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Small Towns and Villages in Southern England

Discussion in 'United Kingdom & Ireland' started by artnbarb, Feb 25, 2017.

  1. artnbarb

    artnbarb Member +

    I'm starting a new thread to deal specifically with renting 2/3 places for periods of 4-6 weeks. We will arrive by ship in Southampton and depart by plane from Heathrow, approximately 3 months later.

    Here are the counties under consideration:
    • Dorset (95% sure we will want a base here)
    • Wiltshire
    • Sussex
    • Kent
    Additionally we'll spend our last 5-7 days in or very near London for our departure, but those accommodations will be easier to find. Based on a number of the agencies Pauline has listed for southern England, I think our only hope of making this work is to find a smaller town, and even better would be to find a local connection to rent something for less than £1200 per month. I realize England is more expensive than Italy, and I accept that I will have to work harder!

    I need to do reading and research on all of the counties I've mentioned, to figure out what sights and attractions they have and how easy they are to get to. I love the idea of Pauline's concentric circles, but I'm not quite there yet! We love quaint villages, the stone, the half-timbered, the brightly-colored houses. We also love beautiful scenery, historic houses, ruins, and unique features, and gardens. We've been to Stonehenge several times, and to Winchester once, many years ago. Rye seems appealing, in Sussex, and Castle Coombe in Dorset. We'd prefer in a small village so that we could spend some time 'at home', playing lord and lady of the manor!.

    Any input on smaller villages with a convenient location most appreciated! I'll be back when I've done more research!
    Mom83 likes this.
  2. Ian Sutton

    Ian Sutton Member +

    There is a lot to be said for Lewes and the villages / coast nearby. This puts you in easy range of Brighton, Hastings/Battle, Alfriston (nice walking) , Glyndebourne (English National opera) with nearby farm cider centre at Firle, Peacehaven, Rottingdean (much quainter than it sounds but small), a modest beach at Seaford, but the Martello tower underground museum is a great 'modern' museum covering IIRC anything post WW2. Beachy head is another local landmark, and some of the inland villages will be charming. Plumpton college is the only college teaching winemaking and they do sell their wines. Also very close to the South Downs way for walking.

    Lewes has fame and perhaps a little notoriety for it's fireworks / bonfires ~ November 5th every year. The history of persecution by the catholic church is the backdrop, but they've take it to the extreme, parading effigies of despised political etc. figures in a period costume procession flanking by flaming tar barrels. with more than the odd firecracker being thrown. This is all quite restrained before the bonfire fireworks. The aforementioned effigies are packed with fireworks, though it almost feels like explosives. It does make you jump!

    The rest of the year it's quite restrained!
    artnbarb likes this.
  3. Pauline

    Pauline Forums Admin

    Isn't Castle Coombe in the Cotswolds, near Bath?

    For Dorset, stay near the coast either east or west of Dorchester. Our area is very nice, Bridport, and I could check out any rentals you are considering. The area east of Dorchester is beautiful but doesn't have as many towns, and can be easily visited from Bridport. Lyme Regis is another place to consider. Or into East Devon - Sidmouth or the string of villages between Lyme and Exmouth.

    I am not a fan of Wiltshire as a place to stay. But if that is the area you want, look at Devises.

    I would consider something further north or even Scotland.
    artnbarb likes this.
  4. Eleanor

    Eleanor Member +

    To the east of Dorchester, there is Corfe with its ruined castle or the Lulworth area.
    artnbarb likes this.
  5. artnbarb

    artnbarb Member +

    thanks for your response - at least I have some opinions and starting points. I realize that I've just chosen an area based on appearance, rather than for it's list of sights I'm interested in seeing! So now I have to figure out what there is to see, what WE want to see, and then figure out where to base that makes the most sense!

    @Pauline , I'll address your comments first: Yes, Castle Coombe is north of Bath. That Penelope Keith travel show I mentioned on another thread mentioned it so I assumed it was further south. We probably won't be seeing Castle Coombe!

    So, using your concentric circles strategy, should we consider Dorchester the eastern edge of our circle?

    And you mentioned several towns, villages: "Bridport. Lyme Regis is another place to consider. Or into East Devon - Sidmouth or the string of villages between Lyme and Exmouth."

    Would 4 weeks be enough, or could we use 6 weeks to base in this area? If we choose Bridport, are we too far for a reasonable daytrip into Sussex? (I'm thinking Rye, and Arundel Castle)

    I don't need to stay in Wiltshire, just be able to see what I want to see, which may be only the chalk horses, I don't know enough about Wiltshire yet.

