East and West Sussex are bisected by line of latitude 51°N. West Sussex extends east along the South Coast of England from Emsworth to Shoreham-by-Sea. Petersfield and Haywards Health lie on the 51st parallel. On top of this rough square is a triangle of land with Horley at the apex, encompassing Gatwick Airport and the town of Crawley. West Sussex is bordered by East Sussex to the east (obviously), Hampshire to the west and Surrey to the North.
East Sussex is roughly diamond shaped, extending south-east along the coast from the mouth of the River Adur past Brighton and out to Beachy Head. Then up north-easterly past Eastbourne, Bexhill & Hastings to Rye. The border then heads inland north-west to just south of Tunbridge Wells and then back South to the coast, skirting the eastern edge of East Grinstead, Haywards Health and Burgess Hill. East Sussex is bordered really on two sides – West Sussex to the west (again, obvious) and Kent which sort of curves protectively around it and almost, but not quite, prevents it from coming into contact with the corrupting riches and delicacies of Surrey and London.
The Downs is the name given to a lne of medium sized hills runnig East to west through Sussex. They are comprised mainly of chalk and flint ripples pushed up by a glacial covering at the end of the Ice Age. The area south of the downs is very close to sea level - a flood plain crossed by 2 rivers (the Adur and the Arun) and many lowland chalk streams - a good habitat for lush waterplants like watercress, water mint, spearwort and loosestrife, small fish, and stream dwelling animals like water voles and kingfishers.
The county's main towns are significant exporters of commuting workers. Unlike other London bordering counties, light industrial development on the outskirts of towns have not really taken hold. Sussex has one small bit of motorway - junction 10 to 11 of the M23. Main rail links exist between London, Brighton, Eastbourne, and Portsmouth with Gatwick at the Hub. Sussex has a low population density – Brighton & Hove being the largest conurbation. This means that the inhabitants can be eccentric in relative peace. Apart from Brighton the politics of the County is pretty conservative – most Tory MP’s are more likely to die of cardiac arrest than to lose their seat in the commons.
Post Roman occupation, Ælle (477 to 491)was remembered in later Anglo-Saxon tradition as the first Germanic King of the South Saxons, who gave their name to Sussex. He was the first English King to exercise 'overlordship' over all English rulers south of the river Humber. No one really knows what ahppened after Ælle but the next recorded King of Sussex was Æthelwold and then Æthelwalh before Cadwall invaded.
Cadwalla was King of Wessex from 685 to 688 and a descendent of Cerdic. He ravaged Sussex and Kent and then gave it all up to make a pilgimage to Rome where he was baptised. Despite being a genuine barbarian, he was a patron of the Church (and was chums with St Wilfrid), minted coins for his realm and made decrees in Latin. His nephew Ine thought this was a great career and he too did some ravaging followed by a penitent pilgimage to Rome. A number of rather pathetic kings claimed lordship of Sussex (all of West Sussex and most of East Sussex except Hastings) but the Wessex and Mercian kings, who were grittier and fought much dirtier continually clobbered them. Sussex finally cam under the dominion of Wessex from 860 onwards – just in time to join Alfred the Great’s gang and thereby stop being beaten up by any marauders that happened to pass through.
Alfred was the greatest Anglo-Saxon king. He mobilised the English to defend themselves against the Vikings who owned the rest of the land. Admittedly he owed a great deal to the Franks (copying their military styles and their legal systems). But he was ruler of the first integrated Briton/Angle/Saxon nation to successfully defend their lands against invasion form foreigners. The next time Britain suffered from a universal defeat by an invading force it was the Norman Conquest. The Normans shot King Harold in the eye at Hastings and their King, William 1st became acknowledged ruler of All England.
The fecundity and temperate climate of Sussex adapt well to horticulture. There are numerous nurseries and many beautiful gardens to visit. National Trust properties that you can visit are:
Petworth House (beloved of Turner), Standen House, Uppark, Wakehurst Place and Nymans Gardens in West Sussex; Bodiam Castle, Alfriston Clergy, Sheffield Park, Monk's House, Lamb House and Bateman's in East Sussex.
Englands’ green and pleasant chalk hills are often canvasses on which ancient and modern artists carve a motif (usually horse or naked men for some reason). The Long Man of Wilmington is on Windover Hill in East Sussex. He is depicted as a giant naked man holding two poles. Before you get too excited these are thought to be a rake and a scythe. In fact he is thankfully without the erect phallus that is usually to be found on these characters and (although a guide pamphlet states - “legend has it that there existed a cock to the man’s right”). Such figures are often claimed to be fertility figures, although the rapid population expansion of the world kind of puts into to doubt the need for divine assistance in the act of procreation. It is thought to originate in the 11th century and to depict the abbot of a local monastery (although others say variously that it is Roman centurion, an hunting Briton and a Victorian skier). In renovating the old fella they have replaced the chalk outline with bricks and finally concrete blocks in 1969 (he has seen the world change and has remained unmoved).
Interestingly, Wilmington is also the name of a prominent town in Delaware, which also has a Sussex County and a town called Lewes. Sussex County, DE was claimed by William Penn (founder of Pennsylvania) after a local border dispute that eventually led to the establishment of the Mason-Dixon line. There is also a Sussex County in New Jersey, Virginia and New Brunswick, Canada
Sussex also gives its name to The Sussex Spaniel and the Light Sussex Chicken (which kind of begs the question…)