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Sussex - hotbed of talent

Posted 4 August 2014 by Andrew Gardner

Red panda cubs at Drusillas, East Sussex

It's all happening in Sussex. A pair of red pandas at Drusillas in Alfriston have had twins, the long-disused Brighton Hippodrome is to become a multiplex cinema, a wind farm has been approved off the Sussex coast and two brothers from Littlington drove their grandfather's 80-year-old Lagonda M45 in the round-Britain rally. And then there's a host of Sussex riders off to represent their country in the World Championships... where to start?

The pandas have it. How could it be otherwise when they're so cute? Females can only breed on one day a year so it's a bullseye for the Sussex pair. Little Mulan gave birth to two healthy cubs in June, one male and one female, by all accounts she's a great mum and they're reported to be doing well. And they are receiving visitors, so there's a great idea for a Sussex day out.

After that it has to be the equestrians, for sheer numbers. Who's heard of reining? Yup, I'd have said it was a fairly minority sport too, but it's got a place in the World Games at the end of August, so someone clearly thinks otherwise. In fact it's brilliant fun to watch, with a rodeo feel, stetsons, lots of mayhem, dust and adrenaline - and extraordinary skill. Three of the four-strong team come from Bodiam in Sussex and are members of the same extended family (well, I did say it might be a minority sport).

Meanwhile top Sussex event rider Kristina Cook is off to the Games too; her friend and long-time team associate Pippa Funnell was originally on the squad - and both of them on home-bred horses - but unfortunately had a last-minute problem. Pippa's still the only rider to have won the Rolex Grand Slam, a fantastic achievement.

There are also youth European Championships this summer: in show jumping, Amy Inglis (17) from Haywards Heath and 13-year-old Scarlett Charles from Alton represented their age groups; for eventing, Harriet Upton flies the Sussex youth flag. Was ever a county so well represented?

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