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Folkington, Wilmington, The Long Man, Michelham Priory & Gardens

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

Day Seven (Final) - A Journey of Discovery in East Sussex

It was our last day of exploration. John had devised a visit plan of some gentle walking to show us some of the beauty of the Sussex South Downs, and I had checked the website of Michelham Priory which said we didn’t have to pre-book for our Saturday visit. We piled into the car and set off.

The new 'Bee and Butterfly' window, at the church of St Mary & St Peter, Wilmington, incorporates pieces from the original and depicts St Peter surrounded by butterflies and bees, above a Phoenix.

First stop was Folkington down a gravelled lane with tree branches forming a lovely canopy overhead. John had been several times on annual walks with our brother Peter along the South Downs which John now missed. Age is creeping us up and the first body parts to feel it most are our feet, ankles and calves, so I’m always looking down to watch where I tread on uneven ground. Now I sport my Dr Martens type boots as everyday footwear. ​

An opening in front of us showed us the sweeping serenity of the Downs. Home - South Downs National Park Authority It was my first proper visual intake of them and I wanted to walk and explore. For a while, we all climbed up a track, leaned against a field gate and admired the views. Wonderful! Then carefully trod back to the car and off to Wilmington. My son Marcus, said he could have wandered off quite easily on his own and seen us after several hours. Next year you can Marcus at your leisure! Please Click on the photo images to enlarge, and hover over to read any captions. All photos are credited to Marysia Zipser unless otherwise captioned. My carousel photos you can stop and study at any time.

On arrival at Wilmington we stopped in the public car park and read all the signs and information about The Long Man which appeared mysteriously in front of us. It is Europe’s largest portrayal of the human form, dating back to at least 1710 when the surveyor John Rowley illustrated the figure. But what is it exactly? Does it go back to ancient neolithic times? More information can be gleaned here

We wandered out of the car park and turned left down the village street, coming to the remains of the Priory, founded in the 11th century and enlarged in 1243 by Benedictine monks from Grestain Abbey in Normandy. More information is here Wilmington Priory The surviving building is now owned by the Landmark Trust and let as holiday accommodation, details here Wilmington Priory, East Sussex

I loved inspecting these buildings from the outside and especially the flint and stonework. Then onward to Wilmington ​Church of St Mary & St Peter. Up the pathway through the iron gate, the ancient yew tree presides which is reputed to be over 1600 years old, its vast canopy spreading across the churchyard. What a magnificent sight! The churchyard is a haven of peacefulness, I could have lingered so much longer. The church beckoned me in. My photographs tell my experience. Wilmington – St Mary and St Peter – Sussex Parish Churches St Mary and St Peter's Church, Wilmington

Outside in the churchyard again I veered around in more detail looking at the gravestones noticing their good condition and their protection of the elements by the arboreal canopy.

Notice (left) the graphite rubbing we took of the memorial plaque on large stone tomb to Thomas Ade, his wife and their eleven children.

I plonked myself down on a wooden bench just outside the stone walls to admire the glorious vista of the South Downs and for further contemplation.

Onward now to Michelham Priory at Upper Dicker. We obtained our entry tickets at the gatehouse, crossing the bridge over the moat. The man said that weekend they were, for the first time since lockdown, hosting a Classic Vehicle Show on the expansive lawns. Growing up in a motor business family, John and I were delighted to see the classic cars displayed, so he and Marcus went on for closer inspections. They had scaled down this event this year, limiting cars and visitors on site to comply with social distancing guidances. Michelham Priory boasts England’s longest medieval water filled moat and offers a great day out for all the family. The surviving buildings are owned and administered by the Sussex Archaeological Society. The moat encircles a site steeped in history dating back to 1229, from its foundation by Augustinian canons, through the destruction caused by the dissolution of the monasteries in Tudor times and into its later life as a country house in World War II. All the information you need on this beautiful place and to plan your visit is here and

We all so enjoyed our guided tour learning about its history and artefacts room by room on the ground floor applauding our guide who led us, and then ascended upstairs. I thought the curation throughout was superb. Note our graphite rubbing of an oak bible box, and Marcus’s ink drawing of the Priory frontage.

​After our tour, we all wandered off in different directions. There are many photos I took here, and of the magnificent gardens so take your time to study them. I just loved my exploration of the gardens as you will notice. ​

It was a beautiful ending to our last day of exploration in East Sussex. We drove home to Bexhill base camp to enjoy our final meal together and recollect. Marcus and I are truly thankful to my brother John and his wife Christine who were wonderful gracious hosts and fonts of knowledge. We will be back hopefully next year to fill in those missed touring and walking experiences I highlighted. The next morning we returned to Beeston-Nottingham. I hope you’ve enjoyed my week’s Journey of Discovery in East Sussex and hope my daily blogs and photo montages will entice you to visit this beautiful English region “which oozes in history” as John says.


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