“ Picturesque village in East Sussex, England. „
WEEKENDER'S VISIT THE VILLAGE
Back in March I decided along with my husband, my youngest son and his fiancée to have a weekend away. We wanted to go somewhere in the East Sussex area so that my son's fiancée's parents could easily come along (as they live in East Sussex) and we could continue getting to know them. We decided to spend a weekend in the village of Alfriston in East Sussex. For myself and my husband this was a first visit but the other four had previously visited Alfriston.
We had wanted somewhere to go for the weekend that didn't take too long to drive to from our area north east of London (London/Essex borders) and had some interesting places to see that we could walk to from our weekend accommodation. We weren't looking for theme parks or anything extreme but simply wanted somewhere easy and pleasant and thought that perhaps somewhere quintessentially old English would be enjoyed by all.
The weather forecast wasn't good for the weekend; rain was on its way. However, for the first day of our trip it was, in fact, a lot better than we had expected. It drizzled slightly on the start of our journey but as we approached Sussex the sun shone and it was quite warm. This changed on Sunday with rain for most of the day and grey gloomy skies but overall the weather wasn't too bad.
AROUND THE VILLAGE
Alfriston, we were told was pronounced All-Friston but we found people in the locality pronouncing it as All-Friston and also as Alf-riston-and so I think I can be forgiven for changing my mind on how to say it!
The village is quaint and pretty. It's small and interesting. I think two or three nights spent here would be long enough to see much of the village but, as it is in a good location to visit other places in East Sussex such as Lewes and Brighton, just for starters, and so, if wanting to explore beyond the village, then Alfriston proves an ideal location to stay in for longer. From here it is easy to get out and about. The area, situated on the South Downs is a popular area for walkers.
Alfriston's 'high street' is small and winding with narrow pedestrian walkways. As we walked along on a very wet Sunday the village's roads were becoming very waterlogged with huge muddy puddles. At times we had to walk very quickly when there was no traffic passing hoping to reach a 'safe' and dry area before a car drove past. If a vehicle did drive pass and a huge puddle was unavoidable we jumped on to the grass verges. When there was no place to hide and we found ourselves squashed between cottage and puddle we then discovered that people are mainly polite in this village as drivers slowed down considerably and drove as best they could to avoid the puddles for the sake of pedestrians.
STEP BACK IN TIME
Simply driving into the area and then walking around the village it is evident that this village must have many old tales to tell. Visiting the 'Olde-worlde Shoppes', The Tye (village green), the churches and the 'high street' one can feel the history of this place; although inevitably it has moved on change seems to have come at a slower pace than in many areas of England.
Although I am interested in history I don't pretend to be very knowledgeable (please skip this part if history isn't your 'thing' and you just require information on the village in its present day form) and so for those wanting a taste of the village's past spare a few moments for this:
The village was settled long before the Norman invasion of 1066 , as the mound that the church lies on was an old Saxon burial ground. St Lewinna a Saxon virgin Christian was killed by the Saxons in 690AD and her body was kept at the church, her relics were attributed to a number of miracles.
King Alfred was believed to have burnt the cakes at the Star Inn in the village, this is possible as he had his palace a few miles away atWest Dean .
Towards the end of the 1700's the son and heir of the Chowne family, who owned Place House Estate, went for a walk with his dog, and was attacked by thieves. He was killed by a blow to the head, and the thieves buried the young man. Seven years later, a couple were walking along the road, and saw a small white dog that walked into the bank of the read. Every seven years the phantom dog returned until the early 1800 when the skeleton of a young man was found while the road was being widened, his bones were moved to the church and the ghostly dog never reappeared.
During the Napoleonic Wars Alfriston was the home to a large number of troops
After the Napoleonic wars the village turned to smuggling, and theAlfriston gang, well known for their violence, used the Cuckmere river to bring the illegal goods in to the village. The gang was broken up when the leader Stanton Collins was caught for sheep rustling in the early 1830's and transported to Australia.
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HOW TO GET THERE
Alfriston is near to the south coast of England in the county of East Sussex. It is by the South Downs and river Cuckmere. The area is one of local beauty and very popular with walkers. Also in its favour is the fact that the village is close to Eastbourne and within easy travelling distance of Brighton, St Leonards and Hastings and many other popular towns and villages around the south coast.
We travelled from Essex and travelled from the M25 and A26, A27 and A22.
Polegate station is about three and a half miles from St Andrew or ten minutes by car. Mainline trains run from London Victoria to Polegate.
AN ACCOMMODATING VILLAGE
There are several places to stay in Alfriston and I have given some details of just a few which I feel are varied from one with facilities such as a swimming pool and restaurant to a tea room offering overnight accommodation. Something for everyone, I believe, in this village, from the backpacker to those loving their creature comforts.
