What does it mean to live in this countryside? We think about this a lot in our small part of the world. When we started Lydhurst Cottages our growing hospitality business, last year, it was with the idea that we wanted to celebrate and champion Sussex and the English Countryside as a place that was accessible, inclusive and inspiring. We wanted to breathe new purpose into our heritage properties: our 16th century farmhouse, the little field shelters and workman’s cottages, the old Victorian schoolhouse and meetings rooms. We love these buildings and the wonderful gardens on our estate, the magical woodland and meadows, but increasingly we also love venturing beyond the hedgerows. This is what makes our part of the country so special.
We are delighted to share the rural landscape and create beautiful spaces for our visitors that allow them to reconnect – to each other, to the environment and to themselves. But we also want our guests to feel connected to other parts and places in Sussex; in prioritizing this, we have ourselves experienced a renewed appreciation of where we are.
Not being from the UK originally, I’ve been learning about Sussex on the job. And even my husband, who grew up in Sussex but lived in New York and London for several decades before moving back, is experiencing the region anew. Yes, we knew that Sussex was a place rich in heritage, culture and, of course, its natural beauty. But now that we are advising our guests on where to go - how best to experience Sussex and how to make the most of their stay with us – we are learning about places we never knew existed.
Some of our new favourite discoveries: The Sussex Prairie Garden in Henfield for art classes amongst the wildflowers; The Ditchling Museum for craftivism workshops; The Garden Sage nursery for the most lovingly nurtured plants; Stan’s Bike Shack for a serious cup of coffee on your cycling route across the downs. And, of course, AS Apothecary for their amazing small batch beauty products and wonderful treatments, locally grown and produced.
We want our guests to open that bottle of Sussex bubbly we’ve popped in the fridge and then go to the vineyard for a tour and an afternoon tasting (we can provide the taxis!) Find a product they like and feel able and empowered to visit where it came from. This is our favourite version of the countryside, and of Sussex: a place to start from, not just get to; a place of art, beauty and community; a place for great food, craftsmanship and conscious living. It used to be that people came to the country to get away from it all and we love being a site of refuge. But we also hope that our guests get lost in discovery and adventure, both in and out of the woodlands. Really, who knew living in the country could be so much fun?
Originally from Southern California, Amber Baillie is the co-founder of Lydhurst Cottages, a hospitality business started with her husband in Warninglid, West Sussex. www.lydhurst-cottages.co.uk follow us on Instagram @lydhurst_cottages