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The joys of Sussex

The other day a colleague on the Rust wanted a head’s up on the Wiston Wine Estate.

I had never visited it though Wiston is a highly-rated vineyard but the enquiry set me thinking how much Sussex has to offer.

There are vineyards at Ridgeview, Rathfinny and Nye Timber and, although each produces sparkling wine that more than rivals the French marquee, they are not allowed to term it ‘champagne’.

There is the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

If you like country houses both Petworth and Sheffield Park are worth visiting and the homes of the Bloomsberries at Charleston and Kipling’s house, recently reviewed.

If gardens are your bag then there are Nymans, Wakehurst and Little Dixter.

For those who enjoy sport, there is Group One horse racing at Goodwood – as well as the Revival and Festival of Speed – and the smaller but cosier courses of Fontwell and Plumpton.

There is Premiership football, with Brighton currently third in the table at the Amex, and white ball and red ball cricket at Hove.

Sadly, since the pandemic Sussex have not played at Arundel – arguably the prettiest cricket ground in the world.

Sportsmen Joe Marler, boxers Chris Eubank and son, jockey Ryan Moore and the tennis player Johanna Konta are Sussex residents, whilst Matt Prior and Marcus Smith were educated at Brighton College, famous for its three uniforms (male, female and gender fluid) .

The major Sussex towns and cities are lively.

There is always something happening at Brighton – a city with royal connections going back to the Prince Regent and beautiful architecture – but something seedy too.

Chichester has the superb Pallant Gallery, where modern British art is exhibited, and probably the finest provincial theatre.

South of Chichester there is yachting at Itchenor and – next to that – West Wittering Beach, certainly the finest beach in Sussex and possibly in the South East.

Lewes is an elegant city best avoided on Guy Fawkes night, whilst close to it Glyndebourne has world class opera leading the way with country house opera rivalling the metropolitan venues.

Brighton has a lively music scene.

No shortage of restaurants either – my preference being country pubs such as the Bridge Inn at Amberley.

The strange thing is that, whilst many move home to live in Sussex for understandable reasons, it does not produce that much local talent: I can only think of the pop singer Leo Sayer, though Nick Cave and John Waters live here as well as actors too numerous to list.

The same is true of artists. John Constable visited and painted here as he thought the air would be beneficial for his wife and Edward Burne Jones lived in Rottingdean where Sir William Nicholson had a studio.

Eric Gill, sculptor started an arts and craft community in Ditchling.

Ivon Hitchens left bomb-hit wartime London for Sussex.

Christopher Wood, Walter Sickert and more recently Ken Howard visited and painted here.

The same trend applies to writers with the exception of Peter James.

Liz Truss wrote the popular Constable Twitten series, whilst Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock made for a scary book and film.

Keith Waterhouse, who wrote Billy Liar, moved from the north to Embassy Court on the seafront and in his novel Palace Pier coined the apposite phrase

Brighton is helping the Police with its enquiries.’

Sussex does not have a persona in the way Essex and Yorkshire do.

However it is more welcoming than Cornwall, possibly because of the calming sea and/or for its well deserved reputation for tolerance.

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About Nancy Bright-Thompson

A widely-respected travel editor, Nancy is a past president of the Guild of Travel Writers (GTW). She and her husband Phil now run a horse sanctuary in East Sussex. More Posts