We stayed at The Star Inn on a bed and breakfast basis. We were pleased with the standard of accommodation and friendliness of its staff. The location is great and we were pleased that we could park our car in the Star's car park at the start of our stay and not need to use it again until we departed for home.
The Star was built in the thirteenth century and still shows off its half-timber framed building. . Inside, the old part of the inn has oak beams, stone floors and an inglenook fireplace. The Star is said to be one of England's oldest inns. Since it was built it has, over the years, I understand, accommodated pilgrims, smugglers, royalty and me!
The hotel has thirty-seven rooms, two of them are single and some are inter-connecting.
The Star serves food in its bar and lounge area and also serves food, in a more formal setting, in its Capella restaurant.
YE OLDE SMUGGLERS INNE
I loved the look of Ye Olde Smugglers Inne, both inside and out, with its oak beams, uneven stone flagged floors and inglenook fireplace.
An interesting pub menu is available here with a good choice of sandwiches, snacks and three course meals. Tasty soups, sandwiches and fish and chips or gourmet sausage and mash at reasonable prices.
Rooms are reasonably priced here but they aren't en-suite.
THE DEAN'S PLACE
A little more expensive; I believe a room would cost upwards of £100 with breakfast for one night in March. The Dean's Place is a fourteenth century country house style hotel which is in four acres of lovely grounds. It has an outdoor pool and also a restaurant. I had a look around here and thought it looked a very nice place to stay.
THE GEORGE INN
The George Inn is another fourteenth century inn. I had a look inside the inn part and it did look very quaint and interesting. The other members of our party have eaten here before and speak highly of the standard of their lunch.
CHESTNUTS TEA ROOM
This is a comfortable welcoming tea room which can also offer some bed and breakfast accommodation.
PLEASANT RISE FARM
Rooms here are on a bed and breakfast basis. The building is set in one hundred acres of land overlooking the Cuckmere valley. Rooms are en-suite and facilities here include both indoor and outdoor tennis and badminton courts plus horse stabling facilities for guests.
SPENDING SOME TIME IN THE VILLAGE
Drusilla's is an award winning zoo which, as well as being a zoo, offers Thomas Tank engine rides, Amazon adventure, panning for gold and lots more.
Opening Times - every day except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day
Summer opening-10am until 5pm.
Winter opening-from 10am until 4pm.
ST. ANDREW CHURCH
St Andrew Church was built in 1360. It sits on Alfriston's village green. St Andrew is built in cruciform shape. It came to be known as 'The Cathedral of the Downs' owing to its large and impressive appearance for a village which when built was not inhabited by many. I enjoyed visiting this church and looking around inside and at the grounds outside. It is in a truly beautiful and unspoilt spot looking over the South Downs.
This is a 'living' church with regular church services held here and its six bells call worshippers to prayer before these services. Bell ringers ring the bells from the chancel crossing.
We all found the church welcoming and we attended a service here on Sunday morning.
THE CLERGY HOUSE
Beside St Andrew Church is The Clergy House. This old and interesting fourteenth century building was the first property to be bought by the national trust. This cottage with its thatched roof is an unusual building and, along with its pretty gardens is well worth seeing.
There isn't a public toilet here or car parking.
Although I would say that the inside of the Clergy House isn't the most accessible place for those with mobility problems (steps and very narrow passageways) there is a drop off point for cars. Large print and braille guides are provided.
I have to say that the garden and exterior areas aren't the most level and easy for some but for those with moderate difficulties visiting the house may prove a worthwhile experience with some help perhaps. It is recommended that those with mobility difficulties arrive with someone able to assist.
If you are able to access the clergy house then it does make for an enjoyable visit for a couple of hours and then when you've had your fill of looking at the house and grounds there's a national trust shop here too.
ALFRISTON VILLAGE STORE
We found this shop absolutely charming. On entering the shop you immediately see staff dressed in their crisp white aprons serving. Walking around this shop one could liken it to an Aladdin's cave; so wells stocked with interesting merchandise as well as the more mundane but necessary items. It sells most things which a convenience store would stock such as soap, toothpaste, shampoo, needles and thread, bread, tea, coffee and then some...beautiful cakes and pastries, preserves, local cheeses... gifts and even a painting or two by local artists.
It also serves as the village post office.
The store is over two floors. The first floor can be accessed by stairs rising from the centre of the ground floor.
VISITORS LEAVE THE VILLAGE
I found the village of Alfriston quite lovely. Walking around it and admiring its treasures I was reminded of various village fiction type reads of a place where everyone knows all of their neighbours. I imagine a place where villagers volunteer to clean the church, raise money at the village fetes, bake cakes and take enormous pride in their village. I would think it a lovely place for children to grow and families to live in, as long as there aren't too many visitors like my family invading its space. I hope we really were as welcome as we were made to feel.