10 great days out in Sussex this summer
- Credit: Supplied by Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens
From seeing striking sculptures at Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens to walking with alpacas in Adsdean, how many of these must-do days out in Sussex will you tick off your list?
1. See the new Anton Smit Sculpture Park
Where: Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens, Horsham.
When: Can be viewed throughout the year.
This must-see exhibition, titled Walk of Life, features 100 captivating works by South African artist Anton Smit dotted around the ancient woodland gardens. Make a day of it by following the footpaths to the tranquil lakes, meeting the colony of wallabies and grabbing a picnic basket full of local produce from the Clocktower Café to enjoy in the grounds.
Accessibility: Shuttle service (subject to availability) around the grounds. Manual and electric mobility wheelchairs available for hire but note that there are uneven surfaces and steep slopes throughout the gardens. Accessible toilets.
Daily, 9am-5pm (during peak season March 28 to October 31). Sculpture Park included in garden entry; Adults £13.50, children (5-16) £6.50, complimentary carer day tickets (relevant ID required). Pre-book tickets, leonardsleegardens.co.uk
2. Get an up-close look at wildlife in Rye
Where: Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
When: Open all year round.
There are miles of footpaths to follow here, with suggested circular walks that showcase the abundance of wildlife. In July and August, there's lots to shout about. You'll likely spot terns, ringed plovers, as well as wading birds and flowering yellow horned-poppies with bumblebees, grasshoppers and dragonflies buzzing about. Recently, the county's first ever caterpillar of the rare Sussex Emerald moth was spotted there, following efforts to create an optimum breeding ground. There is lots of information in the Discovery Centre about the special wildlife on the reserve, with exhibitions and offer educational activities throughout the year.
Accessibility: The footpaths, bird hides and the Discovery Centre are accessible to wheelchair users. The Discovery Centre has accessible toilets.
Reserve open 24/7. Discovery Centre open daily from 10am to 4pm. Entry is free, sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/ryeharbour
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3. Take to the skies in a hot air balloon
When: April to October.
For jaw-dropping views of the West Sussex countryside, it doesn’t get much better than a hot air balloon ride. You’ll take off from The British School of Ballooning’s flagship launch site, just north of Petworth, and be whisked awake on a picturesque route. You may spot Petworth House, Cowdray Park and Uppark House, or even catch a glimpse of the Isle of Wight. The flagship launch site, off the A283 adjacent to the Blackwool Farm Trout Fishery, has ample parking. There are a number of other spots in the county to lift off from, including one near Brighton.
Accessibility: Passengers must be medically fit to fly, able to climb in and out of the basket and to stand for about an hour.
From £135 per person for a Champagne Balloon Flight (weekday mornings), hotair.co.uk
4. Tuck into a luxury picnic at Black Down
Where: South Downs National Park.
When: All year round.
Elevate your picnic experience by joining the Hills, Heath, Hops and Hampers experience, which will take you to the highest point in the South Downs. An experienced guide will lead the way, offering a fascinating insight into the history and geology of the area. Once you’ve reached a fitting viewpoint, you can sit down to a five-star feast of local produce. Unwind as you listen to poems by Alfred Tennyson, who found inspiration in this part of the world. There's also a tasting session of locally produced beers and ales before it’s time to make your way back to the start.
Accessibility: The route can be tailored depending on accessibility needs, in discussion with the providers when booking and making arrangements.
Various dates, 11-3pm. From £65 per person, experiences.nationalparks.uk
5. Cruise along Chichester Canal
Where: Canal Basin.
When: From spring to autumn (restrictions permitting).
Glide along the tranquil stretch of water between the Basin and Donnington on a canal boat trip organised by Chichester Ship Canal Trust. The trip boat Kingfisher takes you along the picturesque two-mile route where wildlife thrives all year around. During the 75-minute trip, you can unravel the two-century history of the canal with various points of interest along the way, such as views of the South Downs and Turner’s view of Chichester Cathedral. Keep your eyes peeled for herons and kingfishers as you cruise past the wildflowers and reed beds. Refreshments available in the waterside café.
