Here at Sussex Exclusive, during the last 12 months, we have certainly covered some Sussex miles. We have featured 12 towns of the month (Petworth, Mayfield, Rye, Seaford, Worthing, Lewes, Hastings, Chichester, Midhurst, Arundel, Eastbourne, and Brighton), we’ve done dozens if not hundreds of walks, enjoyed Pitts-Stops in an array of different eateries, explored museums, been shopping from east to west, and eeked out as many Sussex experiences as we could. So that all begs the question … what were our Sussex 2022 highlights? It’s a tough question because we’ve enjoyed pretty much everywhere we’ve been but here are some of our favourite moments and places of 2022.
Hastings Old Town on a couple of gloriously hot summer days was the gift that kept on giving. From the views (and walks) at the top of East and West Cliff, the funiculars, the narrow streets, and fishing boats, the Old Town is eclectic, creative, bohemian, and just full of history and charm. I hadn’t visited since just after the first lockdown in 2020 so it was great to see the town buzzing with life and it’s just full of so many surprises. Loved every minute of our stay and can’t wait to go back.
Most memorable place to eat
We’ve eaten some amazing food at some amazing venues this year and so it’s hard to single out any one venue as the best. However, one that stood out was the Sussex Secret Supper Club event held in amongst the exotic plants and foliage of the Architectural Plant Centre near Pulborough. We had a table of fascinating fellow diners who were great company, the food and attention to detail were superb and the setting was simply gorgeous. My next job will be to search out one of their other venues.
The best of this year’s walks
Walking is such a good way to get to know a county and once again, it’s been hard to choose a favourite walk. In the end, we whittled it down to two, with our recent Duncton Hill walk in second place and the glorious if challenging Seven Sisters and Friston Forest walk winning. This is not a walk for the faint-hearted but even on a wet and squally day, this is a gorgeous hike!
Favourite place to stay
We’re torn here between the fabulous Hoots Treehouse near Mayfield and the sumptuous Baliffscourt at Climping. It’s almost too close to call but there is something so evocative and compelling about the area surrounding Bailiffscourt and as I said at the time, I felt like I’d slipped into an episode of Poldark. The sound of the breaking waves just a short walk away, the Medieval chapel and all the special touches just make it super special here.
Best Sussex experience
We’ve had a lot of fun this year “experiencing Sussex” in a multitude of ways that have included gin schools, wine trails and flights, fine dining, festivals, fairs and more, but the winner in terms of something very different has to be the forest bathing experience in Midhurst. What really singled it out was St Anne’s Hill where our forest bathing took place. This arboreal mound includes the remains of a Medieval castle which made it incredibly evocative and a very special place to reconnect with yourself.
Favourite historic house
Back in April, following a trip to Rye, we landed up at Great Dixter in Northiam. Famed for its incredible gardens and gardening legacy it really is a special place but it was the house that really took us by surprise. You won’t find magnificently painted staircases like you do at Petworth House, or the gorgeous ceilings of Parham House. In fact, there are only three rooms open to the public but there was something so simple but utterly charming about the house, particularly the Great Hall. This 16th century Yeoman’s House was actually built in nearby Benenden and transported to Dixter in 1910.
Dumbest thing we did
Possibly not a totally stupid thing to do is to climb up and out of the church spire in St Mary’s church in Rye … unless you happen to be scared of heights and it also happens to be blowing the mother of all gales! The upside of this little adventure was that although the space at the top is very confined, you do get fabulous views of Rye and the surrounding area (and we didn’t die). The downside was that it involves some very narrow passageways and some steep ladder-style steps. Would I do it again? Yes! I’m a sucker for punishment.
Back in May, during the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, we found ourselves in Bognor Regis. Whilst I knew a little of the town’s history, I’ll be the first to admit, I hadn’t visited for over 30 years and had low expectations. In the event, we were greeted by a town bedecked with bunting, bustling and ready to celebrate, and the sea and coastline looked nothing short of Mediterranean!
Most magical moment
Back at the beginning of the year, we headed to Highdown near Worthing. Part of the South Downs National Park, on a clear day you can see as far as the Seven Sisters and the Isle of Wight from here. An ancient hill fort used to exist on the summit and human occupation of the hill dates back to the Bronze Age. 86 Anglo-Saxon graves were uncovered on the hill between 1893 and 1894 and there’s even an 18th century tomb all of which makes for a pretty evocative place. When we arrived, the hill was shrouded in a heavy mist, limiting visibility to a few feet. But as we reached the summit and the place of the old fort, the mist fell away in the most magical fashion and Sussex was revealed beneath us.
The Bubbles and Botanicals Fair
How could we not mention Bubbles and Botanicals as one of our highlights of 2022? It was so fantastic to meet so many local producers, learn more about them and help them shout about their amazing wines, spirits, and drinks. But it was equally lovely to meet all the wonderful visitors enjoying some of the best our county has to offer. And yes, plans are already afoot to do it all again next year so watch this space for the date.
We’ve met so many interesting people and businesses and visited so many wonderful places in 2022. It’s impossible to do the year justice in just one post, and we’re already planning (and looking forward to) many more Sussex adventures in 2023.