs National Park.  It might seem like a lot of money on a relatively small project, but since nearby Brighton and Hove are part of the national flagship scheme for safer cycling in cities, it seems logical that we're encouraged to explore further afield on two wheels.  Creating safer, more accessible links between areas is a step in the right direction. One stretch where safety will be vastly improved is the Shoreham-by-Sea and Steyning area in West Sussex.  The A283 crossing at Bramber is a bit of a tricky one and an alternative route is being sought, possibly through Bramber village itself.  And a short stretch of the Downs Link track from Shoreham to the Downs is to have its surface and signage improved.  This is a lovely part of Sussex, with the coastal stretch rising up towards the South Downs and plenty of scenic and historic places of interest to stop at - there are routes to suit almost all levels of fitness and all types of bike.  Challenging road ride?  Check.  Madcap mountain bike adventure?  Check - although one note of caution - please be considerate towards other path-users.  Gentle scenic pub or teashop ride?  Check.

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Digging up the past!

Posted on 4 September 2013

This summer a fascinating project to uncover a lost wing of historic Petworth House reached its conclusions - and I for one am looking forward to the forthcoming exhibition showcasing the results. It's long been known that an L-shaped manor existed on the site and when Henry VIII owned the house he built a banqueting house there, possibly on the northern face of Lawn Hill. The north wing was demolished in 1692 but excavations have revealed artefacts that point to a high-status building in use during the 15th and 16th centuries. Some of these will be on show from early October, along with paintings, documents and other evidence, including the results of geophysical surveys.

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The Ringmer Tortoise!

Posted on 28 August 2013

While you're out exploring from your Sussex holiday cottage you might notice that the village of Ringmer, near Lewes in East Sussex, features a tortoise on its sign. Clearly not a native breed, so what's the story? It seems that the tortoise, named Timothy moved to Ringmer in 1740 from somewhere in the Mediterranean, when she - as was subsequently discovered - was sold for half a crown by a sailor at Chichester to a lady called Rebecca Snooke, who lived at Delves House. Mrs Snooke happened to be the aunt of the famous naturalist Gilbert White, who loved to study Timothy whenever he visited Ringmer. When Mrs Snooke died in 1780 White adopted Timothy and his observations about 'the old Sussex tortoise' appeared in his book The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, published in 1789 and still seen as a landmark as he was one of the first people to write and publish first-hand accounts of natural history in the English language. Timothy died in 1794 and her shell is still owned by the Natural History Museum in London.

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Long man, tall stories?

Posted on 22 August 2013

Is the Long Man of Wilmington in East Sussex a piece of early political satire - a sort of precursor to the Ronald Searle or Steve Bell cartoons that appear in our newspapers? Was he carved out of the hillside by Saxons furious at the Roman invasion, by monks from the nearby abbey or farmers having a joke? Is he a symbol of fertility, rebellion, war or peace, or does he mark the passage of Orion in the sky above his head? A lot of people have had fun studying the giant's origins and some of them have taken it extremely seriously for its historic and cultural value. These figures, which famously appear in several locations in South-East England, put me in mind of crop circles, which might be caused by alien spaceships or by locals having a laugh - indeed the late Reg Presley, frontman of '60s band The Trogs, admitted to having created a few in his time - but they certainly provide a lot of fun and a nice focus for visitors

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Walking the beach!

Posted on 16 August 2013

I hope you've been able to make the most of all the perfect beach weather we've been having. Many of our gorgeous Sussex holiday cottages are within an ace of the sea, while others are perfectly situated for the shady lanes and villages during the heat of day and perhaps a stroll to the beach once it cools down a bit.  Please take a moment to check the tide tables if you're planning to go to the beach, too. Just recently, three men had to be rescued after being stranded on a sandbank at West Wittering by the incoming tide. They walked out at low tide, got cut off and tried to swim back but got into difficulties and while one was taken by road ambulance to the nearest hospital, the other two lost consciousness and needed the air ambulance. These beautiful Sussex beaches are here to be enjoyed, but please keep your eyes open - the tide can come in very quickly in some places and it's so easy to lose track of time. The other danger is undertow, which can be so deceptive in a calm sea.

