Shake things up a little this summer


#TrySomethingNew has been brewing for some time and as a number of events collide this summer,  now is the time to make it happen.

The slide into middle-aged apathy must be halted in its tracks, the teenager must be dragged way from the screens, visiting friends from overseas need to be entertained – all good reasons for the family to get off our butts and make the most of what’s on offer Around the Downs this summer.

And to add to the challenge, we’ re going to do things that at least one of the party hasn’t done before, hence the campaign #TrySomethingNew.

Not that everything ‘new’ has to be a big deal. Some may be small challenges such as getting teen ATD to eat something new – like seafood (actually that might be quite a big deal as she is the queen of fussy eating), or dragging Mr ATD away from his cars and motorbikes to take a sunset stroll (never managed it before, but ever hopeful!).

But there have to be a few serious challenges too and so to get us (and perhaps you) started here’s a list of things we’re planning to try:

• We all love swimming but generally confine our dips to the local pool or the sea when it is really warm. Our long term goal is to take up Wild Swimming but we’re going to start with open water swimming on Sundays at Chichester Watersports. Fingers crossed it’s not too cold.


• The teenager is just about old enough to dabble with alcohol so in an effort to lure her away from shots and spirits, we thought we’d introduce her to the finer side of alcohol with a one-day tour of the local Vineyards.  What she doesn’t realise is that the tour with TrekNTasteSussex involves cycling and walking to the vineyards so over-indulging is not an option. It will also be a great way to introduce our friends from Germany to the great sparkling wines of the South Downs.

• Having done a Foundation course at Art College before moving into ‘the real world’ I’ve always yearned to get back in touch with my creative side. This summer a friend and I have booked to do a one day sculpting course at West Dean College – we may never be the next Barbara Hepworth, but in the words of Lao Tzu, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

• Living in the Downs, you’re never far from the sea  and what better way to enjoy it than a sunset kayaking tour around Chichester Harbour with Fluid Adventures. We’ll have some newbie seafarers in our party but kayaking is so simple anyone can do it. (At least that’s what we’re telling them!)

• The ATD teenager knows I don’t like flying much which is probably why she picked a flying experience at Goodwood for her special birthday present this year and guess who has to go with her! This really will be something new (and frightening) for me as I firmly believe that flying should only be done in aircraft big enough to carry hundreds of passengers and ideally piloted by someone like Chesley Sullenberger (of ‘Sully’ fame).

• We’ve been meaning to walk The South Downs Way ever since we moved here and the arrival of our friends from the States has proved just the nudge we need. We won’t do the whole route this summer but we’ll make a great start and complete the final stages in the Autumn.

•We’ve got another great surprise for our city-dwelling State-side friends – a safari through the English countryside! With Knepp Safaris we’re hoping to see herds of Longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies, Tamworth pigs, red and fallow deer plus lots of birds. It may not be Africa but it looks great fun!


• Fishing is the new cycling – everyone is doing it, from Emma Watson, Rihanna, Avril Levigne on the ladies team to David Beckham, Liam Neeson and Brad Pitt on the boys side. So Mr ATD has decided he wants us all to have a go at Fly Fishing. My brother is a great fisherman  but I’ve never tried it. To be honest, I feel a bit squeamish about touching the fish I take out of a packet from the supermarket. But a deal is a deal and as we’ve all decided to try something new, I will just have to muster my courage and get on with it –  but I bet Mrs Beckham never gets dragged along!

Everyone needs their life shaking up once in a while so why not join us and #TrySomethingNew  #AroundTheDowns with your family and friends this summer? We’ll be posting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram  about what we’re getting up to and we’d love you to share your exploits too.

Here’s to an exciting and invigorating summer!

Let’s celebrate English Wine Week!

Wine around the Downs

This is English Wine Week and here in the South Downs we’ve got a lot to celebrate. Our (usually) sunny and (supposedly) warming climate, together with  favourable soil that closely resembles the Champagne region of France, has produced an explosion of wine making in West Sussex in recent decades.

With both classic sparkling wine varietals such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, and grapes for still wines such as Bacchus and  Rondo, all thriving in the Sussex Weald we couldn’t be more spoilt for choice.

So in English Wine Week, why not take a tour of our local vineyards. Almost all offer tours and tastings, and you can usually book the tours and buy the wines online. If you can’t make it in person, then take a ‘virtual’ tour and treat yourself to a bottle from each one!

