Bank Holiday Adventures in Sussex

Gandalf the VW is officially down South, in Sunny Sussex.

We drove down on Friday morning and met up with Keith’s dad and stepmother for lunch and a wander at the National Trust’s ‘Sheffield Park and Gardens’ just off the A22. After a nice lunch we continued our catch up whilst doing a circuit of the spectacular gardens- in full spring bloom right now. The colours were just breathtaking- it really was beautiful. The grounds are vast and I can see us returning in Autumn to enjoy the autumnal displays. Highly recommend a visit.

From here we nipped a mile down the road to the 360 degree brewery, to pick up some carry outs for later, we always like to try the local tipple where we can. Keefy went for the pilsner whilst I had the sour, both were delicious.

Supplies loaded into the fridge, we made the short journey to the campsite- Lone Oak Farm CL- a basic (no electric / facilities etc) field site on the outskirts of Ditching. We decided to pick a no frills or facilities site with the assumption it would be nice and quiet. We got it wrong. The site itself was nice enough, as were the owners. At £12 a night it was perhaps a little pricey considering there was a water tap and a loo disposal and a bin. The field was not the biggest we’ve stayed at but probably in normal circumstances we would have been happy here. The location is very convenient for the Bluebell railway.

However. Unfortunately this weekend, 3 out of the 5 vans on this site were all together. And therefore took over the field, resulting in noise noise and more noise and a not very tranquil experience for the two remaining vans, us being one of those. We tried to grin and bare it, but when Gandalf starting getting hit by rogue footballs, kids (and adults) totally invading our privacy by circling us on bikes, scooters, etc as they played noisily way too close to our van and thus upsetting our dog and my ears- the screaming, screaming and more screaming and shouting and total disregard for the others on the site. The final straw was the 7am wake up call we so happily (not!) received as they played tag around our van! By 8am we decided enough was enough, we were leaving. We spoke to the owner who said they’d have a word, but their words were ‘it is a peak weekend’.

So we left Lone oaks farm around 9am, a little unsure of what to do next. Our plan had been to walk from the site to the Jack and Jill windmills on the outskirts of Hassocks. So we decided to drive there instead, have some breakfast and reevaluate what to do.

The view from the car park of Jack and Jill windmills is tremendous. It does have a height barrier (2.1M) so we managed to squeeze under but anything taller would struggle. I’d have been quite happy to just sit there all day and admire the wonderful scenery of the South Downs, but we hit the phones and managed to find another campsite to head to once we’d finished here. We also enjoyed breakfast here before donning our walking boots and taking a 3m stroll along the South Downs way.

The scenery was breathtaking. We were lucky with the weather and could see for miles.

This is the second time we’ve walked here – the first being possibly 12 years ago, but I remember the effects of that walk were the same. Sheer joy.

The windmills here are over 200 years old. Jack is in private ownership and doesn’t sails on, but Jill is run by a group of volunteers who carefully look after and maintain this beautiful mill.

We were lucky as although not technically open to the public as it was a work day, we were allowed up for a peek inside. The stairs are step, but the views make up for it. It was a real treat to go inside.

We decided to have an early lunch of a pizza cooked on our ridge monkey, enjoying the views for one last time before it was time to hop back across to East Sussex from West.

Our new home for the next two nights was Oakside Farm, Ringmer on the outskirts of Lewis. This was another C&CC certified site with no facilities other than water and emptying point for loo. This site was about 3 times bigger than the previous night, and from the moment we pulled on we relaxed.

Although the site was full, the 3 acre field, and no set pitches as there were no hookup points, meant we could take lots of space away from others. It was glorious. We had an afternoon sunbathing outside whilst reading, and a nice chat with the very friendly owners – who had just flown into the grass airstrip in the next field. This site was only £10pn and felt like great value for money.

The whole time we’re were there we heard not a peep out of anyone. It was the quietest site we’ve ever been on- so going back to the previous site owner saying about it being a peak weekend. Sorry, we don’t buy that.

We enjoyed a nice chilli con carne for dinner, our first al fresco camping dinner of the year. Before settling in for a chilled evening.

Gandalf was coping brilliantly with no electric, the solar panel is working a treat.

Sunday dawned – it was glorious to be woken up by the natures alarm clock, the birds cheeping rather than screams and shouting from outside our van. We took our time in waking up, but eventually cracked on with a cooked breakfast on the cadac. Seeing as we didn’t have to drive we indulged with a glass of fizz to wash down the breakfast too.

