Country Pursuits in England’s West Sussex

By Deirdre Frost

Considering that few of us newbies ever thought of motor racing in Lime Rock, the British racetrack on the international circuit at Goodwood in West Sussex held great promise. Amid grey skies, driving in a high performance TVR, my friend, who actively races and I set off to explore the Sussex Downs on the southern coast of England. Stormy weather the previous night had left the road empty so we drove with little traffic to view a few local attractions near the Goodwood Racecourse. When the illustrious TVR’s English founder, Trevor Wilkerson, derived TVR from his own name, TreVoR, it attracted my racing friend to drive one of these racing coupes. We cruised along carefree and feeling like we were the king of the road. The cloudy day did not affect our spirits since we enjoyed the spectacular views of the rolling South Downs as we headed east towards London. Within a short distance from Goodwood, we began to notice something majestic rising above us. In magnificent surroundings, we viewed Arundel Castle, the home to the Dukes and Duchesses of Norfolk and their ancestors. The castle history seemed captivating as we climbed the Norman Motte and Keep to look out at the stunning views out to sea.

Then, continuing our tour, we plotted our course on the auto’s GPS navigational system to find the RAF Tangmere airfield, known for its role in the Battle of Britain. “Alright, let’s look at the museum near the RAF base from where the Spitfires flew,” my friend called out. “We’re going to Tangmere Military Aviation Museum.” Soon, we met a few friendly wartime RAF pilots who took pleasure to tell us about the major American presence in South England during the Second World War.

We returned to Chichester to visit the legendary Goodwood Motor Circuit that is one of the world’s greatest circuits for classic sports car and Grand Prix racing. In 1998, Goodwood was restored to its former splendor by the Earl of Marsh. Each year thousands of car lovers come to view various performance cars race in the Festival of Speed. In late summer, visitors come to the Goodwood Revival and dress up in costume to enjoy the glory days of racing.

On our journey through West Sussex, we wanted to stay within an easy reach of the Goodwood Racetrack. In less than an hour, we discovered the secluded and exclusive property of South Lodge, a magnificent country houses near Horsham. Warmed by the blazing fireplace in the foyer, we were greeted by the friendly staff that showed us to our luxurious and spacious suite. Instead of requesting our room number, the staff referred to each of the eighty-nine bedrooms with names of the Gardens of Sussex, such as West Dean, Denmars Garden, and Nymans Gardens. The association with botanicals is strong at South Lodge as we strolled through the delightful hidden garden, a walled garden, flower walk, and explored around the natural lakes.

The retreat, formerly a family country house, has been the idyllic backdrop for weddings, meetings, conferences and lately, a local hunt ball. Last March the European Union G20 Finance Ministers convened for a major summit at South Lodge. The hotel has excellent access to all modes of transportation and is within half an hour of London Gatwick Airport and an hour of Heathrow Airport.

With the luxurious five-star service, the intimate setting of South Lodge seemed like staying in a private country house. The stunning countryside with the views of the South Downs captivated us as we sipped champagne before having a sumptuous tea of finely cut sandwiches, freshly baked scones with clotted cream, and home baked cakes and pastries. Later, we dined at The Camellia Restaurant for a celebratory feast before having coffee in front of a roaring fire in the parlor. Combining racing interests at Goodwood with more leisurely pursuits at South Lodge seemed the perfect balance to satisfy our adventurous spirits. For further details, refer to the websites: www.goodwood.co.uk, www.southlodgehotel.co.uk, www.visitsussex.org/

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