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South Downs Wine

South Downs Wine

Enjoy some of England’s finest sparkling and white wines produced by award-winning, local vineyards.

The vineyards owe their success and inspiration to the chalky soils and fine climate providing a unique ‘flavour of the South Downs’. In fact, grapes have been growing in this area, which is very similar to the Champagne region in France, since Roman times.

Learn how sparkling wine is made at the Rathfinney Wine Estate, on the sun-soaked south-facing slopes of the South Downs near the historic village of Alfriston, and explore the Rathfinny Trail.

Tours start at the Gun Room, reputed to have been the Duke of Wellington’s gun room. Here you can also visit the Alfriston Heritage Centre and learn more about the fascinating history of medieval Alfriston and the growing English wine industry. Tours can be booked online or purchased at the Gun Room, but do check in advance

Afterwards, relax over a lunch of fresh locally sourced ingredients complemented with a glass of English sparkling wine. Spend a few more hours in the afternoon exploring the ancient village of Alfriston with its oak-beamed inns and narrow twittens. Visit the Clergy House, a pretty medieval cottage and the first property bought by the National Trust.

Getting around
Distance 12 miles along the Sussex Ouse Valley Way then the South Downs Way (walkers), 14 miles on South Downs Way (cyclists) from Lewes railway station to Alfriston
Duration A half day, can be extended to a full day
Grade Fair
Directions – Bus From Lewes bus station, the 125 (Compass Bus Mon-Fri or Cuckmere Buses on Sat) to Alfriston coach park takes just over a half hour.

  1. Exit the coach park and turn left onto North Street.
  2. Continue onto High Street.
  3. Left past the Old Chapel Centre and you will see The Gun Room on the Tye (village green).
Directions – Train The nearest railway station is Berwick. Then take the bus to Alfriston (38, 47, 125, 126) or walk 3 miles along the Vanguard Way. Turn right into the access way next to the Berwick railway station, opposite the Berwick Inn. Walk to the right side of the warehouse and follow the bridleway to the centre of Alfriston until you reach The Gun Room.
Directions – Walk
  1. Exit Lewes railway station and turn right up Station Street, then left into Lansdown Place.
  2. Continue straight along Friars Walk and turn right at the mini-roundabout into Court Road.
  3. Bear left, past the car park and turn right.
  4. Continue past the old level-crossing gate into the Railway Land Nature Reserve and follow the Sussex Ouse Valley Way along the river side and meadow banks until you reach the South Downs Way at Southease.
  5. Continue east on the South Downs Way until you reach Alfriston and The Gun Room.
Directions – Cycle
  1. Head left from Lewes railway station, then 2nd right at the roundabout onto the B2193 on Priory Road and continue along Southover High Street past Anne of Cleves Museum on your right.
  2. About 40 metres after the mini- roundabout, turn left onto Juggs Road, which will change into an unsurfaced off-road route leading to the South Downs Way.
  3. Follow the South Downs Way eastwards until you reach Alfriston and The Gun Room.

Useful Information

The vineyards owe their success and inspiration to the chalky soils and fine climate providing a unique ‘flavour of the South Downs’. In fact, grapes have been growing in the area, which is very similar to the Champagne region in France, since Roman times.

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Walk the Vanguard Way to and visit Berwick Church to admire the extensive murals painted during the Second World War by the Bloomsbury artists, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Quentin Bell. Or follow the South Downs Way eastwards and view the mysterious Long Man of Wilmington guarding the landscape of the South Downs.

EXTEND YOUR VISIT

Stay another day and cycle the South Downs Way from Lewes to Ditchling Beacon on the BIRD’S EYE VIEW and visit the family run Ridgeview Wine Estate near the pretty village of Ditchling. Winner of several national and international sparkling wine awards, Ridgeview has been chosen as the official suppliers for Downing Street receptions. Pre-booking a tour is recommended, as they do sell out.

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" The Downs...too much for one pair of eyes, enough to float a whole population in happiness. "