With wisteria-draped cottages, the South Downs as a backdrop and Dame Maggie Smith as it’s resident A-lister, Pulborough looks like a set dreamed up by a Hollywood movie director as the epitome of an English village.

In fact, it’s Petworth, just down the road, that is the star of the small and big screen, providing a luscious location for TV smash hit Bridgerton and Ridley Scott’s epic Napoleon, leaving Pulborough and its tiny population of 5,000, as West Sussex’s hidden gem.

But while it might not be on La La Land’s hit list, this charming village is steeped in history and surrounded by breathtaking scenery and nature. Time your visit right and you can glimpse community life from years gone by watching the local duck race on August Bank Holiday or at the September harvest fair which includes a retro style fair ground, welly wanging and a scarecrow competition.

The reasons for Pulborough’s popularity are myriad though. From its enviable position nestled in the rolling, green countryside overlooking the Arun valley, to its proximity to the coast –Brighton is just a short 30-minute drive away – visitors can see historic houses, taste award-winning wines and get up close to wildlife all in a day.

It's this heady mixture of a rich history, dating back to Saxon times, welcoming community and picturesque scenery that makes Pulborough so sought after – it is one of the top 10 in-demand villages, according to property experts Rightmove. You don’t need to move here to experience all that Pulborough has to offer as it’s the perfect location for a day out or a staycation with style.

Great British Life: Pulborough train station put the village on the map.Pulborough train station put the village on the map. (Image: Alamy)


Set on a south facing escarpment, offering panoramic views across the Arun Valley to the South Downs, the village has always been historically important. The flood plain of the River Arun has been a hunting ground for fish and wildfowl since Neolithic times, and Saxon settlers named it Pulborough which roughly translates to Hill by the Pool, where the pool could be a tidal creek, or stream. The Romans stationed a garrison here to guard the route up Stane Street (which you can still see) connecting London and the north to the coast and important ports and trading towns.

The arrival of the railway in the mid 19th century cemented Pulborough’s place on the British map, making it possible to commute to London in less than an hour, and connect up to the rest of the country as well as county.

It’s this varied past that makes a visit to picture-perfect Pulborough seem like a walk through history. Saxon, Tudor, Georgian, Victorian and modern houses are dotted around the village, creating the charming character the village is famous for.

Great British Life: Walking through the village is like walking back in time.Walking through the village is like walking back in time. (Image: Alamy)


Sitting on that south facing escarpment, Pulborough is in the heart of Sussex wine country. The county’s warm microclimate, and those slopes, protected by the Downs, makes for a perfect terroir - the same green sand soil as the famous Champagne region.

Now with its own protected status, just like Champagne and Bordeaux, Sussex wine has proved it is world class, and the vineyard owners are pushing to boost wine tourism in the county.

There are plenty of vineyards to choose from including the award-winning producer of sparkling wine Nyetimber (nyetimber.com), Kinsbrook Vineyard (kinsbrookvineyard.com) and Nutbourne Vineyard (nutbournevineyards.com) who first planted their grapes in 1980 and now have 18-acres of vines in production. Wiston Estate Winery (wistonestate.com) has tastings, tours and events and you can even stay at the self-catering cottage there on an ‘escape to the South Downs’ staycation. Indulge in an Estate Menu at the award-winning Chalk restaurant where the set five course dinner showcases produce grown, farmed and foraged on Wiston Estate and the Sussex Coast.

If its hops you’re after, or a cocktail or two, with a glass of Sussex, there are plenty of cosy pubs in the area. Head to the 16th century coaching inn, The White Lion (www.whitelion-thakeham.co.uk), in nearby picturesque Thakeham, which serves delicious ‘pub grub’ and has a beer garden for soaking up the sun in the summer.

If it’s too early for a sundowner, pop into Little Bean Café (littlebeancafe.co.uk) which has all the favourites from cappuccino, latte, to mocha and macchiato, ethically-sourced and locally roasted along with vegan and veggie breakfast options (and your full English!), home-made lunches, afternoon teas and even private events and parties.

Great British Life: Parham HouseParham House (Image: Parham House Ltd)


From a leisurely walk, drinking in the 360 views of the verdant countryside, to soaking up the history at Bignor Roman Villa and its world-class mosaic floors and one of the country’s finest Elizabethan manors, Parham House and Gardens (www.parhaminsussex.co.uk), which reopens on Easter Sunday, 31 March, there is plenty to do in Pulborough.

