When we opened our Hailsham home in 2013, it was our third store, and our first in East Sussex. Since then this beautiful area, known for its rolling hills and eclectic mix of seaside towns, has gained a special place in our hearts (so much so that we opened our second store here, Neptune Hove, earlier this year). Here, we’ve put together some of the places we love most, most a short drive away from Hailsham, and some a little further afield, so you can turn your visit to us into a lovely day out. Hopefully we’ll have included something to surprise and delight you.
The early 20th century home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, Charleston has become a bit of a pilgrimage site for those that love the work of the Bloomsbury group – or even just those with an appreciation of the decorative arts. This richly adorned farmhouse is a must to visit and marvel at. Inside, hand-painted motifs, patterns and frescos adorn every available surface. Outside, a tranquil painter’s garden awaits.
Farleys House and Gallery
Less well-known than Charleston, but equally enchanting, is Farleys House and Gallery. Once home to photographers Lee Miller and Roland Penrose, Farleys brims over with colour and creativity. The house has been left very much as it was when it was lived in, as if its original occupants have just stepped out to entertain their many artistic guests (which included Picasso and Man Ray) – some of whom have work now on show in the house.
Long Man of Wilmington
If a leg-stretching ramble is on the cards, we suggest heading over to the South Downs where you’ll find the Long Man of Wilmington. A wonderful way to take in this striking figure, laid out on the side of a hill, is by taking a route through the charming villages of Jevington, Folkington and Wilmington. On your way you’ll also spot Norman churches, burial mounds and a 1,600 year old yew tree.
If you’ve room for an evening gown or tuxedo in the car, you may like to spend an evening at Glyndebourne. This eccentric British institution puts on operatic performances, where guests are encouraged to picnic in the garden during long intervals, and formal attire is a must. As Vita Sackville-West said, “The graciousness of civilisation here surely touches a peak where the arts of music, architecture and gardening combine…”
The Lamb Inn
The Lamb at Wartling may have the usual hallmarks of a British inn – there are plenty of antiques and the menu is full of old-favourites like fish pie with creamed potato – but the vinyl records playing in the corner are a surprising touch. There are also several supremely elegant bedrooms, should you be so consumed by your pan-fried lamb rump that you need to spend the night.
Flint Owl Bakery
If you’re heading west to Lewes for a spot of shopping (more on that later), Flint Owl Bakery is perfect if you find yourself in need of tea and cake. Try and sit in the tranquil courtyard when the weather is fine, and perhaps pick up one of their famous sourdough loaves to accompany soup or stew for supper.
A G Hendy & Co
A little way east of Hailsham, sitting proudly on the coast, is the town of Hastings. If you’re not familiar with this seaside beauty, expect clapboard cottages, wooden fishing boats and a whole host of art galleries. Nestled in amongst all this is A G Hendy & Co – home store and restaurant with an old soul. The food is honest and simple, often fresh from the boat, and served in a wonderfully ramshackle townhouse.
Closet & Botts
The historic town of Lewes is by far one of our favourite places in East Sussex, particularly for its array of boutiques. Especially marvellous is Closet & Botts. This shop is home to a collection of “overlooked treasures”, from French asparagus plates to washed linen aprons to dressmaking pins.
Walk a little further along the High Street and you’ll come across Freight. Owned by mother and daughter team, Helene and Adele, this curated space is filled with pieces that are sourced from (almost always) British artisans. You’ll find beeswax candles – hand dipped and sustainable – fine Scottish lambswool scarves, and large reels of household twine.
Much Ado Books
Away from Lewes, back towards Hailsham, is the village of Alfriston. It was here that American couple, Cate and Nash, decided to open what has become a much-recommended independent bookshop. Much Ado Books’ pale green shelves harbour both new and gently-worn books, including a well-stocked collection on the Bloomsbury group – perfect if you’ve just stopped off at Charleston.