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Celebrating Speed

Posted on 13 August 2013

Last month car enthusiasts from all over the world converged on Sussex for the 20th annual Goodwood Festival of Speed.. Whether you're 'into' cars or not it's a magnificent sight and events that attract a knowledgeable crowd as well as casual visitors always generate a brilliant atmosphere. There's something incredibly evocative about racing and sports cars through the ages, designed for beauty and speed and always ahead of the game. For the cognoscenti it's akin to watching a line-up of your favourite Hollywood stars from the past century, or a parade of fashion through the ages, and for others there is simply a fascination in how machines have travelled from early models to today's supercars. Goodwood is a stunning setting - they don't call the race meetings 'Glorious Goodwood' for nothing - up on the South Downs within a sniff of the sea. It used to host international dressage as well, and with a warm-up arena in front of the great house that really was a spectacle. One of the highlights of the Festival of Speed is the 1.16 mile hill climb, using a challenging estate road that goes past the house. To put it in context, remember that many of the classic racing cars lack mod-cons in terms of control - yet this year's best speed was about 45 seconds. I do hope those of you who were staying in our stunning holiday properties around Chichester managed to see some of the action - and if not, I recommend booking your Sussex holiday for next year. The date hasn't been fixed yet but you shouldn't have to wait long for that. You'll see fabulous vehicles from across the world and from all sectors of motorsport, from Formula One to World Rally cars and drivers to match. We can offer you everything from a cosy cottage by the sea to a luxury holiday let on the Downs, and all within easy reach of Goodwood and its beautiful surroundings. Unbeatable, I reckon.

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Hastings not Fiji!

Posted on 5 August 2013

I love the notion of Hastings standing in as a film location for Fiji. Apparently the underwater scenes for the new and much-publicised Status Quo film, Bula Quo, were filmed at the Blue Reef Aquarium in the Sussex town. I guess they couldn't quite carry it off above the water; much as we love Hastings we have to agree even our glorious Sussex coastline doesn’t quite match the golden sands of a Pacific paradise island. Hastings is not Fiji, but it provides some brilliant days out and the aquarium alone is a must-see. we have two great holiday properties in the town and another three within a 15 minute drive. Another piece of water that's once-more accessible is the beach at Birling Gap now the steps have been moved back to compensate for cliff erosion. This famous Sussex beauty spot with its distinctive chalk habitats is always a pleasure to visit, whether you've walked along the cliff path to reach it or just driven in for a look and a lunch at the pub. The views are tremendous and the atmosphere incomparable.

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Exploring the Downs Link

Posted on 30 July 2013

Another weekend, another gorgeous Sussex walk.  I've raved about the South Downs plenty of times, but one route I've neglected until now is the Downs Link. This recreational track - which means it's open to walkers, horse riders and cyclists and is marked by those little diamond shapes on the Ordnance Survey map - stretches about 37 miles from the South Downs Way near Steyning into the wilds of neighbouring Surrey ("there be dragons", in ancient map parlance). The Downs Link basically follows a couple of disused railway lines, which makes it fairly easy walking, and has become a green corridor connecting a variety of natural habitats. Starting from the southern end it crosses the River Adur flood plain, which cuts through the South Downs in a largely arable landscape. After this the beds of hard sandstone known as Horsham Slab start to feature, before it reaches the clay of the Low Weald as it heads for the Sussex/Surrey border. What this means is that you'll see many different types of vegetation along the route which in turn provides homes for wildlife, including some quite rare species.

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The Good Life

Posted on 23 July 2013

Life in Sussex is getting better - it's official. Well, I didn't need the 2011 census to tell me that, but it's nice to see it in print. I hope that when you stay in one of our gorgeous coastal cottages or cosy country hideaways you'll get to share something of what makes our county so special - and if you haven't already booked yours, do check our late availability and special offers pages. Although like everywhere else the population is growing and changing, Sussex is less crowded than other parts of Southeast England and in any case, a changing population keeps things interesting in so many ways. One figure from the census that intrigued me was the rising number of homes with central heating in the county. I wondered if this was due to the abundance of beautiful old cottages being modernised - we have some fascinating examples on our books - or just the popularity of installing woodburning stoves to make a cosy cottage extra welcoming.

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Leave the car behind!

Posted on 18 July 2013

Yesterday, while cycling up a Sussex country lane that I use regularly, I came upon a tiny shrew scuttling across the Tarmac. I'm not brilliant at telling rodent species apart but its pointy snout was clearly visible, and on the bike it was easy to avoid running it over. In the past I've stopped the car at that same place when I've spotted, just in time, something small and furry about to cross and potentially get under my wheels, but from the cocoon of a vehicle it's hard to spot wildlife properly. It's so much easier from two wheels. On a similar note, the other day, on foot, I saw a very impressive stag beetle in a residential street in Horsham, West Sussex I stared at it for some time, wondering what on earth it was doing there - visiting someone for Sunday lunch, perhaps? It was definitely on a mission of some sort. I've reported the sighting to Sussex Wildlife Trust as I gather stag beetles are quite rare; perhaps it had been disturbed by ongoing lamp-post replacement work.

