I sort of made a conscious new year’s resolution to go and explore more of my home-county, West Sussex. It’s a county rich with historical monuments and green landscapes. For my brother’s 26th Birthday we visited Midhurst, so two birds and all that.
It’s a town about ten miles north of Chichester, with a charming central square and notable historical attractions. The drive there is also worth going for, if you take the scenic route through Goodwood and Cocking (easy, now).
We stopped for lunch at Cockburn’s (they’re fascinated) Tea Room. If my Grandma were given a million pounds to decorate a cafe, this is how she’d have it. China everywhere. You know a tea room is going to be good if the tea comes in a pot with leaves and a strainer. I had cheese scones that came with red onion chutney, more cheese and enough tea to last me about a week (or a lifetime if you’re not British).
We climbed to the top of St Mary’s Hill where a Norman castle once stood. The land is now overgrown with towering tress, and the base of the castle is all that remains. Why this is all that remains, I’m unsure, and I haven’t been enlightened after some brief internet research.
It always amazes me in places like this, that where I was standing in the present day, a knight or a duke or a king once stood a thousand or so years ago. If I shut my eyes, transported back in time, and opened them again, I would be confronted by the most intimidating and wonderful stone structure. But even with my eyes wide open, I could picture everything. The stone walls, the aristocrats, the sounds, the smells. I know I’m coming across a bit like Bill Oddie here but there was something quite special about the place.
We then walked down to Cowdray House, or Cowdray Ruins, as it’s now known. Built in 1520, both Elizabeth I and Henry VIII stayed here. It’s really impressive, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit pissed off a fire had ruined it just two hundred years after it had been built. But still, a bit like the castle, I could imagine the house in all its glory.
The Cowdray family still own a large number of houses within Midhurst, in fact any house with mustard-yellow windows, are part of the Cowdray Estate.
If you live in West Sussex, or are visiting (you never know), then Midhurst is somewhere you really ought to visit. It has a lovely high-street with some sweet little shops and cafes. It’s wonderfully green, is interesting historically and has a herd of cows wandering about the village!