Days out in Sussex - Bramber ramblings and a great place to picnic
It was the day we discovered an unintentional art installation; the story of a wife and her children taken to the Tower; a sighting of dainty blue damselflies and a very nice pub lunch.
We also found some very old ruins of a Norman Castle at Bramber, a village just to the west of Brighton and a most fabulous setting for a summer picnic.
It was only when we had reached the top of the hill we could see that so little of the Castle remained. Built not long after the Battle of Hastings, it was designed to guard the entrance to the river Adur and was first inhabited by William de Braose. Only two generations later his grandson was one of the knights who stood up to King John, which led to his wife and children being taken to the Tower and the loss of his lands. With such few signs remaining it's difficult to imagine the Castle full of life, but in 1265 Eleanor, Countess of Leicester, stayed there with a train of 84 horses.
Over the following centuries, the Castle fell into disrepair and crumbled into the ground leaving a solitary wall-part standing, which now looks like an unintentional art installation.
Beyond this wall section of the keep, the site of the Castle has become a lush and verdant grassy plateau with a steep-sided little hill in the middle. Around the perimeter are mature trees and from the side where there are the remains of a viewing tower are spectacular views across the South Downs. Easy access to a car park has meant that the area is still in use by day trippers. Besides ourselves, there were quite a few families / groups of friends (at least five) spread out across the wide space of grass where the Castle used to stand. Later, I found out it's been a popular destination for picnics since the 1850s. In fact, by 1893 the village had turned into such a tourist desto that it was said to almost exist by the provision of tea for visitors, while another writer called it the 'tea-party paradise of its district'.
Just below the entrance to the Castle is an another wonderful example of Norman architecture, St Nicholas. Built at the same time as the Castle, it's the earliest Norman church in Sussex. Now sensitively restored, we were welcomed by the busy vicar despite the next congregation gathering rapidly outside. Situated on the slope of the hill, long daisies had taken over the graveyard when we visited, it was a picture of peace and tranquility.
Finally, back at the bottom of the hill we stopped in Bramber for Sunday lunch in the Castle Inn Hotel. The food was perfect with friendly and helpful bar staff, and definitely worth a visit.
While travelling through we were also lucky enough to spot some dragonfly or possibly damselflies not far from the river. I'm not sure what they were, but their luminous blue bodies looked stunning.