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Eastbourne, East Sussex


For administration purposes, Sussex is divided into West and East.  Sussex`s famous landscape, dominated by its white cliffs at Beachy Head, has a rich history and along with neighbouring Hampshire, is much blessed by the sunniest climate in the UK.  There are three main areas in Sussex. The coastal plain in the South, behind which sit the South Downs with its gently rounded chalk hills.  Behind that, is the Sussex Weald, populated by woods, farms and market towns such as Uckfield, Lewes, and Haywards Heath. Then there is the High Weald, on the borders of Sussex, Kent and Hampshire and is the last remnant of the ancient medieval forests of St Leonards, Worth, Broadwater and Ashdown Forest. Ashdown Forest is the largest heathland area in the South East.

Seven Sisters

Most of the population of Sussex is concentrated along the seaside. The huge conglomeration of the City of Brighton and Hove in East Sussex with its excellent links to London.  Brighton became fashionable when Dr Richard Russell, of Lewes, first prescribed a dip in the sea for his patients in the 1740s.  Brighton fast became a holiday resort, with elegant Regency terraces and hotels. The Prince Regent built the extravagant and incredible Royal Pavilion, Britain`s `Taj Mahal by the sea`, as an elegant retreat for himself and his friends, his extravagance causing him to bankrupt himself in the process!  The later members of the Royal Family continued to use the Palace but with the coming of the railway (and crowds of day trippers) Queen Victoria found that her private summer home had become too public and the Royal Family stopped visiting the Royal Pavilion in 1845.  Brighton has a vibrant culture and city centre to rival London with all major shops in the a modern shopping complex of Churchill Square, juxtapositioned with the historic and quaint shops in the `Laines` full of weird and wonderful goods.    

The Cathedral City of Chichester was historically the most important centre of business in Sussex but now has to be content as the County Town of West Sussex.  The magnificent 900 year old Cathedral, with an unusual separate bell tower, attracts visitors of all faiths.   Chichester Harbour, West Wittering Beach, art galleries and the Festival Theatre are a hub for tourists and a week-long Festival of Arts and Music first burst upon the scene there in August since 2007 and has been going on ever since.

All around the countryside and coastal areas in Sussex there is so much to see and do. For relaxation and getting back to nature the South Downs National Park, which is Britain`s newest National Park, is regarded as one of Britain`s Breathing Spaces!  The softly rolling chalk hills, fields, woodlands, and river valleys cover over 70 miles across Sussex from Winchester in the East to Lewes in the West.

A day out in Sussex could be something for everyone; Castles, stately homes, zoo parks, aquatic and animal centres, beautiful and clean beaches, scenic drives, peaceful country walks or bustling market towns, shopping, nightclubs and theatres in the buzzing city centres, going for a delightful wander in landscaped gardens.  Just a few of these gardens are mentioned here:  Drusilla`s Zoo Park situated between Lewes and Eastbourne; Arundel Castle, dramatically set on a hill dominating the valley below and home of the Dukes of Norfolk with its collection of arms and heraldry dating back eight centuries.  Bedgebury Pinetum offers the world`s foremost conifer collection, and a wonderful place for visitors to walk, cycle or ride all year round, and the Go Ape centre for adventures in the trees where you can be Tarzan for the day!  Fishbourne Roman Palace where you can see original Roman mosaic floors preserved and a Museum furnished with examples from Sussex`s rich Roman history.  There are landscaped Gardens, for example Sheffield Park which has four lakes planted around with trees and shrubs carefully designed to be picturesque at any time of year, and nearby you can take a trip on a steam locomotive on the Bluebell Railway. Or perhaps you would like to visit Nymans, a historic house, and partial ruin with renowned flower gardens - and try and find the tallest tree in Sussex!

The walks along the South Downs Way behind the coastal areas of Sussex are full of variety and quaint historic villages and pubs.  Biodiverse habitats with many rare plants under protection of the National Trust include ancient woods, lowland heath and chalk grassland.  Whether walking, cycling, driving, or on horseback, the South Downs can be enjoyed freely by visitors of all levels of fitness.  Cuckmere Haven and the Seven Sisters is a magnificent sight; one of the last areas of natural coastline.  Down in the valley the meandering river bends can be followed on foot or by bicycle to the sea. Further North you will come across Ashdown Forest; the heathland that was once Henry VIII`s favourite place for hunting deer. These days people go walking, riding and hunt there for Winnie the Pooh instead, as the author AA Milne used to live nearby in Hartfield, and many of EH Shepherd`s well-loved illustrations were of familiar scenes on the Forest i.e. the `six pine trees` and `Pooh Bridge`, which are so familiar to Pooh lovers the world over.

Typical English country pub gardens abound in Sussex; where you can drink traditional ales and enjoy home cooked food al fresco in the lovely Sussex sunshine.  It is a great pleasure to enjoy a Sussex cream tea and scones in the picture-postcard villages. Unique national treasures also can be found here; tucked away in the woods behind Eastbourne is the Castle and Observatory at Herstmonceux beloved of Patrick Moore in the 1960`s, who mapped the moon from there before the Apollo landing and from where the `pips` used to be broadcast to the world hourly. Here children of all ages can enjoy a hands-on science exhibition and adventure park with scientifically themed play equipment while those who are inclined can go right into the observatories themselves for talks on astronomy.  

So there you have it; just a brief snapshot of all that the glorious County of Sussex has to offer. William the Conqueror who landed in Hastings and built the Castle at Pevensey must have been utterly delighted with his conquest because legend has it that he kissed the earth when he landed - or perhaps he was just grateful he`d got here at all, because since William, our coastline has proved impenetrable to everything except the slow march of the sea.