Best-selling authors, TV presenters, sporting stars and household celebrities tell us why they fell for the county we all call home

From William Blake to Winston Churchill, Paul McCartney and Piers Morgan, Sussex has played host to resident prime ministers, actors, poets and playwrights throughout history.

Even global superstars such as Tom Cruise, Kate Winslet, Adele and Cate Blanchett have all called the county home for a while at least.

And for many stars once you’ve lived here, nowhere else compares. So here, to show their love for Sussex, are some of our favourite celebrities who wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Karen Swan, bestselling author

Great British Life: How Karen found her Sussex home sounds like a plot line from one of her novels How Karen found her Sussex home sounds like a plot line from one of her novels (Image: Alicia Clarke)

It all came down to one wrong turn. I took a right when I should have hooked left and, although I didn’t know it, in that moment the course of my life changed. This was 2005 and I was still living in London. My two boys were toddlers, I was pregnant with my daughter, and my husband and I were looking to make the big move out of the city.

We’d been looking in the Buckinghamshire/Middlesex corridor but an old university friend had moved to Piltdown and it was while trying to get to lunch with her that I made the wrong call in East Grinstead and found myself heading west for Turners Hill instead. It should be remembered that satnav was not, back then, the slick beast we know and love today, and in the course of this panicked cross-county drive, I ended up haring through Lindfield. Through a bewildering maelstrom of pregnant tears and gritted teeth – lunch was getting cold! - I took in the sight of the Georgian townhouses, tile-hung cottages, the duck pond, the green, and realised we’d been looking in the wrong spot entirely.

Ordinarily, I might have put my day’s adventure out of my mind once I returned to the neat folds of Wandsworth but it so happened we had dinner with other friends that very night and it transpired one of them had grown up in Ardingly, too. Sussex talk subsequently dominated the dinner table - as it had at lunch - and before midnight, our property search algorithm had fallen into step.

Metroland couldn’t compete with the abundance of characterful properties available here but the clincher was the ranging open spaces of the Ashdown Forest. We moved down two weeks before my daughter was born and have never looked back. And every time I drive through that junction at East Grinstead now, I’m so pleased I turned right and not left.

Sally Gunnell, Olympic champion, lives in Fulking

Great British Life: Sally Gunnell insists she could never run away from SussexSally Gunnell insists she could never run away from Sussex (Image: Jim Holden)

Having myself hailed from Chigwell in Essex, it was my husband Jon who introduced me to Sussex as he grew up in Brighton. We started dating at 18 and bought our first flat in Preston Park in 1988 and I remember, even back then, the huge variety of different cultures in the city, the fun and the buzz of it all.

After three years, we moved to Patcham. It was here that, in 1992, life changed overnight. The day I won the Olympics, we had people knocking on our door and our windows and when we went shopping, they’d be looking in our trolley to catch a glimpse of exactly what an Olympic champion ate. And, of course we celebrated here - Brighton Pavilion provided a wonderful venue for a reception with family, friends and dignitaries from across the county.

Sussex was the perfect place for me to train during my heyday. It had the space for me to run, whether that was along the seafront or on the track at Withdean Sports Complex, and cycle at Preston Park Veledrome or in the open countryside. Gatwick was also close, so travelling was easy.

We soon moved out from Patcham to Fulking, which was a little more private and allowed me to have the downtime that I needed while still being close enough to go into Brighton for dinner or to shop. Steyning became home next, which, with the surrounding hills of the Downs and safe village vibe, was the perfect place to bring up our three boys, Finley, Luca and Marley. That was some of our most special times.

After 20 years, we’re now living back in Fulking, in that same house we moved to during that golden time after I won the Olympics, and we continue to be so happy. The boys, now 24, 21, and 18, are still living with us but they’re looking for their own places, although I can’t see them going very far. I’ve been in Sussex for 35 years now and still can’t think of a better place to live.

Norman Cook, Brighton-based DJ, musician and record producer

Great British Life: Norman Cook hates Brighton being called 'Muesli Belt'Norman Cook hates Brighton being called 'Muesli Belt' (Image: Jim Holden)

I feel part of Brighton and Hove – and it’s a two-way love affair. People see me as part of the furniture and respect me because I didn't move up to London, especially when I started going out with Zoe [Ball]. In fact, I brought her down here. They also like the fact that I try to do things for the local community.

I like the tolerant and progressive nature of Brighton. Some people sarcastically call it ‘Muesli Belt’ and The Sun hates us because the city is supposedly full of anarchists, gays and ‘loony lefties’. But I really like the tolerance Brighton shows to alternative lifestyles and politics. We have the UK’s only Green MP, for example. It feels very free.

