Who's who and where's where?
Here are some of our favourite places to eat, shop, visit, hang out and generally appreciate . . .
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Alfriston & Cuckmere Valley
Wingrove House Hotel & Restaurant – a great wine list; a really nice menu; comfortable rooms . . . what's not to like?
For teatime, we recommend Badgers Tea House, where the warm welcome matches the fabulous scones and coffee.
Deans Place Hotel offers another place to rest your head or refresh your palate – don't forget to pack your swimming suit, so you can take a plunge in the pool!
We encourage visitors to enjoy Alfriston's St Andrew's Church, with lovely stained glass windows. There are several other striking churches in the immediate area; this website offers a quick guide to them.
Alfriston also features the first property purchased by the National Trust. Volunteers offer tours of the Clergy House, and if you can we'd suggest planning on being here while its open - check the website for details and hours.
We're incredibly lucky to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. For a lovely stroll to the sea, or around the Ashdown Forest, or along the Downs, start with the Seven Sisters Country Park. You'll find a visitor's centre at the entrance to the Cuckmere River's meanders, which leads to the ocean. You can also learn about the South Downs National Park.
Here are some other suggestions for walkers:
You don't have to be a sommelier to enjoy Rathfinny, a newly-planted vineyard growing on the outskirts of Alfriston. A terrific shop situated in the village (conveniently near St Andrews Church!) offers a range of treats. It also hosts a mezzanine with information and displays about the history of the Cuckmere Valley. Vineyard tours and visits are also available - click here to learn more!
In April this year, a profusion of bluebells awaits avid walkers and relaxed strollers alike in Arlington. Raising funds for charity with ticket fees, a lovely cafe and a book sale, the Arlington Bluebell Walk runs from 9 April to 10 May; learn more here.
If you're in need to sustenance, the Arlington Bluebell Farm Shop at Bates Green Farm, Arlington is worth a visit on Fridays and Saturdays (and throughout the month of the Bluebell Walk). Beautiful meats, freshly cooked meals to heat up at home and a variety of comestibles await; click here (and prepare to have your mouth water!)
Within about half-an-hours' drive
The Bloomsbury Group hung out not far from Alfriston, and their Sussex home - the Charleston Farmhouse – is only five minutes down the road. But you shouldn't miss the extraordinary Berwick Church, which they decorated with murals (it makes a great 10-minute cultural stop, if you havent time or inclination for more!). If you're in the mood to go just a bit further afield, Virginia Woolf lived at Monk's House in Rodmell, which is run by the National Trust.
A lesser-known (but utterly fantastic) private house tour is the Farley Farmhouse, which fashions itself as 'home of the Surrealists'. Roland Penrose lived there (he was an artist and the first biographer of Picasso, who was a frequent guest in the house). Perhaps even more interestingly, his wife was Lee Miller - muse, model and an amazing photographers (one of only two women authorised to photograph on the bttlefields of the Second World War). Tours of Farley Farmhouse are terrific - memorable for the art and the memorabilia collected from around the world; and for the stories of Miller and Penrose, whose lives could have been in a novel. Do try to schedule a trip there!
Towner Gallery (Eastbourne) – A public gallery with a modern bent and a fantastic collection of Eric Ravilious art
Emma Mason Gallery (Eastbourne) specializes in prints
Ditchling Museum (Ditchling - outside Brighton) – A terrific museum, focusing on local history that just happens to include the likes of Eric Gill and Frank Brangwyn!
Just down the road from Bodiam Castle, the Michelin-starred Curlew Restaurant doesn't act like a Michelin-starred restaurant – it isn't snooty, pretentious or very expensive. On the other hand, you will find the delicious food a Michelin star implies - worth a detour, or a trip on its own!
A Bit Further Afield . . .
Folkestone, in Kent, has seen better times. Now, a well-organized and forceful effort to rejuvinate this seaside town offers commercial space to artists and crafters at bargain rates, and the resulting Creative Quarter is worth a visit – it is funky, strange, beguiling and filled with a fabulous energy. It takes a good couple of hours to drive there from Alfriston; if you're in London, a fast train will whisk you there in under an hour.
While in Folkstone, be sure to include a meal at Rocksalt – a gorgeous restaurant overlooking the harbour. It happens to be just steps from the Creative Quarter. You'll enjoy great views, a rather nice wine list, and best of all some really, really good food . . . (They offer a few rooms, too, if you want to plan an overnight stay. They are small, but beautifully designed - not the place for week-long stay, but great if you want to enjoy a leisurely super without worrying about catching a train).
A bit closer to our village - but still a day trip – is Derek Jarman's Garden. The artist and film director loved this beachside cabin, and created a marvelous garden filled with indiginous plants and scattered with art – or, with art-like pieces of detritous he found washed up on the beach. Quirky? Yes. Perhaps even weird. But compelling and gorgeous, too.