Posted 16 March 2015 by Andrew Gardner
I'm happy because this month Bignor Roman Villa reopens for the holiday season, and it's a place I never tire of visiting. It's like a door into another world, when a Roman nobleman set up his country estate in Sussex, installing underfloor heating to help his family and servants cope with a climate they must have found horribly chilly, and creating delightful mosaics for their warmed feet to walk on. The site is now right in the middle of the South Downs National Park, so he chose well from a scenic point of view - the site has a glorious outlook and there are some lovely walks you can do from its doorstep.
The ruins at Bignor were uncovered after farmer George Tupper struck stone whilst ploughing in 1811. Little did he know what this minor annoyance for a farmer would lead to for his descendants, who still manage the property - one of the largest Roman villas in this country. It was given charitable status last year and is managed very much for public benefit, which really shows in the atmosphere and friendliness of the people there. The Tupper family still farm land that stretches between the lovely Sussex villages of Fittleworth and Slindon, taking in parts of the South Downs Way and Stane Street.
If you've visited the delightful Bignor Weed and Wildflower festival on previous visits you may be as sad as I am that it doesn't seem to run any more, but you'll probably find many of its regular exhibitors and supporters at the newer Floral Fringe at Knepp Castle in May. Floral Fringe is all about making our gardens wildlife-friendly but its website calls it an 'eclectic, quirky, foody, arty, plantaholics wildlife event with a vintage twist.' Sounds like a good day out. But if you prefer to keep with the Roman theme, head down to Fishbourne near Chichester, where the Roman palace and museum are a must-see. We have country cottages and luxury holiday lets within easy reach of these top Sussex visitor attractions - click here to view our portfolio.