Sussex map

Maps of Sussex

Sussex is a county in the south-east of England, bordering the county of Surrey to the north, Kent to the east, Hampshire to the west and its coastline to the south fronts the English Channel. The area corresponds roughly with the ancient Kingdom of Sussex which was established in around AD 477, and the name, Sussex, means South Saxons in Old English.  Since the 12th century, however, the whole county has been divided into West and East Sussex and, for local government administrative reasons, the City of Brighton and Hove.  It does not have a border with London but is within the London commuter belt and, as a consequence, is one of the Home Counties. The shores of East Sussex share a very similar history to that of Kent and it was at Pevensey in East Sussex where William of Normandy landed to conquer England in 1066. East Sussex is around 46 miles from London and its county town is Lewes which lies approximately 8 miles north east of Brighton on the Sussex coast. It shares borders with West Sussex, Kent and Surrey.  West Sussex is around 41 miles from London with its county town being close to its Hampshire border at Chichester. Its borders are Hampshire, Surrey and East Sussex with a shoreline fronting the English Channel.  Being so close to London, the transport systems are good, although surprisingly there is only one motorway, the M23 which has a junction with the M25 circular motorway around London.  The M23 joins the A23 and runs from London to Brighton in West Sussex.  Regardless of the fact that there is only the one motorway, the county of Sussex has plenty of good A roads which radiate out into Sussex from London via the M25. There are also two good A roads which traverse the breadth of the county from east to west, namely, the A27 and the A272. There is a very pleasant coastal road, the A259, which runs the length of the coast from Kent down to Bognor Regis approximately 8 miles from the county town of  Chichester in West Sussex. The second largest UK airport, Gatwick, is located in West Sussex at Crawley and London Heathrow is only 45 miles away from Gatwick. Furthermore, Shoreham, which is close to Brighton in East Sussex, has a small local airport that is a wonderful example of Art Deco architecture. Both East and West Sussex have good, fast rail links to London, the coastal regions (east to west) and a mid Sussex line from Littlehampton to Crawley.  Sussex also boasts three charming heritage light railways which offer interesting trips on old steam trains.


The South-East of England has low rainfall and good sunshine records; the highest average sunshine on the British mainland, with recorded sunshine being, on average, 4.5 hours each day. . Between 25 and 30 inches of rain falls each year, which is one-third less than Devon and Cornwall, with the heaviest precipitation being on the South Downs. The bracing air of the coastal regions can be explained by this low rainfall coupled with the considerable variation between day and night temperatures.

The South Downs

Running along much of the coast of Sussex, from West to East Sussex, are the glorious South Downs.  These rolling grassy chalkland slopes are the territory of skylarks, lapwings and partridges as well as the famous Southdown sheep, which have roamed the Sussex Downs longer than can be remembered and were exported all over the world until the First World War.  Still bred but on a much smaller scale, these chunky looking, short legged sheep can still be seen in the area.   The South Downs are deep dry valleys with steep scarp slopes which begin on the border between Hampshire and West Sussex at Petersfield, and run for around 80 miles eastwards across four river valleys to terminate at the well known landmark, Beachy Head near Eastbourne. in East Sussex.  The South Downs Way is one of Britain's best riding and walking country, along ancient paths where primitive Stone Age man grazed sheep 5,000 years ago.  Hundreds of years of grazing sheep has resulted in distinctive short springy turf that is rich in wild flowers. The Downs rise to an average height of around 500 feet although some summits rise to over 700 feet with Ditchling Beacon rising to 813 feet.  Valleys cut through the chalk whilst the rivers Arun, Adur, Cuckmere and Ouse meander their way southwards to empty into the English Channel.  These valleys flood in winter into long lakes extending across broad sweeps of undisturbed wet grasslands which become areas where wildfowl and birds take up residence for the winter.  Many parts of this region form part of Special Protection Areas for birds and rare species of plant life.  The steep escarpments of the North Downs in Kent and the South Downs of Sussex face each other inwards across the Weald. 

The Weald

The Weald is what remains of what was once deep forests that extended between the North and South Downs and the term 'Weald' is an Old English word meaning 'forest' or 'woodland'. The Weald consists of: two main parts: The High Weald and the Low Weald.  The High Weald is the central part and runs from St. Leonard's Forest eastwards to Ashdown Forest.  It traverses both West and East Sussex. In the Middle Ages this deeply forested region of Britain was a huge area where charcoal was made to fire the furnaces of the great Sussex iron industry which reached its peak in the early 17th century.  The forest ponds, which were dammed to drive the forge hammers are still a distinctive part of the Sussex scenery.  Today much of the forest has gone and it is now a countryside of rolling hills, stony outcrops, streams, ravines, heathland, woodland, scattered farmsteads, villages and larger towns.  The forest is split up into separate patches of thick woodland in which are the sources of many rivers including the Ouse, the Arun and the Rother. Ashdown Forest at 6,500 acres, is the largest of these tracts of wild heath, moor land, rocky outcrops and woodland. Originally it was a deer hunting forest laid out in Norman times but now is the largest public open space in South East England and is at the heart of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  In the centre of Ashdown Forest is the home of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin. A.A. Milne, who lived in the village of Hartfield, used his own childhood environment to create this charming worldwide children's literary character. From East Grinstead, a maze of minor roads run southwards through the forest with plenty of lay-bys and sign-posted picnic places.  Many of the forest hamlets take their names from the old 'hatches' or gates to the forest; namely, Coleman's Hatch and Plawhatch.  Names such as Hartfield, Boarshead and Buckhurst recall the game which was hunted when this was a royal forest, and the trees and bushes are remembered in such names as Ashurst, Bramblehurst, Bestbeech, Birchgrove and Oakleigh.  Other patches of the primeval woodlands survive further west in the forests of St. Leonard's, Balcombe, Tilgate and Worth.  These were once notorious haunts of smugglers, highwaymen and cattle thieves. Even today, especially in winter, they can be lonely, eerie places to walk through - but walking is the best way to see and to sense their wild beauty.  The Low Weald, on the other hand, is on the periphery of The Weald and is flatter, less wooded than The High Weald and not as dramatic in character. Close to the Surrey border is the highest point of The Weald:  Black Down which reaches a summit of approximately 1,000 feet. Between the Weald and The South Downs of West Sussex is the low undulating land of the 'Vale of Sussex'  whereas at the eastern end of the county is the valley of the River Rother, which flows into the county of Kent to empty into the sea at Rye Bay. During Roman times the huge Wealden forest was known as Anderida and stretched for 120 miles in a broad swathe across south-east England. Sussex, then, is a diverse county, shaped by the sea, the Weald, ancient forests and The South Downs.  It is well known for its stately homes and castles and over half the county is protected countryside.  The county still retains a strong local identity with an unofficial anthem, 'Sussex by the Sea' and a motto ' We wunt be druv' which reflects the strong willed nature of its past inhabitants.



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