Location:Alciston, East Sussex, South Downs National ParkSee map here
Description of South Downs farmhouse, Alciston, England
We're an old Sussex Farmhouse in a hamlet on the face of the South Downs. It was originally built as a Coaching Inn and Tollhouse in the 1680's, but when the new Turnpike was built (now the A27) in the 1800's, passing trade collapsed and it became a farm. The old road is now a peaceful by-way which runs between Firle and Alfriston, ideal for walking or cycling, as is the South Downs Way which runs along on top of the hill just behind the house. We're so perfectly situated for a visitor to East Sussex; the list of reasons to stay seems endless.
For instance, you can book to go and see the opera at Glyndebourne Opera House. Dress up, take a picnic and enjoy a stroll in the parkland during the interval. The season that runs from May is as much a part of the summer season as Wimbledon, Henley or Ascot.
Charleston Farmhouse, the former home of the 'Bloomsbury set', and now a major visitor attraction, is just a short stroll away. Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant moved to Sussex with their unconventional household just before the First World War. Clive Bell, David Garnett and Maynard Keynes lived at Charleston for considerable periods; Virginia and Leonard Woolf, E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry were frequent visitors. A must visit on anybodyís list!
Drusillas Park is a small 10 acres zoo nearby, which annual attracts thousands of visitors although its must be said the exhibits are targeted towards the younger age group; adults can get just as much pleasure. The zoo is home to both wild and domestic animals, including ring-tailed lemurs, meerkats, and penguins. There are many hands-on activities. The adventure play area has swings, slides, and climbing walls, and has been separated into Go Bananas! for children under six and Go Wild! for older children. In fact the zoo is so popular, Drusillas was rated the number one attraction in the UK by The Times in February 2010
The ancient village of Alfriston is nearby. The village attracts a great many tourists, because it represents a perfect example of its kind. Most of the shops tend to cater just for the tourist, in fact gift shops proliferate. The east side of the village lies peacefully by the River Cuckmere and is famously home to the village green, which is called the Tye, famous for its traditional fayre on August bank holiday. In the centre of the Tye is the 'Cathedral of the Downs', St. Andrew's Church, which lies on a raised mount surrounded by a flint wall. Right alongside the Church is the Clergy House, a National Trust property, the first purchased by them. The wooden sign for the village at the entrance to the Tye was carved by a previous vicar of the village who also repaired the Star Inn's famous red lion.
And don't forget Firle. Firle refers to an old-English/Anglo-Saxon word fierol meaning overgrown with oak. A stunning village which has a very medieval feel and has Firle Place in its heart surrounded by rolling parkland.
Rooms, food and facilities
Three comfortable rooms; all en-suite. Two doubles with king-size beds and shower and one twin with spa bath.
Situated in a small hamlet nestling under the South Downs, all rooms have Freeview TV, hairdryer, wireless internet connection plus tea & coffee making facilities.
Just a few hundred yards from the South Downs Way, and situated alongside the 'Old Coach Road', a track that runs along the foot of the Downs between Firle and Alfriston. Ideal walking and cycling country with drying facilities and safe cycle storage.
A good eating pub just a ten minutes walk away in the village, but loads of other good pubs situated nearby.
How to find us
Midway between Lewes and Polegate, the Farmhouse is 1 mile along a small lane off the main A27, 1/4 mile the east of Selmeston.
Responsible tourism: South Downs farmhouse, Alciston, England
Our garden is a haven for wildlife, being as we are surrounded by farmland. We have a wide range of birds coming in to feed and nest. When we moved in there were only a couple of pairs of House Sparrows popping in from time to time. Now with regular feeding and providing nest boxes, that figure has exploded so that we now have probably one of the biggest flocks for miles.
All our un-cooked kitchen waste is composted, and the heap providing a home and breeding site for grass snakes and slow-worms.
Being so rural, we are not on main drains so all of our surface water passes in to soak aways and therefore into the natural aquifers. All our household water goes into our septic tank which then goes into the surrounding fields. We try to restrict the use of water as much as we can with water saving devices and conserve electricity by using low energy appliances and lighting wherever possible.
As well as the Bed and Breakfast, we own and run the local village shop at Berwick Station. Our commitment there has always been to buy and sell as much local produce as we can, and this is something we extend to the bed and breakfast. We buy for our breakfasts, local eggs, bread, and bacon. The jams and marmalade we serve are made in the village, often with fruit from our garden, and even the honey is from our own garden. We always help our guests to make the most out of their stay. We have information on local pubs and restaurants, provide maps and guides of the area and suggest countless places to visit that will be rewarding and not cost the earth.
We are part of a team trying to raise money to install a playground for local children next to our village hall. So far we have raised enough to get planning permission; itís only the first step, but a major one.
We are very much dedicated to being local. As owners of the local shop we expect local people to support us, so we feel it is essential that we support the local suppliers and tradesmen.
The Sussex Downs is known and loved by millions and has such a diverse wildlife that it must be preserved at all costs. From the old chalk pit behind our house which is home to a pair of peregrines, to the face of the Downs which is home to several Badger setts. From the towering Firle Beacon to the ancient hill fort on Mount Caburn. From the dewponds which are scattered along the Downs to the ancient burial mounds, the Downs are a special place. All our visitors are given maps of walks with all local and historical spots marked clearly. We can help you understand the history of the area, showing how the simple shepherd can also be one of the local smuggling gangs which operated and even terrorised in this area in the 18th and 19th centuries.
From the farm you can see far reaching views towards the Sussex Weald and the South Downs are behind us. Itís a lovely view of fields and you can see Firle Beacon to the left and Windover Hill to the right. There is so much wildlife in the landscape; foxes, badgers, Pheasants, Buzzards and rare Hen Harriers. Itís a lovely place to go for a walk. My favourite walk is out of the house and up the hill to the South Downs Way, down to Alfriston where Iíll have a walk around and a drink in the pub. For the journey back Iíll head along the old coach road, past Berwick and be back at the farm.
Itís interesting how the landscape has changed over the century. A lady came to visit the farm that had lived here in the 50ís onwards. She brought with her lots of photos from over a hundred years ago. It was strange to look at them because there were no trees at all. Over the century they have been planted and grown and changed the landscape and what views you can see.