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Feeling arty!

Posted on 15 July 2013

Sussex art trails are back - yes, it's that time of year. Sussex is an artists' and art lovers' paradise - whether you dabble, do it seriously, collect or just love looking, do visit Sussex for inspiration. A piece of local artwork, created by someone who is immersed in the landscape and atmosphere, makes an evocative and lasting souvenir. For those of a creative turn we have the views, the detail, big skies, deeply-shaded woodland, seascapes and a fabulous coastal light. This is a county where almost any medium seems to work, from watercolours to scrap metal. If you're an artist you'll know what I mean - some places just cry out for a particular medium that seems to convey their atmosphere, softness or perhaps harshness, but here in Sussex I don't think that applies.

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Sussex Food Festivals

Posted on 8 July 2013

Local food in Sussex, eating out or eating in - sometimes I get so enthusiastic about it I don't know where to start. On the hors d'oeuvres at Rye Bay Scallop Week, perhaps, with a nice glass of chilled Nyetimber white? Hearing that celebrated Brighton resident Fatboy Slim, aka Norman Cook, is buying Heather Mills's vegan cafe in Hove Lagoon was what sparked this culinary caper - and by the way, aforesaid cafe won't be vegan any more if the deal goes through, although Mills has moved her set-up into the town if you're worried. And thinking of vegetarian food (close enough for all but purists, I hope) I had heard that Terre a Terre in Brighton had a kitchen fire last year, but only recently learnt that it was caused by "spontaneously combusting laundry". A pile of warm, tumble-dried tea towels apparently, which sounds much more mundane. To fuel your self-catering holiday in Sussex, do please look out for farmers' markets and local food and beer festivals, there’re all the rage at the moment - we do them rather well. They're a win-win idea, really: fun for visitors, who get to sample some new and delicious treats, while local businesses get a networking opportunity as well as, hopefully, new customers and some publicity. They give towns a chance to shine and tourists and residents alike a chance to see them in a new light. I'm not being cynical - we're a local business too, and these opportunities are vital for survival. Many farming families have gratefully seized the opportunity to diversify and the quality and freshness of their produce is second to none.

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We love Sussex!

Posted on 2 July 2013

Pondering this year's holiday plans? Just come across our blog on your daily commute and looking for something to brighten your day? In that case, welcome - and try a quick internet search for images of Sussex. From Sussex villages to Sussex views, the towns or the downs, the colours, the sea and the big skies, there's something about seeing a whole bank of photos together that makes you want to be here. It's a dose of colour therapy, too: the green grass, blue sea and skies, whitewashed country cottages. See it, then come and feel it, breathe it for yourself. Many of the iconic images of this county are of the sea, the imposing regency buildings and the rolling South Downs. Farming has always played a huge part in shaping the landscape and this spring has been a torrid one for farmers - as illustrated by the strange tale of 50 sheep found wandering in Chiddingly a few weeks ago. It's possible that a farmer who was busy with lambing simply hadn't noticed they'd gone, but equally that someone couldn't afford to buy hay for them when the spring grass failed to appear. A kind villager took them in, but when no one claimed them he found he might become the legal owner, which he hadn't quite bargained for.

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Blue Flag Beaches in Sussex

Posted on 18 June 2013

Great news for your Sussex seaside holiday! West Wittering and Littlehampton Coastguards Beach have been awarded Blue Flag status for 2013. The EU is continually raising standards so it really is an accolade to be proud of. Other beaches, such as Hastings, have Seaside Awards for their excellent facilities. I also love the fact that these two offer such contrasts. Littlehampton Coastguards is more a town beach, with the sort of facilities and general bustle you would expect from its location. The broad expanse of West Wittering, on the other hand, is totally rural, much of it being a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its flora and fauna; it's mainly owned by local interests and the National Trust and its preservation, and preservation of the landscape and atmosphere, is paramount. I recently discovered that it's officially situated on the wonderfully-named Manhood Peninsular – yeah!  

