The actress Cate Blanchett recently moved there, spending £3.25 million on a house near the market town of Crowborough.
Sir Paul McCartney and Keith Richards have long been converts. Lottie Moss, sister of Kate, lives there with her family, while Kate Winslet has a coastal retreat just down the road.
Sussex, East and West, is rapidly becoming the go-to country location for the rich and famous — it offers seclusion and privacy, yet is handy for London and both its major airports.
For daily commuters without the benefit of a helipad or a limo, Sussex does have its downside: you have to leapfrog the miles of suburban sprawl south of London to reach the best villages and this all adds to journey time.
But if you are prepared to spend a few minutes longer on the train, Sussex offers fantastic village options for those looking for the picture-perfect rural idyll.
1. MAYFIELD, SUSSEX
Where is it? In the heart of East Sussex’s High Weald, about 10 miles south of Tunbridge Wells.
The commute: drive to Crowborough, five miles away, where trains to London Bridge or Victoria take from an hour and seven minutes, and an annual season ticket costs £3,776. Or pick up the 54-minute service from Tunbridge Wells to Waterloo or Charing Cross but pay £5,068 for your season ticket.
Plus points: the thriving high street is very picturesque, there are a couple of nice pubs, and beautiful countryside is at hand, with the coast a 45-minute drive away.
As well as Mayfield private girls’ school, the village has a Church of England primary school rated “good” by Ofsted.
Matt Sudlow, of Strutt & Parker, and Andrew Burnett, owner of Burnett’s estate agents, agree the need to drive to a station deters some buyers, though five stations lie within a nine-mile radius. “But Mayfield is slightly cheaper than villages with a station, and it retains the character some commuter villages have lost,”adds Burnett.
And the downsides? This is a small and quiet village. Londoners will have to adjust. Burnett says most of his buyers ease themselves in first by moving for a few years to towns such as Sevenoaks or Tunbridge Wells .
Property prices: a budget of £220,000 to £330,000 would buy you a two-bedroom character cottage, while a four-bedroom terrace house would cost about £425,000. To go the whole hog with a serious manor house you could pay from £750,000 to £1.5 million.
2. WISBOROUGH GREEN, SUSSEX
Where is it? On the eastern fringes of the South Downs in West Sussex.
The commute: trains from Billingshurst station, three miles away, take about an hour and a quarter to Victoria. An annual season ticket costs £4,012.
Plus points: “Wisborough Green is a traditional Sussex village with a green that is the centre of many events and activities, including football, cricket, school fairs, the village fête, and balloon festival,” says Peter Hughes of agents Clutton Hughes.
Ofsted rates the primary school “good”, and there’s a shop, two pubs, and a good mix of period and modern houses, so it is little wonder, then, that bustling Wisborough Green is a popular option.
And the downsides? The A272 runs through the village and some houses are on this busy main road. With Gatwick about half an hour’s drive away there is occasional aircraft noise.
Property prices: a two-bedroom chocolate-box cottage would cost £350,000 to £400,000, while a modern family house with four bedrooms would cost from about £700,000. At the top end, a big country house is between £1 million and £2 million.
3. PLAISTOW, SUSSEX
Where is it? West Sussex, just outside the South Downs National Park and between Horsham and Haslemere.
The commute: from Haslemere, an eight-mile drive away, trains to Waterloo take from 55 minutes. An annual season ticket costs £4,732.
Plus points: Plaistow has it all, including a primary school with a “good” Ofsted rating. Plaistow Stores is well stocked, and there’s a pub, tennis courts, plenty of clubs and associations and a good football club.
It’s close to the South Downs, which are great for walking, biking, or horse riding. Russell Grieve, of Knight Frank, describes Plaistow as the kind of friendly place where everyone knows each other.
And the downsides? This village is small and a bit sleepy — and the commute is the grind.
Property prices: from £275,000 to £300,000 for a pretty but dinky two-bedroom cottage, and from £650,000 for a four-bedroom family house. A fabulous manor house with five or six bedrooms will be £1.5 million-plus.
And the best of the rest
4. AMBERLEY, SUSSEX
This terribly pretty historic village with a castle is on the fringes of the South Downs.
It boasts better-than-average facilities, with a school, pub, and a church, and at the village centre the stone, flint and thatched cottages are gorgeous.
“It is sought after and friendly,” says estate agent Neil Moore of Guy Leonard & Co.
Nearby Amberley station has 90-minute trains to London.
5. ALFRISTON, SUSSEX
Liz Hollington of Strutt & Parker says: “Alfriston is in the beautiful, unspoilt Cuckmere Valley, which goes all the way to the coast.”
This is a tourist stop with good pubs and cafés, and a great village shop, post office, and bookshop. Trains from Berwick station, two-and-a-half miles away, take almost an hour and 40 minutes to reach Victoria.
6. LURGASHALL, SUSSEX
With the popular Noah’s Ark pub overlooking a village green that’s lined with charming cottages, Lurgashall’s good looks and excellent range of nearby schools make it one of the most sought-after locations in West Sussex.
The nearest station, Haslemere, is a seven-mile drive away, with trains to Waterloo from 55 minutes.