Sussex Modern is a new collaboration of carefully curated galleries, artist houses, wineries and performance venues all designed to celebrate the county’s contribution to modern culture and to showcase the county’s natural landscape. Thirty six extraordinary spaces explore historic and contemporary stories of ‘making’ that reflect the essence of modern creativity. From the writings of Virginia Woolf to the paintings of Eric Ravilious, the photographs of Lee Miller and the type design of Eric Gill, Sussex Modern represents a rich assembly of artistic endeavour and talent. A changing programme of exhibitions, events and performances spotlights the best and most exciting of contemporary work.
Sussex occupies a unique position in the recent history of British thought, art and literature. It has helped shape our modern world. One hundred years ago writers, artists and designers recognised Sussex and its landscape as a place of inspiration and an escape from the city. It suited their radical ideas, alternative lifestyles and independent spirits. With the creation of the South Downs National Park in 2010 the county has opened up new ways to experience, enjoy and learn about its landscape, nature and history. The high chalk downs, cliffs and pebbled coastline are a distinctive feature of this quintessentially English countryside while much of the county’s hinterland is part of the High Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Recently, Sussex has inspired a new generation of creative pioneers as a modern winemaking industry is rapidly building an international reputation for outstanding wine. The vineyards are quickly becoming a destination in themselves with many of them offering accommodation, tastings and wonderful tours.
It’s a very easy country break for us London city dwellers who need a quick escape to experience quintessentially English countryside, with areas of outstanding natural beauty and the rejuvenating qualities of the sea.
Sussex is studded with extraordinary architecture, galleries, museums, artists’ houses and performance venues and there is so much to offer in the region and Sussex Modern has just launched a new website helping visitors discover the best of this county. We can use the interactive route planner to curate their perfect itinerary which can be viewed in Google Maps as well as shared with friends and family.
Check out their new website where they invite you to curate your own visit and map your own route in celebration of the county’s contribution to modern culture: Sussex Modern
Some of the places I’ve tried and tested successfully include the following:-
The Ditchling Museum Of Art + Craft
The Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft is a very pretty little museum where Ditchling’s unique artistic heritage is celebrated, both the past and present-day artists and designers:-
Just a short drive away is Ditchling Beacon where you can park the car and go for a walk. The beacon stands at the highest point in East Sussex with truly spectacular 360 views of the area.
Ridgeview Wine Estate
Again, very close is the wonderful Ridgeview Wine Estate where the family run message is “Life is a celebration” which I would wholeheartedly agree with.
Charleston is a typical Sussex farmhouse with picturesque vistas, formerly home to radical art and ideas and a mecca for artists and authors. Once the country retreat of the Bloomsbury group residents and the home of painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant it was also a regular holiday spot for Virginia Woolf. They are all now celebrated in the gardens, the fascinatingly painted interiors and in the art on display. The Charleston Literary Festival is now in it’s 30th year and well worth a visit, like a mini Hay Festival.
Inside the house:-
Currently showing in their new exhibition space is “In Colour: Sickert to Riley, selected by Cressida Bell”:-
Rathfinny Wine Estate
Rathfinny Wine Estate, in Alfriston is about a 20 minute drive away from Charleston, where you get huge sweeping views and the sea beyond, a vast 375 acres worth of vines.
Rathfinny Wine Estate’s latest releases, a 2015 Blanc de Noirs and 2016 Rosé is currently featuring at the “Sparkling of the Month” at The Ritz Hotel in London. This is only the second time in The Ritz’s illustrious 113 year history that a non-Champagne has been chosen for this monthly honour and underlines the growing reputation of English sparkling wine.
Rathfinny has become a popular destination for wine tourists. The Winery is home to the Cellar Door where visitors can enjoy organised Vineyard tours and wine tastings, whilst the Tasting Room restaurant offers modern British cuisine. Guests can spend the night in one of Rathfinny’s charming Flint Barns, which I love. It’s used to accommodate grape pickers during harvest season and offers a comfortable and cosy night’s rest for guests for the rest of the year. A night at the Flint Barns starts from £100 per room on a bed and breakfast basis.
Go to a performance at Glyndebourne, the famous opera house that attracts visitors from around the world to watch renowned performances brought to life with exceptional set design and costume work, all done in house by Glyndebourne’s team. It’s not cheap, but it is an experience you will never forget.
This year at Glyndebourne they are celebrating various anniversaries, most notably the 25th anniversary of the “new” theatre and we spent a wonderful evening there recently. The opera starts early and then you have a long interval in which to enjoy the grounds and have the poshest picnic ever (or eat in one of their restaurants). You have to dress up and the people watching is spectacular!
Coupled with a bottle of English Sparkling and this has got to be near perfection!
Together the art, landscape and wine of Sussex make for a fascinating and refreshingly modern experience – one that stimulates the senses and rewards the curious. All just an hour or so from London.