Life in the Cuckmere Valley by Jilly Byford

My name is Jilly and I live in the village of Alfriston – this is about the how and why I ended up here - it took just four days from driving into the village to buying a house!

Clearly I love living in the village and enjoy all it has to offer, living and working around this beautiful area is both a joy and a privilege. 

When I first came across the Cuckmere Valley, it was love at first sight, I was living in London at the time.  A couple of friends and I planned one of our frequent weekends away. This time each of us were looking for something different - one wanted the sea, one forest and the third open spaces, and all this had to be within a two hour drive of London. Hey presto we found the South Downs, it had the lot!  The very definition of variety - “the quality or state of being different or diverse; the absence of uniformity or monotony”.   This perfectly sums up what Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley has to offer.

Warning - this part of East Sussex is seriously good for your mental well-being....within a year or so of our visit, each of us had decided to move down here permanently!

Sixteen years on and it still doesn't disappoint. This part of the world has the most wonderful diverse countryside, with an added bonus - the people and facilities are equally different and best of all, there's never a dull moment.

Happily year round there's plenty to do. This pocket of heaven boasts Glyndebourne, Charleston Farmhouse and Monks House nearby and a little further afield is Farley Farm and Michelham Priory. Close too, the market town of Lewes and the vibrant city of Brighton. We have Art Wave, and music and literary festivals galore – there are many reasons for visiting to feed the body and soul.  Can't say I've ever missed London too much with all this on my doorstep.

Best of all there's a wealth of landscapes to wander over and explore. Starting with the extraordinary coastline, including the iconic Seven Sisters and Cuckmere Haven - not to mention the much filmed and photographed coastguards cottages. Walk over the rolling Downs with grazing sheep and you could come across the odd vineyard. For cycling and walking there's Friston Forest, with nearby Lullington Heath a rare and beautiful place to explore. I haven't even mentioned the South Downs Way or Vanguard Way or the Wealden Way....

My advice, ditch the car and just walk. Around the village, with it's wonderful collection of independent shops and galleries, tarry a while in one of the 500 year old plus pubs or indulge in a cake or two in a tea house. The choices are wide and varied. Walk a little further afield and you can taste award wining beers, sparkling wines and spirits or buy locally roasted sustainably grown coffee beans. Stroll to a country pub or take a picnic and enjoy the wildlife and views.

Yup – sixteen years and counting, never monotonous and always diverse.

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Ruth Mottram