Here we share some hidden and lesser known things to do in Sussex. … and all less than 2 hours travel from London.
With every inch of our world becoming known and documented, there is an increased yearning for undiscovered locations and unfamiliar activities in which we can immerse ourselves so that just for a moment in time, we can feel like the first humans on earth discovering the garden of Eden.
With the recent debate over the forty or so lost words in the Junior Oxford Dictionary — all to do with the natural world, like ‘Acorn’, ‘Bluebell’ and ‘Kingfisher’ and replaced by words like ‘broadband’ — you may want to head out into the unknown and find the real thing. Robert MacFarlane talks about the need to ‘rewild our language’* and how a lexicon of nature enables us to notice the creatures, the elements and features that make up the wild.
He writes [in The Guardian]:
“Smeuse is an English dialect noun for ‘the gap in the base of a hedge made by the regular passage of a small animal’…Now I know the word smeuse, I notice these signs of creaturely commute more often.”
The good news is that you won’t have to wander far to create your own vocabulary of the outdoors. In this blog, we focus on outdoor adventures to have in Sussex, an easy two-hour drive from London.
1. Beachcombing and dog walking:
Camber Beach in East Sussex is known as one of the UK’s best beaches for beachcombing. And this long expanse of golden sand is perfect for your canine companion. Once you’ve parked at the main car park and ordered a hot drink at the café, you’re free to wander with your dog in search of beach treasure. You’re likely to find all sorts of things from semi-precious stones to shark egg casings and jewellery. Who knows, you might even find a message in a bottle.
2. Kite Surf — Camber Sands Beach
If you’re up for something more active, The Kitesurf Centre, a BKSA kite and water sports school, is based on Camber Sands beach. Three owner brothers started it in 2007 and now their centre offers lessons in kitesurfing, kite landboarding, kite buggy, stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and power kiting, for adults and children from 8 and up.
They supply all the equipment you will need and offer small group lessons. After a six-hour kitesurfing lesson from a qualified and patient instructor, you’ll have the chance to implement what you’ve learned (or not) in the water. If this is your thing, you may soon find yourself skimming the waves with the wind as your dance partner.
3. Alpaca walking — Spring Farm Alpacas, East Sussex
If you don’t have a dog, you might want to make friends with an alpaca. Spring Farm, in East Sussex, is an Area of Natural Beauty and takes its stewardship of the wild seriously. They don’t use pesticides or fertilisers, and the alpaca walk takes you through wildflower meadows and woodland.
You will get introduced to your walking partner (a docile and grateful alpaca) and then set off in a small group for a 50-minute mostly flat walk within the farm’s boundaries. As alpacas are herd animals, there will always be a minimum of two on the walk. Afterwards, you get a chance to reward your companion with some chopped carrots and then meet the mums/babies group of alpacas. and spend time with them.
You can follow this adventure up with a short walk from the farm entrance over a public footpath to the Rose & Crown, a 12th-century pub in the picturesque village of Fletching. Ensconce yourself near the fireplace and take in the original oak beams and olde worlde charm while you tuck into a traditional pub lunch.
4. Hire a canoe — River Medway
This family-run business offers weekend hire of canoes and kayaks on the River Medway in spring and summer. First, you’ll choose your mode of transport (canoe or kayak) and then you will set off on a one-day river trip accompanied by a qualified guide. They supply all equipment including dry containers for anything you’ve brought along. This adventure will take you for 13 km of flat, slow-moving water along the River Medway, from Tonbridge Slipway to Yalding. You’ll be able to watch the riverbanks slip slowly past as the rhythmic dip and pull of your paddle lulls you into a meditative state.
5. Secret campsite — Town Littleworth, East Sussex
If you have a yearning to sleep in the wild and wake up with the dawn chorus of birdsong, the secret campsite is a great choice for you and your family or friends. Here in the silence of this secluded meadow, you might catch a glimpse of a deer making her delicate way through the woods or watch a sparrow hawk hunt along the hedgerows. And though you are surrounded by ancient woodland in a site of nature conservation interest (SNCI), you will still have access to comfortable shower and toilet facilities.
After a day filled with walks, bird-watching and lazing on the grass beneath a tree, you can take a 5-minute walk to the Holmansbridge Farm shop in Town Littleworth. This is open seven days a week and has been run by the same family for generations. Here you can stock up on Scotch eggs and Harvey’s handmade sausages (made from locally brewed ale) for the campfire that night. And as you make your way back across the old bridge to the twilit meadow, you can look forward to the sound of the frog chorus lulling you to sleep.
Check out these camping locations across the UK
Who knows? Your adventure into Undiscovered Sussex may even lead to the invention of some words of your own. Like, what’s the word for the way that birdsong at dawn makes one feel like the first human being to walk the earth?