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A Short Hop From Gatwick

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Whether it’s for business or pleasure many visitors arriving at Gatwick Airport will then take the 30-minute train connection straight into the heart of London. Well, why not? For a short break, it is hard to beat – London is, after all, one of the world’s great capitals.

That said, what if you fancy discovering a more understated, quintessentially English part of the United Kingdom that is still within that half-hour radius of Gatwick Airport – step forward to my home county for the past 40 years – Sussex.

Becoming for a moment a tourist in my backyard I wanted to showcase just a few of the nearby villages and attractions which don’t always receive the headlines, yet they are the kind of places that, as you get older, you grow to appreciate more and more – like red wine and the wife.


The small village of Ardingly contains rather surprisingly, some sizeable attractions. The most notable is perhaps Wakehurst Place, a National Trust property where you can learn about the important work of the Millennium Seed Bank as well as enjoy the botanical gardens spanning over 500 acres of the pristine English countryside.

There is also the South of England Showground where every June, rural loving folk descend for three days of show, competition, and fun.

For added enjoyment why not head to the Ardingly Reservoir Activity Centre, and try a variety of water sports such as sailing, paddle boarding, and canoeing as well as peaceful walks and lovely views?


For years I worked in London and jumped on the mainline train from Sussex. A landmark that always confirmed to me that I was finally home each evening was as I crossed the fabulous Ouse Valley Viaduct in Balcombe.

Built in 1838 this structural marvel looks equally magnificent whether you are admiring the country views as you cross over by train or if you are walking underneath in the early morning sun or late evening shadows.

Sheffield Park

What could be more British than riding a steam train through the lush green English countryside?

At the Bluebell Railway, in Sheffield Park with its throwback station complete with guards in period costume, you can enjoy a day from a bygone era. They organize a variety of events for train enthusiasts as well as family fun days and Santa specials for the kids.

On its doorstep is the beautiful Sheffield Park and Gardens with its lakes, glades, and natural woodland walks.


The British Wildlife Centre, in Lingfield (just over the border in Surrey), is a great choice for families and nature enthusiasts keen to understand the work taking place to protect our country’s animals and habitats. Aside from a range of attractions, visitors can also take part in educational or photography courses.

Nearby is Lingfield Park Racecourse which is best known for having an all-weather track so ideal if you fancy a flutter and a fun day out at the races whatever the conditions.


The picture-postcard village of Lindfield, often confused with Lingfield, is bursting with historic houses, a gorgeous church, a pretty pond, a wide-open common, and a picturesque high street which is lined with independent retailers and Linden trees that give the village its name.

Fireworks night on November the 5th is a special occasion each year and the Lindfield display although not on the scale of nearby Lewes is worth a visit but remember your wellies.

If you are in Lindfield don’t miss the traditional Stand Up Inn. A rare pub these days that comes without music or fruit machines and where you can enjoy that ancient art of conversation and laughter together with local ales and even the traditional Sussex pub game of Toads. Never heard of it? Well, that alone is a reason to visit!

It’s Goodnight From Me

While on the subject of amphibians, it reminds me of an amusing story of when I worked at Gatwick Airport way back in the 1990s. I represented an airline that many of you from Guernsey may remember – Air UK.

I was issuing tickets late one evening for a flight to Scotland and up stepped none other than Ronnie Corbett. As I was preparing his tickets, I took a call from the domestic security area in the lower level who had apprehended a lady who was connecting from South America because she had been found to have a handbag full of live frogs. Now Ronnie Corbett heard this story unfolding as I relayed it to my manager. I quickly finished preparing his tickets, turned to Mr Corbett and said, “Thank you for your patience sir – I now need to hop downstairs”. He adjusted his glasses, let out that legendary laugh, and went on his merry way.

I guess that was “Goodnight” from me and it was “Goodnight” from him.


Contact Information

This blog was written for the in-flight magazine of Aurigny Airlines who operate flights from Guernsey to London Gatwick, United Kingdom.

For more details on their schedules and to book, visit Aurigny Airlines.



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