My Favourite Sussex: vet and author Bruce Fogle

Bruce Fogle with his son, explorer and TV presented Ben Fogle, at Cheltenham Literary Festival

Bruce Fogle with his son, explorer and TV presented Ben Fogle, at Cheltenham Literary Festival - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

The bestselling writer and animal expert has lived in West Sussex with his wife, actress Julia Foster for over 30 years and recently became president of RSPCA Mount Noddy

Home is...

A slice of a manor house near Arundel, built from already old bricks in 1640. The house was seconded by the Royal Navy from 1940 to 1947 then sold to a local builder who divided it into four individual homes, each with its own entrance and gardens. I’ve written 40 books here (including Call the Vet which comes out at the end of October), and learned recently that two previous occupants, Logan Pearsall Smith and Geoffrey Moss, wrote 20 more – and better ones – between them!

Your earliest memory of Sussex?

Soon after we met in 1970, my wife Julia, who was born in Lewes, took me to meet her parents who lived in Sayers Common. Her father Dick was a show judge at the All England Jumping Course at Hickstead. Jean, my mother-in-law to be, cooked a traditional Sunday roast. Matt, Julia’s grandmother, stood for God Save the Queen when TV transmission ended in the evening. I felt like I’d landed in a delicious cartoon of English life, and just loved it.

Where do you go to unwind?

The two-mile stretch of coast from West Beach, Littlehampton to Elmer on the far side of Climping, is magic. Protected sand dunes; deep shingle and at low tide, sand stretching out for hundreds of metres; exposed chalk and flint; sea and war defences. From 1941 to 1944, defence of the Sussex coast was in the hands of the 1st Canadian Army, raised in Ontario where I’m from. They left for Italy. I do too, for holidays, but I love coming back home.

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Favourite Sussex walk?

Getting to the top of Bignor Hill is a great starter. Drive through picture-perfect West Burton, past vineyard-wrapped Bignor Roman Villa, then left onto an unmarked track through a farmyard and up a steep, rutted track to the top of the Downs. Once there you can choose to visit Roman dew ponds, walk along the old Roman Road with Chichester Cathedral spire at its end, gaze out to the sea or mingle with grazing sheep. It’s the only place I’ve seen adders twice.

Favourite place to spend time with the family?

We have an octagonal Swedish summerhouse with windows all around. That’s where we celebrate family birthdays. At Christmas it’s where we escape to!

Where is your favourite place to shop?

Spencer Swaffer’s antique shop in Arundel can be intimidating to some from the outside but inside it’s a warm, welcoming Aladdin’s Cave. The stock is whatever catches Spencer’s eye, from 20th century tin beach pails or Dinky toys to 19th century garden urns or 18th century icons.

Best Sussex night out?

For years and years, The Gribble Inn and Brewery in Oving has been home to the most affable pub dog I’ve had the pleasure to meet. And my dogs, like others, are always welcome. Just thinking about their ruby red Christmas Ale makes my mouth water!

Best place to eat or drink in Sussex?

Edgcumbes on Ford Lane is seriously out of the way but serves absolutely brilliant coffee and cake. There’s an attached farm shop.

If you could move anywhere in Sussex where would it be?

Why move? I’ve got the sea and the Downs, both just minutes away. It’s bliss.

Your Sussex life in three words?

Warm, contented and historic.

Good to know

Bruce has been a vet for 50 years and has a practice in London. He is president of RSPCA Mount Noddy near Chichester and co-founder of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. He received an MBE for his services in 2004. Bruces’s new book, Call the Vet, is a rich and warmly funny memoir about starting his career in 1970s London and how dramatically things have changed since then. RSPCA Mount Noddy supports the local work of the RSPCA in Chichester and surrounding areas. First opening its doors in 1969, it provides care and assistance to hundreds of dogs and cats who need a second chance in life to find a forever home.

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