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County-landscape

. Sussex's spine is the South Downs, the ancient chalk ridge running from east to west, separating the Weald from the English Channel.

. The South Downs Way footpath runs for 80 scenic miles from Beachy Head to Buriton just over the border in Hampshire, skirting the crests and dipping in and out of the valleys.

. Much of the Weald, once an ancient forest, is now given over to farming - but some areas, such as Ashdown Forest, are still preserved in more or less their original state.

. Sussex is drained north to south by a number of rivers, the largest of which are the Adur, Ouse, Rother and Arun, which have cut their way through gaps in the chalk, draining into the English Channel.

. Cinque Ports: Originally the four Kent ports of Dover, Hythe, New Romney and Sandwich and Sussex's Hastings. Later additions being Rye and Winchelsea.. The Cinque Ports were created to defend the south-east coast of England, and until the reign of Henry Vll they provided nearly all the ships and sailors of the nation, as a result they enjoyed many special privileges.

County-facts

Origin of name: From the Old English, meaning land of the South Saxons Name first recorded: 722 as Suth Seaxe.

COUNTY TOWN

LEWES Charming country town of steep streets, little alleyways and neat red- roofed Georgian houses. A house given to Anne of Cleves after her brief marriage to King Henry Vlll was ended is a museum.

Other Towns

ARUNDEL A delightful town with steep walks and a medieval castle and church to be proud of. BATTLE if you can't cross the Channel to see it, there is a replica of the Bayeux Tapestry (1821) in Langton House, which also displays a history of the town.

BEXHILL-ON-SEA Popular seaside town developed by Earl de la Warr after whom the Pavilion is named.

BOGNOR REGIS One of the earliest seaside resorts, known to Queen Victoria as "dear little Bognor".

BRIGHTON Levels of sophistication, accommodation and service matched in few other areas of Britain outside the capital.

CHICHESTER Roman and Georgian influences intermingle in this unpretentious city. The great Norman cathedral has works of art by John Piper and Graham Sutherland.

CRAWLEY A classic 60s New Town but the old high street still retains some 16th-century buildings of note including the George inn.

EASTBOURNE Being top of the seaside sunshine league year after year no doubt helps this seaside resort thrive as it has since the early 1800s.

HASTINGS The story of 1066 is presented audio- visually inside the ruins of the Norman castle. The Fishermen's Museum is packed with local treasures.

HORSHAM One town that has been tastefully redeveloped with indoor malls and a pedestrianised high street. Several lanes and streets reveal olde-worlde Sussex houses, it is the RSPCA's capital.

MIDHURST A classic small Sussex Weald market town somewhat congested by passing traffic but highly attractive and with famous half-timbered Spread Eagle Hotel as well as nearby Cowdray Park. RYE Twisting cobbled streets with ancient half- timbered and Georgian buildings all perched high up on a bluff give this town considerable charm.

SOUTHWICK Resort dating back to Roman times. Charles II is said to have hidden at the cottage on the green before escaping to France from Shoreham after the Battle of Worcester.

WORTHING Another pier, another beach, Worthing is a typical Sussex seaside resort and remains popular long after George ill descended upon it.

. East Grinstead . Haywards Heath . Littlehampton . Newhaven . Selsey . Shoreham . Steyning

COUNTY RIVERS

Arun, Adur, Cuckmere, Ouse, Rother.

HIGHEST POINT

Blackdown Hill at 918 feet.

county-calendar

. May-September: The Chichester drama festival. John Gielgud, Maggie Smith, Keith Michell et al have performed here. Every seat in the six-sided Festival Theatre in Oaklands Park is within 66 feet of the stage. Take a picnic on the lovely grounds beside the modern complex first.

. May-September: The Glyndebourne Festival Opera season is held at Glyndebourne near Lewes.

. Last Tuesday in July: Goodwood meeting, one of the most important in the racing calendar, opens at the famous South Down course.

. August: The international Bird Man Rally, when competitors throw themselves off the end of the pier in Bognor Regis in an attempt to prove they can fly.

. November: the London-Brighton veteran car race.

. 5-6 June: Corpus Christi Carpet of Flowers takes place at Arundel's Cathedral of Our Lady, built in the grandiose French Gothic style.

. June: Eastbourne's international Ladies Tennis Championship serves up Wimbledon hors d'oeuvres.

. Each August: Eastbourne United F.C. from Sussex, play Osterly F.C. from Middlesex for the Russell Grant Saxon Shield.

famous-names

. Sussex has always been popular with writers. Rudyard Kipling lived in a Jacobean ironmaster's house, Bateman's, near Burwash.

. The American writer Henry James lived for a while at Lamb House, Rye.

. Dora Bryan, one of Britain's best-loved actresses, lives in Brighton.

. Pop star and former Beatle Paul McCartney and his wife, Linda, live at Peasmarsh.

. Some of the location work for the BBC TV sitcom Waiting for God was filmed at Eastbourne.

. Loadsamoney comedian Harry Enfield was born in and went to school in Horsham. He grew up in Billingshurst and remembers serving actor James Bolam there while working at the chemists.

. Worthing and Bognor Regis were the apt locations for the movie Wish You Were Here about growing up in a seaside resort. The film launched the career of Emily Lloyd.