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Converting Farm Buildings

Posted on 13 June 2013

Rural tourism can provide a valuable income stream for farm businesses. Converting barns and outhouses into a furnished holiday let has become a popular way for farmers to diversify their business, especially as there is unsatisfied demand for holiday accommodation in the south and south east of England.  In the past though it has presented farmers with a series of legislation and planning requirements that has made the process of conversion less straightforward  On 30 May 2013 new permitted development rights came into effect which allow existing agricultural buildings to be used for a variety of non-agricultural purposes without the need to obtain full planning permission. The changes are potentially a very significant boost for farmers who are considering diversifying their business.

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Posted on 1 June 2013

If your Sussex holiday includes a spot of birding, I do hope you'll like this: Chichester Cathedral's rooftop nesting box has once more provided a safe haven for peregrine chicks. Three females were born there last month, bringing the total number raised since the box was installed 18 years ago to about 45. They're all ringed and some are known to be breeding in Sussex - one, for instance, has been seen with a brood on the same building in Brighton every year since 2009 - while others are nesting in neighbouring counties. Sorry about all the Bs in that sentence. But it brings me beautifully to another buzzword - bees. The link with peregrines is that both have really suffered from the use of pesticides, so it's not entirely left field. When you visit Sussex you'll see many of the wildflowers in fields and hedgerows that are so important for bees and many gardeners will be sowing them around now. Some of the local councils in Sussex actively plant wildflower patches in parks, greens and other public spaces instead of more formal blooms, and many of our lovely country cottages have gardens that are perfect for attracting beneficial insects. Fellow vegetable-growers will no doubt forgive the odd patch of netting to keep less beneficial visitors like cabbage whites off the brassicas, though.

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Reassuring Shoreham by Sea

Posted on 25 May 2013

If you've previously been alarmed at the sight of sheep on a Shoreham roundabout, rest assured, they were fake - and they're back. With a shepherd to keep them in check. I doubt if Shoreham by Sea makes the news that often - though the recent announcement of a Paris service from its little airport (officially called Brighton Airport) did get some column inches, and I thought what an amazing day trip that could make when you're staying in one of our holiday cottages near the coast. The beach at Shoreham is a surprisingly good place to swim because the water gets to a good depth, but the harbour provides a great base for water sports such as sailing and kayaking and the local fishing boats bring in some good catches that are sold throughout Sussex and further afield - well worth seeking out when you're in self catering accommodation.

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To Hove or Hove not!

Posted on 20 May 2013

Hove in East Sussex keeps on appearing in the local news, and since we have plenty of superb seaside apartments and holiday cottages within easy reach I thought a little look was in order. It's a rather genteel, historic yet up-and-coming sort of place, with architecture ranging from traditional cottages to glorious mansions, plenty of clubs, trendy bars and eateries (and celebrity residents), and the longstanding reputation of this neck of the woods as a sort of London on Sea is exacerbated by reports of a Hove Plinth project. The fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square is used on a rolling basis by artists and performers deemed to merit exposure there - although rumour has it that it's being kept for a statue of our present queen come the day she pops her clogs. Anyway, the local council in Hove has backed a plinth project that would showcase local sculptors' work, and at the time of writing it's awaiting planning consent. In an area well known for its artistic leanings, this could provide a great boost for local sculpture and a lovely diversion for the rest of us.

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The South Downs National Park, a success story!

Posted on 9 May 2013

A survey revealed last month that the South Downs National Park generated £464m a year in visitor spending. I'm not quite sure how they can say 'each year' at such an early stage - this is, after all, Britain's newest national park, having only become fully operational two years ago - but it's welcome news none the less. The study also found that visitor spending supported more than 8,000 local jobs, and that more accommodation was needed - all the more reason to book early with us to avoid disappointment. After all, we have plenty of gorgeous South Downs holiday properties to tempt you, from luxury houses to idyllic country cottages and farm stays. The South Downs National Park is now the third most visited so don’t hang around!

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Sussex Strongholds

Posted on 24 April 2013

I love castles, and our wonderful county of Sussex has some really good ones. Bodiam, for a start, down near Robertsbridge: hard to beat for sheer atmosphere and incredible setting. It's been sympathetically restored, so it doesn't have the Disney factor even when there's a medieval theme day going on around it. Over the May Day bank holiday weekend the 'Living Castle and Green Man Trail' event is a must-do in our family. It brings to life the mediaeval household and daily life in a castle, and the children love searching for the green man sculptures and – hopefully – claiming a prize at the end of the trail. If you haven't come across the green man before, well, he's not exclusive to Sussex but he does seem to feature widely here, especially if pub names are anything to go by. He was probably a pagan symbol originally and some children find him a bit scary, but many others find him beautiful and just a little mysterious.

