Recognised as an area of outstanding beauty, the South Downs is also the home of vibrant working communities steeped in history and traditional English culture, from the ancient cathedral city of Winchester in the west to the bustling market town of Lewes in the east.
The youngest of Britain’s 15 National Parks, the South Downs National Park combines a bio-diverse landscape with bustling towns and cities. The chalk cliffs of the coast are popular with walkers, cyclists, horse riders and birdwatchers alike.
The South Downs Way offers an opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This 160km national trail leads walkers though ancient woodlands carpeted with bluebells, where roe deer dart through wildflower meadows disturbing the boxing hares, while overhead red kites soar on the warm air.
The cosmopolitan seaside city of Brighton is about 40 minutes drive from Abingworth and has many attractions - the antique shops of The Lanes, iconic pier, excellent cafés and restaurants, the pebbly beach and, of course, the famous Royal Pavilion with its lavish architecture epitomising the excesses of the Prince Regent, later to become George IV.
Just 15 minutes’ drive from Abingworth is Amberley Working Museum, a large open-air museum that tells the industrial tale of the Downs, complete with steam railway, vintage buses and restored machinery.
The Weald & Downland Museum near Singleton is home to many restored building that bring the history of Sussex to life, while the famous Bluebell Railway will take you through the rolling countryside from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead. One of Britain’s premier steam railways, the Bluebell Railway has a collection of 50 locomotives and is about 40 minutes drive from Abingworth.
The quaint town of Arundel with its imposing castle is about 20 minutes’ drive away. Closer to home are Uppark House with its ornate rooms and gardens and 17th century Petworth House with extensive grounds landscaped my ‘Capability’ Brown and collection of works by the artist JMW Turner, whose studio was based in the Grand Library for many years. And just 10 minutes’ drive away is the large deer park of Elizabethan Parham House.
The historic cathedral city of Chichester is about 45 minutes’ drive away − well worth a visit with it’s lively yachting harbour, majestic cathedral and medieval city walls. Close by is Fishbourne Roman Palace, uncovered in 1960 and famous for its stunning mosaic floors.