A short, ninety minute drive from London finds you in the countryside of the Sussex Downs. Thanks to our wonderful neighbours, we are staying in their cottage, (available to rent on Owners Direct) in Fittleworth, just five minutes away from the picturesque chocolate-box village of Petworth.
Now, Petworth itself is worthy of mention merely if only for foodies. We arrived on the day that the local deli – a vast, super-upmarket food emporium, The Hungry Guest – on par with anything I’ve seen in London, was hosting a mini food festival.
With its own cheese-room stocking many wonderful Rowcliffe cheeses, Illy coffee bar and selection of superb foods from Wilding’s Duck Crackling to interesting family wine producers to homemade ready meals for those wealthy Londoners up for the weekend, it’s better than Selfridges Food Hall!
En route from London, foodies might also like to book The Anchor at Ripley. A quaint but luxurious pub with a small, perfectly-run kitchen that serves up award-winning food, very much worthy of its Michelin Bib Gourmand award. So good in fact, that we booked for our return journey!
Here in Sussex there’s plenty to do and see. National Trust property Petworth House, Arundel Castle, Goodwood and endless walks.
For our two-day jaunt in the Sussex Downs we stay very child-friendly. First stop, Fishers Adventure Farm Park. An amazing farm park filled with activities perfect for our 3 and 6 year old.
We spent a brilliant morning here, packing in as much as we could. Unlike some places,
Fishers is a wonderfully authentic farm set in beautiful countryside which manages to pair some select rides, loads of imaginative play areas from climbing forts to tasteful pirate ships to huge colourful dome trampolines to train and boat rides, pony rides, mini-golf and loads more.
The highlight for us was a new tractor ride around the fields, learning about the many species of cows and sheep.
There’s also a barn to get up close to the animals and petting sessions throughout the day. I would travel from London for the day to return.
Both children had a ball and also learnt a thing or two, so it’s also educational. Lastly, many parks offer expensive, low quality food. Not here. Although there are plenty of picnic areas, you can happily eat here without feeling ripped off!
A twenty minute drive to Arundel and the castle and a foodie lunch at another Michelin recommended pub, the George at Burpham. Amongst many walking trails in a gorgeous country village teeming with pretty cottages and well-tended gardens.
Having replenished our energy supplies, it was off to the Arundel Wetlands Centre. A far cry from the extremely urban one in Barnes, Arundel was much greener and quieter. We arrived just in time for pond dipping, where the wonderful Lizzy helped the boys fish for as many small pond creatures as they could find.
Each got a tub of water, a mat to kneel on and a net, as-well as a guide helping to identify the creatures.
Once caught and in a petrie dish….
they got to examine them under a microscope and on screen..
We were lucky enough to catch the last boat ride of the day for a private water tour with the extremely knowledgeable and friendly, Connor.
Pointing out the different species and explaining the changes in their plumage and behaviour.
Despite a few drops of rain, it was difficult to get the kids off the boat and was both interesting and a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the City.
There’s plenty to do here but again our trip was cut short by lack of time and too much to do. Another definite ‘returner’.
Our last day was spent at Petworth House – a National Trust property and stately home, set in a deer park in the South Downs.
It houses the finest art collection in the care of the National Trust. Now, I have to admit that I haven’t visited a National Trust property since the tender age of twelve. My parents used to ‘drag’ us around these ‘boring’ places and it turned me off for many years.
I’m so pleased that we tried again because now, kids are really well-catered for. Starting with the Incredible Inventions trail, inspired by Elizabeth Ilive who lived at Petworth House from the late 1780’s. In that time she invented a lever to help workers move heavy rocks on the estate and herself won numerous awards for her inventions.
Through the gardens we walked, looking for clues to colour in, to solve a riddle and then following instructions to create your own tool with a certificate at the end was just the start and gave us the chance to explore outdoors.
Within the house there were another two activities; finding the seven cuddly toy spaniels hidden within the stately rooms (hint – look up!) and then for older children, a brilliantly thought out and really well-executed ‘As You Like It’ Shakespeare Family Trail.
Following the paintings inspired by Shakespeare, children get to design their own play, creating their own characters, looking for chests to open and activities to complete in order to write their very own work!
Stickers and certificates collected, we return to London and because it’s Father’s Day, stop for another gourmet lunch en route again at the Anchor Ripley. It’s a hard life in the Sussex downs!
For a gorgeous cottage stay, bang in the middle of beautiful countryside, speak to Jeremy! Here.