After doing some chores – filling and emptying mainly- we walked a mile down the road to the bus stop, and caught a bus to nearby Lewes- pronounced Lewis. The bus also comities to Brighton so this would be a good base of exploration and is dog friendly.

We enjoyed a mooch around some of the historical areas of Lewes, including the castle- although it’s not dog friendly we managed a walk around its perimeter. There are some fabulous nooks and crannies around Lewes, its an interesting place to spend some time wandering.

We admired Virginia Wolfe’s octagonal house, along with Thomas Paine’s home, and a delightful 15th century bookshop.

Keith managed to incorporate a battlefield into the day too. The battle of Lewes was an important one although so important there are barely any signs on their battlefield tour. Something that really hacked me off. We also got tremendously … not lost, but incorrectly diverted 😉 because of the horrendous town map, trying to find the blasted battlefield, so my mood when we did find the field and the housing estate wasn’t the best let me say!

I did however enjoy the ridge walk taking in the main battlefield area once we were on the right but and I’m sure on a clear day the views would be terrific. Of course we found the muck shorter route back to the town so that was better and my mood improved for the rest of the day!

Just before our return bus we went down the brewery end of the town, well we couldn’t come to Lewes and not have a pint of Harvey’s, could we?! We went in the brewery owned pub and enjoyed a Harvey’s pilsner as we’d got a bit hot for an ale.

We re caught the bus from near Aldi before making our way back to Gandalf along Green lane.

The rest of the day was spent chilling – and I made a delicious dinner of Spanish meatball and butter bean stew. Recipe here– it’s a one pot wonder so great for cooler days when not on electric and did a great job in warming us up.

The rest of the evening was spent chilling- I finished my book and Keith finished ozark and before we knew it, Monday morning had arrived and it was time to go home. We’d turned the annoyingness and disappointment of the opening night around and were coming home really rested.

Gandalf went a treat with no electric. We got by by charging our power packs

before leaving home and these allowed us to charge our phones and Keith’s iPad each day.

before leaving home and these allowed us to charge our phones and Keith’s iPad each day.

We showered in our tailgate awning, by filling one kettle up and topping with cool water.

It was a lovey break and we look forward to being out again in a couple of weeks.

Until next time

Lx

Adventures in the South Downs; Part 2- Arundel Castle and Fishbourne Roman Palace

Tuesday arrived bright and sunny, just as the weather forecast predicted and after a delicious smoked haddock and poached eggs we packed away in the blistering heat and made our way the short way to Arundel Castle. We were extremely thankful for Gandalf’s air con!

On arrival at Arundel, we parked in the public car park opposite the castle which is large enough for the biggest of motorhomes, and made our way to the Castle entrance. First impressions were absolutely excellent- Arundel Castle looks like a fairytale castle when you scratch the surface, but delve a little deeper and you realise that it’s a mix of both Medieval and Victorian, with a medieval keep high on a motte and then these wonderful big ramparts and towers.

Inside the castle you can see a fair bit. We were particularly interested in the history of the seat of the Duke of Norfolk – as back in the 1600s in the next village to us, Kenninghall- the duke of Norfolk had a Manor House which got destroyed. There is a fair bit of history regarding this Manor House so when we get home we will set about trying to research this some more.

In the pictures above- the one in the bottom right hand corner is a beautiful decorative table made out of tiny mosaic segments. The library is exquisite.

Outside of the castle, the gardens are terrific; and the irises just looked superb. There is a lovely rose garden along with a water garden. We really enjoyed our time visiting!

After our visit we went for lunch at the Red Lion on the high street which was lovely.

We then moved on to our next location of this surprise trip for Keefy’s birthday. 30 mins beyond Arundel is Chichester- and our home for the next two nights was a very lovely C&MC certified called Fir Trees on the outskirts of Chichester.

We settled into our lovely pitch, this time with EHU , and had an hour or two basking in the sun on our inflatable chairs. The site is a huge grass (but very short grass) field -with impeccable chemical loo point, Keefy tells me!

We had a bbq for dinner – chicken kebabs and swordfish, before having a very early night. I was exhausted and my foot was still playing up!

Wednesday arrived and I broke the news to Keefy where we were going today; Fishbourne Roman Palace which was conveniently just 4 miles down the road and an easy cycle. We made our way onto the Salterns Way- a cycle route up to Chichester and down to West Wittering. We rode north past very pretty harbours and house boats and stopped for an early lunch at the amazingly beautiful Dell Quay. We felt like we were at the Mediterranean!