    Further north AND Scotland both sound appealing, but driving there does NOT. I hate to sound like such a baby, but I really did not like driving on the motorways! I'm guessing that we may have more luggage than we would want to take on the train, so driving seems to be the logical choice. But I'd really have to be convinced!

    Eleanor, thank you, I now have 2 more sights to add to my list.

  6. Eleanor

    Eleanor Member +

    Being realistic, Bridport is a bit too far south for a day trip to Sussex, especially as you would be driving along the south coast which is a congested road at the best of times and you would have to negotiate Bournemouth, Southampton, Portsmouth areas. Arundel castle is nearly 120 miles and will take around three hours to get there. Rye is even further - 180 miles and you will need to allow 4-5 hours to drive there.

    I use AA route planner.
    Journey times are the MINIMUM as they allow no time for breaks and you do need to add on extra time for these as well as traffic conditions.
  7. artnbarb

    artnbarb Member +

    Yes, that's what I thought. Right now I'm just talking off the top of my hear - I need to buy a few travel guides for England - the only one I have now is RS, and it's fine if you only want to go where he goes, but I need one or 2 books that will tell me in detail about southern England at least, and hopefully about other areas that might interest us.

    That's partly why I was considering time in Sussex/Kent.

    If we were going to be there in August I would drive to Scotland for the Royal Tattoo and Fringe Festival without hesitation! Bagpipes and men in kilts are my kind of motivation!
  8. Ian Sutton

    Ian Sutton Member +

    I was once best man for a Scottish friend and his wife (also a friend), which gave me the opportunity to wear a kilt. Things I learnt:
    - Why women sometimes sit down in church, then stand up again to smooth the back of their skirt/dress down as they sit down
    - Warm grates in cold churches :happy:
    - Don't run in a kilt, as it starts to rock back and forward, despite the heavy material
    - At least one friend will check for sure whether you are wearing it in the traditional manner :eek:
    artnbarb likes this.
  9. Eleanor

    Eleanor Member +

    I've been scratching my head trying to think of travel guides for Southern England without much success. My guide of choice is DK Eyewitness as they have lots of pictures, reasonable descritptions and OK maps. They also cover many of the more off the beaten track sites ignored by other guides. But they don't do an England guide, just one covering Great Britain. (They do separate guides for Scotland and Ireland but NOT England!)

    When are you planning to visit as a google search has thrown up a new DK Eyewitness Guide to England's Southern Coast but it isn't being published until 15th August...

    Doing a google search I also came across Wild Guide. They have a book covering Devon Cornwall and the South West (which includes Dorset).
    They also do one for Southern and Eastern England which covers the New Forest, Isle of Wight, Kent, Sussex and East Anglia.
    artnbarb likes this.
  10. Eleanor

    Eleanor Member +

    Perhaps I should have mentioned my method of researching an area - using a map. I get hold of a copy of a decent road atlas (either AA 1" to 4miles of 1" to 3 miles which are readily available once you are here or at a price from Amazon) and then do a google image search on villages and towns. You can quickly gain a feel for what they are like and then I do a more detailed search to find out what there is to do and see there. It is surprising how many hidden gems you can discover by this method. BUT you do need plenty of time to do this!
    artnbarb likes this.
  11. Ian Sutton

    Ian Sutton Member +

    This just cropped up on the BBC site, a selection of photos of Beachy Head, part of a larger work by the photographer. Pleasingly they aren't 'fair-weather' photos and to my eye do not try to 'bling it up'.
    artnbarb likes this.
  12. artnbarb

    artnbarb Member +

    I need to stop by our local bookstore and see if they have any decent maps of England!

    The other problem is knowing whether an area has enough to see and do to merit a 4 week stay (or longer!), because part of the attraction will be in staying home and pretending we live there!
  13. Eleanor

    Eleanor Member +

    Most people rush through an area and just don’t realise just how much there is to see and enjoy there. Guide books just concentrate on the tick list of the major attractions and must sees. They forget about all the smaller places that really make an area what it is is. You have chance to relax and become part of the community in the way the average tourist doesn’t. If you are prepared to potter and get lost you will find all sorts of interesting places. You will find plenty to do and see, even in areas that don’t merit a mention in guide books.

    Tourist Information Centres and locals are a wonderful source of information. They will delight in telling you about all the secret places that never get a mention in the guide books as well as local events. Village and church notice boards are also a good source of information about activities, especially coffee mornings. Do join in - you will be welcomed with open arms.

    Take the opportunity to shop in the small family run village shops and allow time to do this. Bakeries and butchers are really good places as conversations will often flow up and down the queue while people are waiting to be served. Read the village or church notice boards to find out what is going on in an area.