Nyetimber is probably one of the best known wine makers in the area, with vineyards in West Sussex and Hampshire. Owner and CEO, Eric Heerema’s vision from the start was to rival the best wine  in the world, including Champagne. Nyetimber’s winemaker Cherie Spriggs believes that what distinguishes an outstanding wine from a good one is precision and attention to detail in every part of the process, every day. It seems to have paid off – in 2016 at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC), they were awarded the English Wine Producer of the Year.

Snapping at their heels, are the wines of  Wiston Estate at Washington. Owned and managed by the Goring family since 1743, it was only in 2006 that the first vines were planted on the Estate, after Harry Goring succumbed to the lifelong ambition of his wife, Pip, to plant a vineyard . Under the direction of winemaker Dermot Sugrue, Wiston Wines were chosen by Decanter magazine experts to be amongst the sparkling wines and Champagne that most impressed them in 2016.

Down in Halnaker, near Chichester, The Tinwood Estate is also making a name for its wines on land originally purchased by a Dutchman to grow lettuces. Ten years ago his son, Art Tukker, found a much better use for the land and has planted almost 100000 vines on his 65 acres of chalky, flinty soil. And if you happen to indulge a touch too much on your tour, then you could always stay in one of the three luxury lodges on the Estate.

The wines of the Blackdown Ridge Estate near Haslemere are the result of the vision of owner, Professor Martin Cook, who has lived on the estate for 20 years. A passionate wine-lover, Martin was inspired to create his vineyard when an Italian family friend and winemaker suggested that the beautiful south-facing slopes of Blackdown would be perfect for growing vines.

Stopham Vineyard, near Pulborough, specialises in white wine production from hand-harvested grapes grown in a vineyard next to the River Arun. Director of Winemaking, Simon Woodhead, came into winemaking after a career in design for a Formula 1 team so presumably applies the same precision and attention to detail in his winery. Stopham’s debut 2010 vintage (a still dry white, pinot blanc) is stocked by Raymond Blanc’s fashionable Le Manoir au Quat’Saisons restaurant, and was served to the Queen and Prince Philip on the royal barge during their golden wedding anniversary celebrations

Stopham Vineyard – The Harvest from fly on Vimeo.

Just up the road from Stopham are Nutbourne Vineyards, a family run boutique wine producer of award winning still and sparkling wines. Owned by the Gladwin family (who know a thing or two about fine dining and catering), the winery is headed up by consultant Wine Maker, Owen Elias, several times winner of the UK Wine Maker of the Year. One of the pioneers of wine grape growing in the UK,  the Estate now produces between 40000 and 60000 bottles a year.

Coming back East along the A272 you’ll find Upperton Vineyards at Tillington. First planted by Andy Rogers in 2005 with 800 trial vines initially for still wine  production, additional vines for high quality sparkling wine were subsequently planted and there are now 32000 vines at Upperton. The vineyard is now a family affair with son James as Vineyard Manager and daughters Heidi and Sarah joining to help visitors understand and enjoy the wines.

With such perfect soil and a growing industry in the area, it’s no wonder we are now seeing the emergence of micro-vineyards such as Trotton Vineyards near Rogate and Coldharbour Vineyard at Pulborough. The former send their grapes to Simon Woodhead at Stopham for the winemaking and the latter use the skills they first honed at Nyetimber.

It’s an exciting time West Sussex wines and we looking forward to supporting them all in English Wine Week 2017.



Let’s introduce ourselves

Welcome to Around The Downs.

It all started when a friend from London came to stay. You know the conversation:

“How can you bear living in the sticks?” (Actually I love it -no more aeroplanes, pollution, traffic jams)

“What do you do all day?” (I’ve never been busier – there’s so much to do and see!)

“Don’t you miss the theatre and the restaurants” (What?! We have an amazing theatre on our doorstep and we don’t have to take out a mortgage when we want to eat out!)

So it got us thinking. There is so much to love about living where we do that it has to be worth celebrating and sharing.

Around The Downs is about making the most of all the opportunities we have in and around Chichester and the South Downs. From everything rural to arts, culture and fashion, we want to live life to the full and hope you’ll join us.

You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where we will be sharing what’s on, what’s interesting and what we love – and we’d love to meet up with you there too.