After lunch of crab burgers, we continued up to Fishbourne Roman Palace. We really enjoyed our visit. It was much bigger than Bignor- the size of this plot was huge and there were lots of mosaic to see. The layout of the visitors centre made it very easy to imagine the scale of the site here. They still don’t know who lived here but given it’s size we felt sure the emperor must have visited if not lived here.

From here we joined the aptly named Centurian Way, a disused railway route now turned into a traffic free cycle path. It gets its name from the Roman Road that it loosely follows and has some interesting sculptures not to mention terrific railway bridges along the way.

The Centurian way runs 6 miles each way from Chichester to West Dean.

We stopped a couple of times to pretend we were Roman drinking red wine from travel cups, before just as we turned back my bike broke! 🤦‍♀️ we’re not entirely sure how it happens but the cog that carries the chain bent at a 45 degree angle. Lucky for us we were near a pub which lent us a mallet and a screwdriver to get me back on the road home.

Had this not have happened, we were intending on following the Saltern way again all the back down to West Wittering, and I’d also hoped to visit Bosham, but we’ll have to save that for another time.

Dinner tonight was ribs, chilli and Mac n cheese – before a big chill. We are moving on again tomorrow and won’t be camping for the actually day of K’s bday. Whilst we both have had an AMAZING week, he has drawn the line at having to deal with chemical loos on his 50th bday. He has no idea where we are going to- but I’ve promised him he won’t have to drop his (or my!) plops 😂

Until next time

Lx

Adventures in the South Downs: Part 1- Bignor Roman Villa

Gandalf the Campervan is parked up on the very pretty North Stoke Farm, a caravan and Motorhome club certified location, in the heart of the South Downs. This is our favourite type of site- absolutely nothing here apart from a chemical loo and water tap and bin. Having no electric means people can space out to their hearts content, and it is oh so peaceful and green. We’re in heaven.

As you may have seen on our previous post, we should be in Madeira. Or actually Peru! Then Madeira when Peru got cancelled. Madeira got cancelled on Thursday and as its Keith’s 50th this week, I’ve planned a week of surprises- the first being a trip to Bignor Roman Villa, which we did today. We arrived at our campsite at 5pm last night and had the most wonderfully peaceful evening and the morning birdsong was tremendous.

Monday dawned slightly overcast but with a promising forecast ahead, we cracked on. Our first mission to test out our new gadgets: his n hers E bikes which we brought recently from Aldi.

Our maiden voyage on our the bikes was just 4.4miles away – a trip which took in rolling hills and beautiful villages and have our pedal assist a good testing!

Bignor Roman Villa was just Amazing. Utterly wonderful and overwhelming considering this is home to the largest mosaic in the UK at 24 metres long. The mosaics were astonishing. How exciting it must have been for those who unearthed it as they ploughed a field 200 years ago. And how lovely it is that the same family run the site. We actually met the 7th generation of the man who found the first mosaic; my pedal fell off a mile from the Villa and the lady kindly called her husband who drove a spanner to us. The staff here were so unbelievably nice. I told them about our reason to be there and not in Peru (K’s bday) and they gave him a bday gift. He (and I) was blown away by the site and I e hospitality. If you have any interest in Roman History at all this is an absolute must.

We enjoyed a cream tea in the sunshine and a local ice cream before making our way back to Gandalf via a farm shop/honesty shed and a section of the South Downs Way. Amberley looked pretty and there were two good pubs here but sadly both closed on a Monday.

We dropped our bikes off – we were thrilled with them by the way- hills… what hills?! And then walked 1.8 miles along a very pretty footpath and over the Gurka Suspension bridge – made by the Gurka engineers, to the Black Rabbit pub in Offham, a picturesque pub on the banks of the river Arun, with terrific views of Arundel Castle; our activity (Keith’s surprise) for tomorrow.

We enjoyed a lovely meal overlooking the castle and a couple of pints of their own lager.

Arundel is only 5 or 6 miles from the campsite so easily explorable from here – but we are moving on to a new location for our site tomorrow evening.

This campsite is one heck of a gem in the C&MC network. At just £10 pn, we will definitely be back as we have fallen head over heels with this area.

Tonight we had a cheese board washed down with red wine, pretending that we are Romans before settling down to another very peaceful night (we hope!) ahead.