Rosemary Shrager, TV presenter and crime novelist, lives in Wadhurst

Great British Life: Rosemary loves walking and sampling the food near her Wadhurst homeRosemary loves walking and sampling the food near her Wadhurst home (Image: Jim Holden)

I love this part of East Sussex. Now that I’ve had a hip operation, I’ve taken up walking again and love exploring my local reservoir, Bewl Water. I also love eating out locally. One of my favourite haunts is the Abergavenny Arms in Frant where the chef is excellent. We also have some top-notch farm shops, such as Eggs to Apples in Hurst Green, which stocks everything from fresh burgers to asparagus. I also like supporting Jempson’s, our local, family-run supermarket chain.

READ MORE: Why does celebrity chef Rosemary Shrager have murder on the menu?

Tommy Boyd, Chichester-based radio presenter/former Magpie presenter

I like Chichester because it’s not in the least bit impressed with me. Brighton was: you’d walk into a pub and everybody would start schmoozing. I don’t think anybody’s come up to me in Chichester and said, ‘Aren’t you Tommy Boyd?’ It’s well heeled, but edgier than people think.

The best place on earth is Fontwell Park Racecourse on a cold, mid-week afternoon in November. You’ve had yourself a hog roast and a couple of pints of Guinness, and you know what’s going to win the 3.30pm. That’s the best place on earth.

Guy Chambers is a songwriter, musician and record producer who lives in Firle

I’ve loved Sussex since childhood because my dad, who played flute in the London Philharmonic Orchestra, used to rent a house every summer near Glyndebourne while he performed there as a jobbing musician during the season.

He’d bring the family with him and our summer hols were idyllic. My main memories are of walking the Sussex Downs and swimming in the sea at Seaford.

Although our main base is now London, I still come down regularly with my wife Emma and our four children because we rent a weekend cottage at Firle. We love the village. It’s eccentric and bohemian, like The Archers on acid, and we’ve been made very welcome.

I also love the Downs. I find the intimate scale of them, and the Ravilious contours very comforting. Walking on them barefoot is my new thing. It reminds me of childhood. I also love cycling over the Downs on my electric bike to Tide Mills, a derelict village near Seaford, where I go wild swimming. I’m pleased to say the water is much cleaner than it was when I was a child.

Natasha Kaplinksy, Newsreader and TV presenter, is based near Uckfield

Great British Life: Natasha shares her Sussex home with a menagerie of animals including five dogsNatasha shares her Sussex home with a menagerie of animals including five dogs (Image: Jim Holden)

Before moving to Sussex lock, stock and barrel, I’d been commuting from London at weekends for years. Everyone predicted it would take us a long time to settle in the countryside, but after 12 hours in our new home my husband Justin and I said: ‘Why didn’t we do this years ago?’ To bribe the children into moving, we promised them all sorts of animals, including cats, chickens and even alpacas.

I grew up in Barcombe, near Lewes. It was an idyllic childhood. We’d run down to the River Ouse with a dinghy every weekend in the summer. I was so excited when the village flooded because we delivered the neighbour’s milk in a boat. I also loved dressing up for Barcombe Bonfire Night. Many years later, we entered my own children so it came full circle.

Steven Edwards, chef proprietor Etch

Great British Life: Steven Edwards has always had a hunger for Sussex Steven Edwards has always had a hunger for Sussex (Image: supplied)

My father worked at Ashdown Park, then a training centre for Barclays Bank, and it is there, in the vast and magical expanse of woodland, as a six-year-old that I became close to nature.

No matter what the weather, my younger brother and I would leave the house first thing and spend the entire day in and around the woods – so long as we arrived home before it became dark, our parents were happy!

We moved away but I returned to Sussex with my wife, Laura, in 2008. The county is a great mix of stunning countryside. We’re also lucky to have the vibrancy of Brighton and the history and heritage of Chichester and Arundel.

Brighton attracts people from far and wide which is fantastic for our restaurant in Hove.At etch. I feel privileged to work with such amazing local produce, changing our menu monthly and tweaking dishes to make the most of what’s in season and our wine list celebrates the Sussex vineyards which produce some of the best sparkling wines in the UK.


Allison Ferns, BBC Radio Sussex presenter 

Great British Life:

Sussex is the perfect place to live because you are as close to the sea as you are the rolling Downs. Growing up in Telscombe Cliffs, I remember endless days at the beach and freezing cold swims at the Saltdean Lido. My first ever job was on the Palace Pier in Brighton, selling cockles and mussels and even now I'm transported back to being a kid as soon as I smell those doughnuts. I’m still too scared to go on the Helter Skelter though! 

For total relaxation there's no better spot than Devils Dyke. The views go on for miles and, if you're lucky, the ice cream van will be there as well.  

There's also an amazing arts scene in Sussex with so many fabulous venues. I love to see shows at the Theatre Royal in Brighton. It brings back memories of performing there as a child and now I can watch my own children, Harry and Lois, on that same stage doing productions with Brighton Theatre Group.