The South Downs is about far more than walking and recreation, in fact for thousands of years it’s been a place where people have worked and traded. Fortunately it doesn’t take much to uncover the stories and experiences behind some of the National Park’s ancient and traditional industries and crafts…
Amberley Museum is an amazing place that typifies why industry and the landscape are so entwined. Chalk was quarried here at Amberley and burnt in kilns to make lime, an essential building material as far back as Roman times. You can still see the huge quarry from the 1870’s and several kilns from the turn of the century.
Amberley is also home to a number of resident craftsmen, who offer courses in blacksmithing, pottery and spoon carving. You can learn how to turn wood with a pole lathe or carve letters with a chisel and hammer.
For different traditional crafts take a short hop westwards to the Weald and Downland Museum at Singleton. Amidst the beautifully and faithfully restored rural buildings you’ll find regular demonstrations of everything from Tudor cookery to Victorian smithing, all in the exact setting and using the traditional methods. For a real hands-on experience, join a day course so you can take home a handmade longbow, a traditional ash slatted coracle or even your own prehistoric flint tools.
Gilbert White’s House & Gardens, was the home of the pioneering naturalist, Gilbert White. Known as the ‘Father of Ecology’, White is famous for his book ‘the Natural History of Selborne’, which is the fourth most published book in the English language!
Located in Selborne, a stunning corner of the South Downs National Park, Gilbert White’s 17th century home and extensive 25 acre garden have been restored for visitors to explore.
The museum also hosts collections belonging to Lawrence Oates, who was part of the fateful Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole, and the collection of Lawrence’s uncle, Frank Oates, who was a naturalist. There are interactives, original footage and children’s trails through the museum and gardens.
Harveys Brewery is an iconic building on the Ouse in Lewes, it’s also the oldest independent working brewery in Sussex. Surely that merits a brewery tour and perusing their fine ales?
See the advance of industry and the role technology played in farming at the steam collection at Hollycombe. Steam powered engines, threshers and tractors abound, and they even let you ride on them!
Make the most (or at least a pot) from the local clay with a turn on the wheel at Milland Pottery. They offer pottery classes in a traditionally built wattle and daub studio for beginners and expert throwers alike…