Virginia Woolf's Home & The Bluebell Railway
This is gorgeous countryside for walks. If you want some direction in your ramblings, consider the rustic properties below. The most scenic walk you can take is the 4.8km (3-mile) trek south of Lewes (it's signposted) to the village of Rodmell. If you take this walk to call on the former home of Virginia Woolf, you'll be following a trail blazed by other walkers, each a part of the so-called literati Bloomsbury group, the roster including T. S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, Bertrand Russell, and E. M. Forster.
The small downland village of Rodmell lies midway between Lewes and the port of Newhaven on C7. It's known for Monk's House, a National Trust property that was bought by Virginia and Leonard Woolf in 1919, and was their home until his death in 1969. Much of the house was furnished and decorated by Virginia's sister, Vanessa Bell, and the artist Duncan Grant.
The house has limited visiting hours: from April to October, and then only on Wednesday and Saturday from 2 to 5:30pm. Admission is £3.50 adults, £1.80 5 and up, and free for children 4 and younger. A family ticket costs £8.70. More information is available by calling tel. 01323/870001 or visiting www.nationaltrust.co.uk.
Rodmell also has a 12th-century church, a working farm, and a tiny Victorian school still in use. Take Southdown bus no. 123 from the Lewes rail station if you prefer not to walk.
The trail of Virginia Woolf also leads to Charleston Farmhouse, along the A27 at Charleston, near Firle, 9.5km (6 miles) east of Lewes (tel. 01323/811265; www.charleston.org.uk). This house is the former country residence of Virginia's sister, Vanessa Bell, and the artist Duncan Grant. They were the glittering faces of the artistically influential "Bloomsbury Group" early in the 20th century. Preserved much as they left it, the property is filled with mementos and is open to guided tours on most days. Opening times are April to June and September to October Wednesday and Saturday 11:30am to 6pm, and Thursday, Friday, and Sunday 2 to 6pm; July and August hours are Wednesday to Saturday 11:30am to 6pm, and Sunday 2 to 6pm. Admission is £7.50 for adults, £5.50 for children, and £20 for a family ticket. On Sundays, no tours are offered, but visitors are free to explore the house on their own. The trust that runs the property also has changing exhibitions and sponsors an annual literary and arts festival.
The all-steam Bluebell Railway starts at Sheffield Park Station near Uckfield in East Sussex (tel. 01825/720825; www.bluebell-railway.co.uk), on A275 between East Grinstead and Lewes. The name is taken from the spring flowers that grow alongside the track, running from Sheffield Park to Kingscote. It's a delight for railway buffs, with locomotives dating from the 1870s through the 1950s, when British Railways ended steam operations. You can visit locomotive sheds and a small museum, and then later patronize the bookshop or have lunch in a large buffet, bar, and restaurant complex. The round-trip is 1 1/2 hours as the train wanders through a typical English countryside. It costs £11 adults and £5.25 for children 3 to 16 years, with a family ticket going for £28 to £30. Trains run daily from April to September, and Saturday and Sunday the rest of the year.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.