Wherever you go, you’ll be surrounded by the stunning South Downs, which has a charity dedicated to protecting and preserving its beauty. The Friends of the South Downs (www.friendsofthesouthdowns.org.uk) organise 200 walks every year, along with conservation projects, talks and campaigns to benefit the national park.

The entire family can go full steam ahead at South Downs Light Railway (south-downs-railway.com), a miniature steam train at the Pulborough Garden Centre but can you cut it at the 12-hour lawn mower race? Each year the village hosts the quintessentially British event, which sees more than 50 teams competing continuously to the (beautifully manicured?) finishing line.


Antique lovers will love Pulborough which has history running through its streets. First stop has to be The Pulborough Exchange on Lower Street which sells everything from art to musical instruments and has a veritable library of Sussex Books. Wolfe Antiques on Coolham Road, specialise in out-of-the-ordinary pieces including vintage fairground collectables, old signage and amusement machines.

To snap up a vintage piece of treasure at the right price, and have a memorable outing, head to Tooveys auctioneers, a family-run firm that was set up in 1995 as a regional centre of excellence for the valuation and sale of antiques, collectors’ items and fine art in the South East. Myriad pieces – from coins, militaria to the finest of wines – go under the hammer here.

Great British Life: Downton Abbey's Dame Maggie Smith can be spotted in Waitrose.Downton Abbey's Dame Maggie Smith can be spotted in Waitrose. (Image: Alamy)


Downton Abbey’s Dame Maggie Smith bought a house in Pulborough in 1981 and shops in Waitrose in nearby Storrington. The Oscar-winning actress isn’t the only famous resident though.

Comedian Harry Enfield went to school here and Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the greatest English Romantic poets, lived in the Grade II-listed Champions Farm in Pulborough that was built by either his grandfather or father in the 17th century and recently went on the market for £3.6million.

Best known for Ode to the West Wind, Shelley must have found his home’s surroundings inspiring as he looked out onto 111 acres of rolling fields with views across the Downs.

Composer Edward Elgar, who wrote the popular oratorio The Dream of Gerontius, based on a poem by John Henry Cardinal Newman, lived in nearby Fittleworth. He was made Master of the King’s Music in 1924, directing the court orchestra and composing music for the monarch, George V.


With a wealth of excellent schools in the area, Pulborough is the perfect place to raise a family. There is everything from nurseries and pre-schools to primary and secondary schools in and around the village along with independent schools.

Bury Manor Pre-School teaches children aged 2 – 5 years old and recently received an ‘Outstanding’ Ofted rating and noted that the behaviour of the pupils was ‘exemplary.’

While the school is independent of Dorset House School, it has access to the grounds that Dorset House has to offer and works very closely with the Headmaster and all the staff, enjoying a shared ethos.

Inspiring pupils to grow in confidence in its high challenge/low threat atmosphere, Dorset House school provides what it calls a ‘magical prep school experience.’ Aiming to promote independence and make sure pupils are happy, confident, but not arrogant young people, Dorset House children often win awards and scholarships to senior schools.


Parham House

Set in a 16th century deer park, Parham House has ancient art collections, antiques, and award-winning gardens. Reopening Easter weekend, stroll the Pleasure Grounds or four-acre Walled Garden, try to spot a fallow deer grazing or marvel at the Long Gallery, which is the third longest in England.


RSPB Pulborough Brooks

Head to RSPB Pulborough Brooks for a family-friendly day out at a nature reserve with stunning views of the Brooklands and South Downs that is home to wonderful wildlife. The RSPB call it ‘one of the richest areas for nature in the country’ and has a stunning landscape of wildflower meadows, grasslands, pools and heathland.

Set in the sheltered Arun Valley, there are hides and viewing areas to catch a glimpse of some of the rarest plants and creatures including the threatened little whirlpool ramshorn snail. Bats, green tiger beetles and a variety of birds and wildfowl can be seen too, including the nightingale, teal, and pintail and black-tailed godwits, along with the rare brown hairstreak butterfly. https://rspb.org.uk/days-out/reserves/pulborough-brooks

Great British Life: Wet meadows at Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve.Wet meadows at Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve. (Image: RSPB)