. The television series Mapp and Lucia - starring Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales and Nigel Hawthorne - was filmed at Rye.

local government

There are two Sussex County Councils governing the east and west of the County - excluding the towns of Brighton and Hove - East Sussex County Council and West Sussex County Council which along with 12 district councils namely: Adur, Arun, Chichester, Crawley, Eastbourne, Hastings, Horsham, Lewes, Mid-Sussex, Rother, Wealden and Worthing District Councils complete a two-tier structure. The towns of Brighton and Hove have their own all-in-one unitary authority.

intro

THINK OF SUSSEX think of 'Yea, Sussex by the sea!' - Rudyard Kipling's eulogy7 to Sussex was written almost 100 years ago, and most of us still think of Sussex as a seaside county. It is, of course, and a jolly lot of fun it gives too, but away from the unconventional razzmatazz of Brighton and the breeziness of the other resorts the county has a calm and beauty which makes it instantly appealing - a sort of Lancashire of the south. I feel a tremendous affinity towards Sussex, especially Eastbourne, where I've been sent on many a happy theatrical assignment.

towns-and-villages

But you must begin in Brighton. The county's largest town is a curious mix of the seedy and the sublime - and the gay in every sense of the word - with a New Age element that only Glastonbury can match. Graham Greene wrote colourfully of the town's vulgar mystique in Brighton Rock, but he didn't dwell on the best bits. True, parts of the town can look a little run-down, in the wayparts of Nice do, but the overall impression is of a place with a fair degree of style. A good case can be made for suggesting that Brighton is the place for Regency architecture. It has never looked back since, in the 1770s, the lively Prince Regent, later George IV began patronizing what was then called Brighthelmstone (a sleepy fishing village) in the company of his mistress, thus setting the trend for what is now known as the 'dirty weekend'. In his wake, in the middle of Old Steine, came the edifice that frequently wins the title of England's Most Eccentric Building, the Royal Pavilion, an exotic, eastern- inspired creation by John Nash, designer of London's Regent Street. While in Brighton, also take time out to visit the Lanes, the delightful warren of narrow, pedestrianised streets where you'll find some of the best shops and restaurants in town, and go for a stroll along the promenade, where the Grand Hotel is fully restored to health after the infamous bombing at the Tory Party Conference, and the Palace Pier is the only one still standing after the so-called Great Storm in 1987 when the West Pier went west! Farther along the coast lies the county's only city, Chichester, famed for its annual middle-brow festival of plays at its excellent theatre-in-the-round, and for nearby 'Glorious' Goodwood Races (second only to Ascot for social prestige). This is a well-heeled place with many uninspiring retirement dwellings sprinkled along the shores. Picturesque Bosham Harbour is a notable exception. Inland Sussex tends to be even more refined. The chalk South Downs separate the coast from the Weald, once a vast forest but now predominantly rich farmland given over to the rearing of cattle and the growing of crops.. Today virtually all that remains of significant woodland is Ashdown Forest, thousands of acres of gently undulating woods and heathland which makes excellent walking country

At the foot of the Downs there is a labyrinth of attractive little towns and villages, many creaking under the weight of formidable history. Lewes, the county town, has a ruined Norman castle and an attractive jumble of medieval streets, and the annual summer opera season at Glyndebourne is now famous the world over. There is, of course, no getting away from the remains of Norman castles in Sussex. In addition to Hastings, you'll come across one, too, in Bramber, now a commuter village but in the days of William the Conqueror a provincial capital and port on the river Adur.

Sussex is awash, too, with fine buildings. In addition to the Royal Pavilion, there are splendid Elizabethan buildings like Glynde Place, near Lewes, and the mainly 17th-century Petworth House at Petworth, which has a number of paintings by Turner and Van Dyck. But in Sussex you will also find more modest hall houses and cottages brick-built on the ground floor with timber on the first floor - a distinctive style, popular in the 18th century and found throughout the South East. Midhurst and Petworth still retain their old small country town images - and are within easy reach of many of the historic centres of Sussex, such as Arundel, built beneath the massive battlemented walls and keep of Arundel Castle, where international touring teams often have their first warm-up match against the Duke of Norfolk's XI.

local-history

The Battle of Hastings in 1066 is the date everyone remembers from school history lessons - but the county we now know as Sussex was thriving long before then. On the hilltops of the Downs, prehistoric man left his mark in hill camps, the largest and most important being Cissbury Ring, near Worthing. Later the Romans built one of their principal roads, Stane Street, through Sussex from Regnum (Chichester) over Bignor Hill to London and signs of their occupation can be seen in the splendid villa at Bignor, which contains some of the best mosaics outside Italy, and the six-acre palace at Fishbourne, near Chichester, with hypocausts (that's Roman central heating to you) and a famous mosaic of a boy and dolphin. The city also boasts one of the finest Norman cathedrals in England.

After defeating King Harold at Hastings - the battle actually took place seven miles outside the town (at Battle!) - William celebrated his victory by building Battle Abbey and then divided Sussex into six 'rapes' (ancient areas of government called hundreds elsewhere), each with its own strip of coast - Chichester, Arundel, Bramber, Lewes, Pevensey and Hastings. In the 14th century, the success of sheep farming on the Downs led to some local prosperity and the Saxon manors flourished into great Tudor estates. Later came ecclesiastical culture from Europe, seen today in medieval wall paintings in churches in West Chiltington and Hardham. Two of the most impressive large estates in England are those at Cowdray Park, near Midhurst, and Petworth. Cowdray Park is an impressive open space surrounded by beech, oak and chestnut trees, with the ruin of Cowdray House nearby. Polo is a famous pastime in the grounds here. The house was built in 1530, but was burned down in 1793. A week later its then owner, Lord Montagu, drowned in Germany - fulfilling, according to legend, a curse laid on the family by a monk ejected from Battle Abbey by the first owner of Cowdray House after Henry VIII s dissolution of the monasteries.

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