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Fish facts of Sussex!

Posted on 17 April 2013

When we think about the sumptuous selection of locally-produced food available in Sussex, it tends to be farmers' markets that come to mind first and we probably associate those with things like meat, vegetables and delicatessen items. But Sussex has a long stretch of coast and some productive rivers, so do remember we have wonderful fish here One way to find Sussex seafood at its freshest is to look out for the fishing boats coming in at Hastings, Shoreham by Sea, Worthing or Littlehampton, for example. You might find a chalk board showing what the local catch and selling time might be, but there's a bit of pot luck involved - you need to be in the right place at the right time. Some fishmongers travel around in vans bringing fresh local catches to inland villages and town markets, so it's worth asking locally to find out which day of the week they'll be there. From crabs and lobsters to bream, bass and sole, you'll always find something - and it's worth coming back at different times of year for the seasonal variations.

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Spirit of Adventure!

Posted on 9 April 2013

Back in February we reported on intrepid Sussex lad Tom Brabham's plan to walk the whole UK coastline after setting off from Eastbourne Pier. We very much hoped that keen hikers staying in our Sussex holiday properties would be able to walk some of the county's iconic coastal trails with him, whether at the start of his journey or on his return. Despite the unfriendly weather Tom was going strongly until mid-March, when he sustained a nasty hip injury that forced him to abandon the adventure - for now, anyway. He was absolutely gutted and it's probably scant consolation to know he's not alone in having to shelve his ambitions: the amazing Sir Ranulph Fiennes - who also has Sussex connections - had to give up his hopes of a first winter Antarctic crossing after suffering frostbite in his hand (again) last month. What is it about Sussex that inspires adventurers who can write about their travels and travails in such an engaging way? It's just occurred to me that intrepid round-the-world cyclist Josie Dew grew up in the Midhurst area, too. I do hope that the both she and Sir Ran are represented in the bookshelves of many of our lovely holiday cottages: a few pages of Josie will have you itching to jump on a bike and explore the South Downs, if not beyond.

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The best views in Sussex

Posted on 3 April 2013

The Easter holiday weather hasn't been quite what we'd hoped so far, but luckily Sussex has so much to see and do both indoors and out that it shouldn't have too much effect on your holiday. If it's going to be cold and threaten to snow, then I can't think of many better ways to spend time off than visiting some of our brilliant local attractions, having a hot meal of local produce in a lovely village pub beside a roaring log fire, or just curling up in one of our cosy cottages with a good book or a family board game. Many of our holiday homes and apartments have fabulous views across the downs or the sea, so if it's cold outside you can still admire the scenery from within. That led me to think about recommending some of my favourite Sussex views, but it's incredibly hard to pick out just a few. Birling Gap must be one of the best, at the end of the glorious Seven Sisters in East Sussex. And I should think there were quite a few onlookers the other day when the two-man crew of a fishing boat found a World War II bomb off Beachy Head - the poor guys were told to anchor offshore and keep the device wet until a bomb disposal crew arrived. There must be quite a bit of unexploded ordnance in that area, since a 20-foot-long bomb was found by a fisherman there a couple of years ago. I adore walking along the South Downs ridge where you get a panorama that juxtaposes

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Sussex Initiatives

Posted on 26 March 2013

Several Sussex towns have actively embraced the idea of Transition Towns - an initiative that gets volunteers together in a communal bid to reduce the local carbon footprint and promote a more sustainable way of living and working. It's about promoting flexibility and resilience and sharing skills so that towns can continue to thrive against economic and energy crises. In East Sussex, Lewes, Mayfield, Brighton, Forest Row, Hastings and the Cuckmere Valley have got involved, while in West Sussex, Horsham, Worthing, Chichester and Shoreham have taken it on. In fact Lewes has a long history of independent thinking, right down to its own local currency - but don't worry, ordinary sterling is more widely accepted even there! I think this Transition Town activity speaks volumes not only for the places and the sense of pride they engender, but for the local people. These are people who love the places they live in and want to make them better for future generations - not see them disappear. It’s a great attitude to help encourage tourists to Sussex as well. Some groups are more active than others and some are more commercially-aware than others: some have impressive websites, others are quite hard to track down - but it's worth the effort, even if you're just visiting on holiday for a week or two.  

