I was born in Haywards Heath, so West Sussex has always been my home (though I technically live in East Sussex now, shhh!). It’s such a brilliant place to grow up and spend time in because there is a real mix of rural and urban areas to explore. If I had to sum it up in three words I’d say it’s green, eclectic and cosy. A lot of people are choosing to move out of London and into West Sussex, so I’d love to see an influx of more young creative types with exciting ideas for the area.
For anyone coming for the first time, Chichester is the perfect place to start. There are good transport connections from London and the South East and plenty of parking options if you’re driving. Part of the Town Centre is also pedestrianised so it’s always a pleasant place for a wander. There are art galleries, brilliant charity shops (which I love exploring), museums, Chichester Cathedral and Chichester City Walls. The Cathedral hosts lots of free events all year round, with lunch time concerts and drop-in guided tours, and you can also take a 1.5 mile circular walk around the ruins of the Roman walls, which are nearly 2,000 years old.
The Chichester Festival Theatre backstage tours are a great experience. They give you a real glimpse behind the scenes and history of the theatre, which was founded by Laurence Olivier in 1962, probably one of the best actors of all time. My favourite part is snooping in the dressing rooms and imagining all the actors that have performed at the theatre and got ready in those rooms. If you love theatre as much as I do, it’s a really special experience.
Another one of my favourite weekend pastimes is trawling through West Sussex’s many charity shops looking for vintage fashion bargains. At the other end of the county in Haywards Heath, is The St Catherine’s Hospice charity shop where I regularly make the best finds. While you’re there, make sure you eat lunch at La Campana. It serves Spanish tapas, has good portion sizes and it’s not crazy expensive. The steak’s not bad there either.
While you’re here, get up on top of the South Downs and explore the towns and villages below as you walk. Start at Ditchling Beacon (in East Sussex) and head west along the South Downs Way towards Devil’s Dyke and Fulking. Buses stop at the Beacon and if you’re coming by car there’s a National Trust car park. Walking in the Downs brings back so many happy childhood memories for me. The Plough in Pyecombe is a lovely pub that has a sunny terrace and views out to the South Downs. It does the best steak of any pub I’ve eaten at in the whole of the county. It’s safe to say, I like steak!