Posted 15 November 2012 by Andrew Gardner
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 one of the lovely holiday cottages we have in the Midhurst area. I always think I really must stop here sometime soon, and driving slowly through the town as one has to makes it even more tantalising when you don't have time to stop.
Whichever direction you approach from, this Sussex market town's character and charm strike you right away. We parked behind the bus station, picked up some leaflets from the tourist information centre and strolled towards the Cowdray ruins, set amid beautifully-kept polo lawns, and St Ann's Hill, which JMW Turner painted. But what came to mind wasn't Turner-esque colours but the chilling, deeply romantic novel Green Darkness (eat your heart out, 50 Shades...!), based on a story about the mediaeval de Bohun family who built the original Cowdray House, La Coudreye. Perhaps you'll find a copy on the shelves of your cosy Sussex getaway - a good yarn to curl up with on a November evening.
Anyway, back to habitation and the lovely old Market Square, with its church and former town hall - the Old Market House, built in 1551, and now a very convenient coffee shop. The name Knockhundred Row captures the imagination; with its timber-framed buildings and the information-packed museum. I must admit it had something of Diagon Alley about it. We loved the narrow lanes and the welcoming mixture of independent shops and hospitality businesses that make you feel you're somewhere distinctive and well worth visiting.
The social reformer Richard Cobden lived round here and the novelist HG Wells was apparently apprenticed to a chemist in Midhurst (his mother worked at nearby Uppark), so that's a definite plus.
The only downside is the paintwork in the Cowdray estate colour of bright yellow, I don't think you'd choose it for your own home but then you never know, come and take a look!