A Day in the Life: My Week in East Sussex

Monday 14th April

The week started with the looong drive down from my parent’s house in Oxfordshire to Camber, a small town in East Sussex near Rye and Hastings. In order to break up the 3 hour car journey we decided to stop off somewhere on the way to stretch our legs and have some lunch. After browsing through the National Trust book we chose to visit the Nyman’s Estate in Handcross, near Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH17 6EB. As the traffic was fairly quiet it took us around an hour and a half to get there, and once we spotted the National Trust signs it was very easy to find.

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The Gothic style house and ruins of Nyman’s are set in beautiful gardens and woodland, which you could easily spend hours and hours exploring! We began our visit by taking one of the many winding paths down through brightly coloured trees and shrubs, which have been collected from all over the world. We then continued along a woodland path beside bluebell filled woods and around a pond. We decided to have our picnic overlooking nearby pasture filled with cows before heading up a grassy hill into the ornamental gardens surrounding the house and ruins.

In 1890 the Messel family, Ludwig and Anne, brought the Nyman’s estate and set about creating their perfect family home. Four generations of the Messel family have lived in and helped to create the house and gardens seen today. One of the most prominent features seen today on the estate was the result of a terrible fire in 1947 which partially destroyed the lovingly created Gothic inspired family home. In 1954 the estate was handed over to the National Trust, however Messel family members still act as family representatives at Nyman’s, giving valuable input when important decisions need to be made.

The house ruins are a towering feature that create an almost fairytale feel as you wander through hidden gardens, secret pathways and past flower filled beds. One of my favourite features of the gardens was a sunken amphitheater where plays were held, usually Shakespeare, for both the family and their guests. I really enjoyed our quick visit to Nyman’s, however it is such a large estate that we definitely did not get chance to explore everything! The shop and restaurant are also very good, offering plenty of seating surrounded by a wide variety of plants which are grown on site and can be seen throughout the estate.

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When we finally arrived in Camber it was late afternoon, and as no one was really in the mood to cook we decided to try out an Indian restaurant that we had seen on our drive in. Khan’s is a small restaurant along the main road through Camber which has a single dining room with a bar towards the back. Although we didn’t have a reservation we were seated straight away and given menus before being offered drinks. We decided to order a starter each, so we could mix and match with each other. We ended up choosing: Onion Bhaji, Tandoori Paneer and Vegetable Samosa. We also ordered poppadoms, dips and peshawar naan. I chose a chicken palek for main, and ended up sharing with my mum who had a vegetable korma. Everything we ordered arrived quickly, was good value for money and tasted delicious!

After eating such a large dinner we decided that it would be good idea to take a walk down to the beach. From the restaurant it took less than 5 minutes to get to the beach, and when we arrived we were greeted by the largest, brightest moon I have ever seen! Unfortunately as we had come straight from dinner I didn’t have my camera with me, and the photos I tried to take on my phone really didn’t do it justice. As it was getting dark we didn’t want to walk too far, and decided to come back tomorrow to explore further.

Tuesday 15th April

As the weather was sunny and bright we began the day with a walk along Camber beach, heading towards Rye. The tide was coming in but we still had chance to walk on the beautiful sandy shore line before reaching an inlet which lead to a nearby harbour. We decided to follow this back in land, along an old tram track and eventually found ourselves at the main road which we drove along yesterday to get to Camber. The fields around us were full of excitable young lambs and we decided to follow the roadside track towards Rye. As we reached a crossing over the road we found a beautiful wooden carved sign post which said it was only 2½ miles to Rye. As we had walked this far and it was a lovely day we decided to head on and explore Rye.

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When we arrived in Rye we wandered past the harbour where fresh fish was being sold and found a steep staircase that lead us up into the main town centre. While exploring the beautiful cobble streets lined with historical buildings as well as browsing individual quaint shops, we found a National Trust property hidden away! Lamb House is only open on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 2-6pm, so we were very lucky to find it opened in 20 minutes. While we waited we decided to have a cream tea in one of the nearby tea rooms which has been open in Rye since the 1500’s, originally as a pie shop. The tea room seating area was very small but cosy, and we all ordered traditional cream teas. They came quickly and definitely didn’t skimp on the fresh dairy cream and jam!

