Responsible tourism: South Downs shepherds hut, nr Brighton, England
The shepherd’s hut is situated on a 1,500 acre farm estate, which is farmed by the Carnaghan’s. The family have been tenant farmers there for nearly 100 years. Today the farm is a mixture of arable, beef cattle, pigs and sheep. The farm is part of the Environmental Stewardship Scheme and is dedicated to supporting the good stewardship of the South Downs countryside.
The farm also has its very own butchers shop in Hassocks where all the farm produce is sold. The butchers are proud to offer local meat and poultry ensuring that food miles are almost non-existent. The shop makes their own sausages and has free range geese and turkeys around Christmas time. Breakfast at the shepherd’s hut is made using all the local produce from the farm and butchers shop. Plus you will have fresh eggs laid by Polly! The barbeque hampers are also made up of the meat and poultry from the farm.
In the past the farm had its own huts to accommodate the shepherd watching over the sheep on the downs during the lambing season. The shepherd would have treated the hut as his entire living space, bedroom, lounge and kitchen rolled into one. The stove in the corner would have supplied heating for himself and any cold new born lambs, a place to cook his good and the stove would have been fed with the off cuts of the wood from his hurdle making. The hut would only have a small window and hinged door positioned away from the prevailing wind so he could always hear his sheep.
A good proportion of guests make their way to the hut by foot, bicycle or horseback. Sally encourages people to leave their cars behind and enjoy a country walk. She is also more than happy to drop walkers back off at the top of Ditchling Beacon in the morning, to continue their journey along the South Downs Way. A luggage drop off service can also be arranged with a local company who can transport your heavy bags to your next scheduled stop.
The family has farmed the land for the past 100 years and Sally has lived in the area all her life. Through the shepherds hut, the farm and the local butchers shop the family are well integrated in the local community. Sally supports a number of local and national charities including Cancer Research. She is a trustee for the local clergy retirement home in Henfield, Terry’s Cross Trust.
Patcham village is just a mile from the shepherd’s hut and guests are usually recommended to Lura a restaurant located on Ladies Mile. The restaurant serves delicious food and they also use locally ingredients including meat from the family’s farm shop in Hassocks.
In the past the farm has opened its gates to the public in an event called Open Farm Sunday. This was a free event and allowed children and families to meet the animals, go on tractor and trailer rides, watch a static machinery display and take part in self guided walks.
Tucked away in its own garden the shepherd’s hut is surrounded by farmland on all sides. When in the hut you can keep the top door open and look out onto the South Downs National Park, awake in the morning to the sounds and go to sleep at night watching the stars. The only access by car is down a mile long single farm track drive.
The nearest village of Patcham is just a mile away and if you want to leave the tranquillity of the farm you can be in the heart of Brighton within 20 minutes. If you are walking, cycling or riding the South Downs Way you just need to walk down from Kaymer Post for a mile or so and you will arrive at the farm for your good night’s rest.
A twenty minute walk will take you to the Chattri memorial. During WW1 injured Indian soldiers were hospitalised in the Dome and the Royal Pavilion Hospital in Brighton. The Hindus and Sikhs who died were cremated on the downs and in 1921; the Chattri memorial was constructed on the cremation site in honour of their memory. The Devils Dyke and Ditchling Beacon are both within close proximity and boast fabulous views of the North Sussex countryside, also great spots for picnics and flying kites. The Jack and Jill Windmills are also iconic features that stand atop the scenic South Downs. The two traditional Sussex corn windmills have been restored to working order and are open to view on summer Sundays and bank holidays.