Accessibility: Kingfisher facilities are fully accessible by wheelchair. Guide and assistance dogs welcome.
Four times a day (except Tuesdays). Adults £12, children £5 (age 12 and under). Booking is essential, chichestercanal.org.uk
6. Learn to shoot at Hownhall
Where: Cowdray Estate, Midhurst.
When: All year round.
You don’t need to have any previous experience under your belt to join in the activities at this shooting school nestled in the woodlands. The experts will teach you how to handle and shoot a shotgun, with the focus very much on bolstering confidence and enhancing technique. If you’re just starting out, the novice training sessions will lead you towards self-management. Seasoned game shooters, on the other hand, will find the lessons useful for honing their style and recondition their technique. There are also simulated game days to join, which is a great option for groups complete with a generous supply of clays and in-field elevenses.
Accessibility: Accessible to those in all-terrain wheelchairs. Call to find out more.
Have a go sessions from £75 per person and lessons from £120. Book in advance, hownhallshooting.com
7. Walk with alpacas at Dunreyth
Where: Adsdean, Funtington.
When: All year round.
At this family run farm, you can set off on a peaceful walk with an alpaca. As herd animals, they will not walk out alone so as well as it being one for the memory bank, you’re doing them a favour by keeping them active. The woodland walk takes around 50 minutes, depending on how speedy your alpaca feels on the day. Afterwards, you can go and see how farm processes alpaca fleece, and browse the hand-knitted garments in the shop. Participant numbers are limited so the alpacas feel safe and clam.
Accessibility: The farm site is easily accessible. The walk can be steep in places with rough paths and is not suitable for those with limited mobility.
From Wednesday to Sunday at 10:15am. For ages 6+. £20 per person for the alpaca walk. Walks must be booked in advance, dunreythalpacas.co.uk
8. Explore the restored Highdown Gardens
When: Open all year round.
Having recently undergone a National Lottery Heritage funded £1 million restoration project, Highdown Gardens is at its glorious best. Its gardeners now have top notch facilities to help them maintain the exotic plant collection gathered by the garden's founder Sir Frederick Stern. We recommend downloading and printing the Plant Hunters Trail from the website before you visit. In August, look out for voodoo lily (Dracunculus vulgaris) in bloom in the lower garden. Its large purple spathe and spadix will catch the eye, but don’t get too close – the experts at Highdown warn that it smells a bit like rotting meat.
Accessibility: Accessible route in the Sensory Garden and at the Visitor Centre. Accessible toilets.
Open daily from 10am to 4pm. Entry is free. Book a time slot in advance, highdowngardens.co.uk
READ MORE: 13 of the prettiest places to eat outside in Sussex
9. Enjoy off-season entry to Bates Green Garden
Where: Arlington, near Hailsham.
When: Until October 27.
This stunning one-and-a-half-acre garden is now open to the public, giving visitors a coveted chance to enjoy the Arlington Bluebell Walk Wood out of season for the very first time. Nestled within a 130-acre farm owned by the McCutchan family since 1921, the garden was transformed into a vibrant, tranquil space full of unusual plants and shrubs by the late, self-taught plantswoman Carolyn McCutchan and previously opened under the National Garden Scheme and other charities. Pay a visit to the adjoining five-acre conservation meadow, and follow the mown paths past the wildflowers (they’re cut for hay in early August).
Accessibility: Ramp access to the gardens. Accessible toilet. Designated parking.
From 10am-4pm every Wednesday. £7 adults, £3.50 children. Additional charge of £5 for adults and £2.50 for children for entry to Beatons Wood. Book in advance, batesgreengarden.co.uk
10. See Dalmatian pelicans at the Arundel wetlands
When: All year round.
Where: WWT Arundel Wetland Centre.
Check out these rare, large pelicans at the new Pelican Cove exhibit - and their noisy neighbours, the ‘squeaking’ red breasted geese.
Accessibility: All areas can be accessed. Plus, there’s a sensory garden, accessible car parking, toilets and more.
Open from 10am-4.30pm. Adults, £12.72. Concessions £10.81. Children (4-16), £6.86. Essential helpers go free. wwt.org.uk