Once we had finished we headed back to Lamb House. This Georgian red-brick fronted building has been home to many writers over the years, including: Henry James, E.F Bensen, Sir Brian Batsford and Rummer Godden. As tenants still live upstairs in the house, only the ground floor rooms and walled gardens are open. As you walk through the huge front door you find yourself in a grand hallway with three small rooms leading off. My favourite part of this property was the beautiful unexpectedly large walled garden. The garden is full of small cobbled pathways which make it feel as if you are exploring a secret garden. Originally, a garden room was attached to the main house where Henry James wrote many of his novels, unfortunately this was destroyed in 1940 during an bombing raid and never re built.

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Before returning to Camber we also explored St Mary’s Parish Church, Rye Castle and several antique warehouses, finishing up with a drink in the sun at a nearby pub. In the evening we decided to take another walk down to Camber beach, again arriving to the sight of a huge, bright moon. However this time it was the most beautiful orange colour – something I have ever seen before! (and yet again I forgot my camera…).

Wednesday 16th April

Today was a busy day! We started off the day early by heading out to visit another National Trust property, home of Rudyard Kipling – Bateman House, Bateman’s Lane, Burwash, East Sussex, TN19 7DS. Built in 1634, Bateman’s was first owned by a wealden ironmaster before becoming the family home of the Kiplings in 1902. When Rudyard Kipling died in 1936 the house passed to his wife Carrie and then onto the National Trust in 1939. From the car park, visitors can walk down through the walled vegetable garden and orchard before heading into the main 17th Century house. The house is really beautiful, set in acres of woodland and surrounded by carefully maintained gardens. Full of interesting furniture and antiques, the house has an Eastern influence as a result of the Kipling’s numerous travels there. Some of my favourite parts of the house were the working gramophone downstairs, the large intricate suitcase in the guest room and Rudyard’s writing/library room.

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Once we had finished exploring the house we decided to have our picnic lunch in the amazing gardens that surround the house. The large ornamental pond had a boat that guests could use when we visited, which I thought was really fun. One of my favourite parts of the garden was the wild flower meadow and stream which lead down to a working mill that you could explore. Kipling actually installed a turbine generator here in 1902 in order to provide electricity to the house. We also visited the National Trust shop where they had a large selection of Rudyard Kipling novels, including ‘The Jungle Book’. As I don’t have a copy of ‘The Jungle Book’ in my book collection, my dad decided to buy it for me. This was really special for me as not only had I been looking for an interesting copy to buy but we managed to find one at the house it was actually written in!

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We then decided to head to Battle, the site of the 1066 Battle of Hastings! Unlike most of the places we have visited the site is maintained by English Heritage and can be found on the High Street, Battle, East Sussex – TN33 0AD. The abbey and battle ground have their own car park which can be found next door, only a short walk to the entrance. You enter through part of the outer buildings of the battle settlement, and can then climb up the circular stone staircase to an introductory display regarding the history of the site. In case you aren’t aware of the history of this site, I will briefly summarise.

On 14th October 1066, Duke William of Normandy defeated King Harold of England at the battle of Hastings. William’s success and coronation as King William I (1066-87) marked the end of Anglo-Saxon England. This was particularly important as it allowed the creation of new relationships with Western Europe, as well as beginning of a new and more cohesive ruling in England. This victory is famously depicted in the beautiful Bayeux Tapestry displayed in Normany, France. In 1070, William decided to build a great Benedictine abbey here, on the very spot where Harold fell dead, as a marker of his victory and as atonement for all those killed during the battle. After 400 years of religious life, King Henry VIII (1509-47) brought about the end of Benedictine abbey during his suppression of the monasteries in 1538. In 1976, the battlefield and all the remaining monastic structures were bought by the government on behalf of the nation and are now cared for by English Heritage.

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We decided to follow the full length walk around the battleground which had sign posted information describing the main stages of the 1066 battle fought here. I really enjoyed this walk as it offered beautiful views of the surrounding woodland and the towering abbey above. It took around 30-40 minutes to complete and brought us right outside the abbey where we continued exploring independently.

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In the evening we decided to try out another of the local restaurants, and ended up at The Green Owl Pub. Although they were very busy and we didn’t have a reservation they seated us quickly in the bar, offering drinks straight away. After looking over the menu we decided to have starters, selecting: brie and asparagus parcels, and spicy chicken. For my main course I decided to try out some of the fresh local seafood, and chose a fish parmentier which included haddock, cod, salmon and prawns in a leek sauce topped with potato. The service was really friendly and everything I ate was delicious!