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The Bluebell Railway opens to East Grinstead!

Posted on 22 March 2013

Saturday 23 March is a momentus day for the Bluebell Railway and at Amberley House Cottage Holidays we pass on our congratulations as the railway finally reopens to East Grinstead. It is 55 years since trains last ran between Horsted Keynes and East Grinstead and after closure in 1958 British Railways sold the track bed to over 30 different land owners. Finally being able to reopen is the culmination of an almighty effort not least the clearing of the Imberhorne cutting which had long been used as an amenity tip. The East Grinstead Festival is about to commence and for two weeks special trains will run.starting tomorrow with a Champagne Breakfast and closing on the first day with an Evening Gala Pullman. We wish them well.

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The wind in your Sails!

Posted on 13 March 2013

If you want evidence of a changing landscape, look no further than the W in Wikipedia. In search of information about a few famous Sussex windmills that I wanted to tell you about, I stumbled upon a long list of those that used to exist, with notes of when they fell down, disappeared or were last mentioned. Towns and villages needed their own mills, and with them came the specialist jobs of miller and millwright; it was an industry within an industry. Take Shipley Mill, for example, which sadly closed to the public in 2009 but is in working order and you can still have a peek from outside its grounds. Known variously as King's Mill or Vincent's Mill, it was built in 1879 by a Horsham firm of millwrights and worked commercially until 1926. In 1906 it was bought by the writer, poet and political activist Hilaire Belloc, who lived there until his death, after which it was restored by a Burgess Hill millwrights a memorial to him. More recently, it found fame again as the setting for Jonathan Creek’s home in the TV series of that name.

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Sussex Rugby Stars!

Posted on 7 March 2013

Sussex rugby has been feeling proud of itself lately, with a couple of local players making an impact in the England Six Nations squad. New backs star Billy Twelvetrees, who's really made his presence felt in this campaign, grew up in the picturesque village of Wisborough Green and was playing for Pulborough minis before he was 10 years old; while forward Joe Launchbury, who got his break as a replacement for the injured Tom Palmer, is a former Christ's Hospital rugby captain who also played for Barns Green and Horsham. The England side has looked exciting lately, not least with that stupendous win over the All Blacks that left us all reeling - though not as much as the All Blacks, who've been the subject of massive soul-searching at home ever since (defeated by the Poms? Unthinkable!) - and to see local lads playing a key part is a real pleasure. Now, clearly I am showing a bias towards England here, but there's something special about the Six Nations - more so, for me, than the World Cup - and if I have to single out one team to cheer for, what better than a team with Sussex connections?

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A Sussex Swampy!

Posted on 28 February 2013

Down in the southeast of our county, controversy is raging over proposals for a new link road between Hastings and Bexhill. It's become known as the Second Battle of Hastings and it's getting quite acrimonious. The government and local council voices claim it's vital for trade, tourism and growth. They're supported by a lot of businesses, who would like to see the area regenerated, but strongly opposed by an increasingly large number of local residents, historians and wildlife and ecology campaigners. They say they're not against regeneration - far from it - but they fear this is not the way to achieve it.

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Dear Diary - Virginia Woolf's Memoirs in Sussex

Posted on 20 February 2013

Sussex University kicked off this year by paying £60,000 for some of Virginia Woolf's diaries in an auction at Sotheby's. The series of small engagement diaries were kept by Woolf for the last 11 years of her life, until she committed suicide in 1941 by walking into the River Ouse near her country home at Rodmell in Sussex with her pockets full of stones. The university believes these diaries are important as they record her everyday life and personal thoughts, rather than the public persona of Virginia Woolf the novelist and essayist. They record conversations with such literary giants as TS Eliot, EM Forster and Christopher Isherwood and the economist John Maynard Keynes, as well as visits to the home of her sister Vanessa Bell at Charleston. But it was also a time when Woolf was dogged by mental health issues and some daily entries just consist of the word 'bed', indicating her fragile state. The final entry is a poignant note in pencil by her husband Leonard on 28 March, 1941 that says simply, 'died'.  

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Jack the Lad!