    Local buses are also great fun. If quiet, the driver will be delighted to have someone to talk to.

    Depending on the area you choose, you may decide to break it down and stop in two different places, just to cut down on travel times.
    artnbarb likes this.
  14. artnbarb

    artnbarb Member +

    Thanks! I've been taking a walk down memory lane today, looking thru trip reports and photos on ST - Eleanor, you had quite a few trip reports! I didn't read all of them, but I will admit to getting a bit sidetracked!
  15. Eleanor

    Eleanor Member +

    I always wrote a holiday diary when I was at school (there was a prize for the best) and the habit has stuck. Husband was the photographer and I had the notebook and pencil trying to keep a note of everywhere he took pictures of. It was quite an exercise trying to link up my notes with his pictures afterwards. He then put the pictures on the web with a brief description. I used to write up my notes in depth (too much depth he said...) He taught me how to use the camera and how to put pictures on the web - his legacy to me. I always take the camera when I go out and put the pictures on the web with a write up. It never ceases to amaze me just how many places there are to discover in the UK. Unfortunately for you there aren't any from Dorset.

    My intention is to try and put my ST trip reports on the Slow Europe site as I've still got the original write ups on the computer. It's just time!!
    Pauline and artnbarb like this.
  16. Ian Sutton

    Ian Sutton Member +

    One of the keys to this is finding something you do that locals will do. Often that's the local pub, but some places still have vibrant village shops, or social interests around a common hobby. Having something in common, or at least a shared interest, can get you the warmest of welcomes to the community. Sometimes an accent can be an advantage, as you'll be remembered, and it's amazing how quickly people warm to someone they know will be still there tomorrow, the day after and the next week as well.

    Loving Eleanor's comments around non-obvious tourism.
    artnbarb likes this.
  17. Eleanor

    Eleanor Member +

    People who know me well understand that I don't do the obvious tourist things. It worries me the way so many vitiors are driven by the must see tick list and ignore everything else. Very often you can find somewhere just as good but with no-one else around because it isn't on the list.
    Ian Sutton and artnbarb like this.
  18. artnbarb

    artnbarb Member +

    EXACTLY! OTOH, I don't want to return home and later discover the coolest castle/cave/meal/view was somewhere in the area!
  19. Eleanor

    Eleanor Member +

    Once you arrive or know exactly where you are stopping, you may want to buy a copy of the Ordnance Survey 1:50000 Landranger map, which are readily available throughout UK or can be bought here:

    At a scale of 2cm to 1km they are some of the best maps in the world with a wealth of information. They also mark footpaths so can be used for walking as well as navigation in the car. If you are into serious walking though, you may prefer the 1:25000 maps at 4cm to 1Kkm, which are the preferred choice for walkers.
    artnbarb likes this.
  20. artnbarb

    artnbarb Member +

    I'm making progress. I'm looking at drive times, and if we based in Bridport, it's about 1:48 to Exeter. I don't want to drive much further for a daytrip, do you?

    So if we based in Bridport - and I can adjust travel times if we base elsewhere. Should Exeter be my furthest point west, or are there worthwhile sites just a bit beyond? Here are some sights on my list, mostly well-known cities, and where I'll really value your input is for the tiny treasures, the little villages with no tourists but a friendly pub!

    Basing in Wells was also discussed, but I don't think drive times would be affected. W might be able to drive a bit further north, towards Bath. We could see Bristol - large but still charming??? And Mendip hills? Worth a day or two of walking?

    From Bridport I'd like to see:
    • Salisbury Drive time: 1:20
    • Glastonbury - worth a look? It's just an hour away.
    • Bournemouth, altho I don't know what there is to see there - yet!
    • Any special reason to go to or drive thru the New Forest National Park?
    • Winchester Drive time 1:45
    • What about Andover?
    • Castles and gardens with a 2 hour drive?
    I also want to seethese sites, but think I would need a base further to the east:
    • Arundel Castle
    • Leeds Castle
    • Rye
    • Other places yet to be discovered in Sussex and Kent. If I can't find enough interesting sites to see in this area I won't make the move.
    If next years schedule goes like this years, we'd arrive in mid-May and have 15 weeks to spend. How long should we allow for Dorset/Hampshire - and should we consider a visit to the Isle of Wight? I need to know how long to allow for the first leg of the trip before I move on to the second place. I'm thinking a minimum of 4 weeks in each place, but we could divide it up among 2, even 3 places. A friend just threw Ireland into the mix - but I think it would require a lot of driving, no matter where we based, and I'm not sure I want to drive all the time!

    More rambling thoughts as they come to me! Thanks for letting me get me talk out loud.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017

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