Thursday 17th April

We started today with a visit to the 14th Century moated Bodiam Castle, Bodiam, near Robertsbridge, East Sussex, TN32 5UA. When we arrived we were told to be very careful parking, as there were lots of ducklings running around the car park. Once we parked (without killing any ducklings!), we headed up the winding path to the castle which looks down over the river Rother. We decided to wander around the circular path that surrounds the moated castle, before exploring inside. Bodiam castle really is the most beautiful and picturesque medieval castle I have ever visited!

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There was an area outside the castle where you could have a go at archery which is I thought you was a really brilliant idea! Once we obtained tickets from the visitors information building we headed along the bridge, under the original wooden portcullis and into the partially ruined castle. As we entered the guide informed us that a talk regarding the history of the castle would be starting in 10 minutes, so we decided to start by exploring the gatehouse. I really enjoyed climbing the steep spiral staircases and looking out across the moat from the slit windows. It was also great to be able to stand on top of the battlement towers, even if it was a little bit scary! The volunteers who gave the talk looked amazing dressed in medieval clothing, were really entertaining and knowledgeable about the history of Bodiam. After we had finished exploring the rest of the castle we stopped off at the cafe and shop to get some ice cream. I ended up choosing vanilla stem ginger – which was delicious!

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I have been a member of the RSPB for several years and I really wanted to visit a site in East Sussex while we were here. After looking for the nearest sites, we decided on visiting Fore Wood which is in Crowhurst village, 2 miles (3.2 km) south-west of Telham on the A2100. Once we had parked nearby we followed the RSPB sign posts down a track, through some woodland and across a field before we reached Fore Wood. The wood has two main trails (one that is ¾ mile and another that is 1 ½ miles) however there are plenty of smaller tracks to explore throughout the wood. We decided to do the longer 1 ½ mile walk which took us through interesting ‘ghylls’ (steep-sided little ravines in the sandstone) and beautiful peaceful woodland.

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When we visited we were lucky to see a blanket of bluebells covering the woodland floor, as well as an early purple orchid and fritillaries! The wood is of course filled with the lovely sound of birdsong, in particular at this time of year: nuthatches, great spotted woodpeckers, tree creepers and tits. I would definitely recommend visiting Fore Wood if you are in the area, and I would love to come again during a different season to experience the variation in wildlife.

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On our way back to Camber we kept seeing signs for fresh eggs, so we finally decided to stop and buy some. They had the most yellow/orange yolks I have ever seen and safe to say they tasted amazing! 🙂

Friday 18th April

Unfortunately after an amazing week in East Sussex we had to pack up and head back home to Oxfordshire. Similarly to our drive down we decided to stop somewhere new for lunch around half way through our journey. As it was Easter Friday we had quite a few National Trust places to choose from, as many places that don’t normally open on Fridays do so because of the Easter holiday. In the end we decided on Uppark House, South Harting, Petersfield, West Sussex, GU31 5QR.

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Uppark House is a beautiful 18th century house on the South Downs with amazing views over the surrounding countryside and even offering glimpses of the sea! To get to the estate we followed a steep winding road up through woodland before parking and heading into the Capability Brown and Humphry Repton inspired gardens. I really enjoyed exploring the gardens, especially seeing the interesting flowers of the crown imperial plant and the on site dairy.

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The exterior of the house is typically Georgian in style and it is almost impossible to tell that it was nearly completely destroyed by a major fire in 1989. Thankfully much of the original furniture, art and room decor were saved before many of the rooms collapsed due to fire damage. Over several years most of the rooms on the ground floor have been rebuilt and redecorated in their original style prior to the fire. Some of my favourite features were the wooden carved staircase, long gallery room and red poster bed. Once finished on the ground floor you can explore the servant’s quarters as they were in Victorian days when H. G. Wells’ mother was housekeeper. I particularly enjoyed seeing an Victorian water purification system, silverware safe room and the beautiful 18th-century dolls’ house with original contents.

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What an amazing week!! After working so hard in the lab over the last few months it was great to spend some time with my family and explore some new places. I have never been to Sussex before so it was nice to visit different National Trust and RSPB sites as well as some interesting historical places and the beach. Thankfully we had beautiful weather all week, even if it was a bit windy. I would definitely recommend visiting East Sussex and I would love to go back sometime in the future as there was still plenty we didn’t get chance to do!

A Day in the Life…

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