Posted on 14 February 2013

Well I never, the latest Jack the Ripper theory centres on East Sussexagain. Actually this isn't such a surprise: theories about the identity of the notorious serial killer have already centred on the cosmopolitan melting-pot of Brighton, but this time it's Hastings in the frame, which does seem to come from left field.  Let's just step back a bit: Ripper theorists have long been citing Brighton and one of the favourite suspects is a surgeon called Robert Donston Stephenson who around the time of the notorious Whitechapel murders had been living above The Cricketers pub in Black Lion Street, then a notorious a prostitute hangout. It's not so far fetched, if you think about it - this was the age of the steam train and while Londoners could flock to sample the seaside delights at Brighton, of course traffic went the other way too. Stephenson moved to Whitechapel at just the right time; his surgeon's skills would have been handy if he felt like dismembering victims and to spice it up even more, some conspiracy theorists point to an occult connection. Apparently he was arrested at least twice in connection with the murders, but was never charged.

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A Coastal Adventure!

Posted on 5 February 2013

This month, adventurer Tom Brabham plans to set out on a fund-raising walk round the British coastline. The 22-year-old graphic designer from Hailsham, East Sussex, starts from Eastbourne Pier on 5th February on his 7,000-mile trek, which he estimates will take 10 months. It's all in aid of the Sussex Air Ambulance and he hopes to raise £3,000 - there's a Justgiving page if you'd like to sponsor him. Tom will be walking in a clockwise direction and his route will take in some of Sussex's well-known tourist attractions, such as the Seven Sisters near the start of the route, Chichester Harbour in West Sussex and parts of the South Downs Way; he's aiming to stick to the coast as much as possible, although there will inevitably be places where he has to detour inland a bit. He's planning to camp out whenever he can and will be carrying all the equipment he needs - no armies of support vehicles - which sounds like a pretty chilly prospect at this time of year, so I suspect that any offers of budget or free accommodation en route would be gratefully received.

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Flying in to Pulborough Brooks!

Posted on 23 January 2013

One of the loveliest sights I can think of is a flock of birds against a winter sky. I happen to live near a small Sussex nature reserve, in fact it’s also close to our Sussex offices and we regularly see geese and terns heading purposefully to or from it, especially in the late afternoon when the sky is darkening and the last remnants of sun dip towards the horizon. Well, maybe the sun part is wishful thinking on my part at the moment, but honestly the birds tend to fly to the west of our house, so you do see some good colours even on a dull day. We also used to hear its resident owls hunting on winter nights, but sad to say they haven't been around as much this season. The RSPB reserve at Pulborough Brooks is quite wet at the moment. Surprise, eh? And I know it's on water meadows, but seriously, just before New Year it flooded and things just got worse for several days. They've tried hard to keep tracks and hides open where possible, but some areas had to be closed. The wetland trail remained open, at least as I write, although wellies were essential.

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Wittering On!

Posted on 15 January 2013

For seaside-lovers, West Wittering was a pretty good place to be over New Year. This might sound a trifle unlikely given that a beach isn't somewhere you'd normally expect to have a good time at New Year, but do bear with me. New Year's Eve, if you recall, was pretty horrible weather-wise in Sussex: wet, windy and on the whole a good day for curling up in front of the fire with a good book. Lucky, then, that lots of our lovely Sussex holiday properties have everything you need to do just that. But a group of keen windsurfers were out making the most of the wild winds. According to a report in the Chichester Observer, one enthusiast said he spent two hours on the water because the mild temperature meant his hands didn't freeze. 'It was great weather,' he told the newspaper. 'It was horrendous for the general public but for us windsurfers it could not have been better.' For the past two years the windsurfers haven't been able to go out over the festive season as it really was too cold, and the West Wittering Windsurf Club usually closes over the winter. But if you're keen to have a go at windsurfing in warmer conditions, the Witterings provide a great location for it. Ironically, New Year's Day dawned bright and beautiful - blue sky, little wind and yes, even

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A Bright Night's Sky!

Posted on 3 January 2013

In December the celebrated Sussex resident Sir Patrick Moore died, aged 89. The accomplished and popular astronomer, who was a long-time resident of Selsey, had only ever missed appearing on one episode of his long-running TV programme The Sky at Night - and that was many moons ago. As many people said in various ways when paying tribute to him, Sir Patrick inspired you to look up and see beyond the obvious. When you're looking for a spectacular night sky light pollution is often a big problem, but up on the South Downs or at the coast on a clear night it can be truly spectacular. Stargazing outdoors is a chilly pastime at this time of year and it does tend to be a bit cloudy down here in Sussex, too, but January often brings clear nights that make it very rewarding.

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