• Jill Durnford

A Weekend in Sussex

I spent the weekend at Abingworth Hall leading a Walking with Sightseeing holiday for HF Holidays. In contrast to Guided Walking where you might have different guests each day, with WwS, the group remains the same. I only had 5 ladies - which was lovely.

Our first walk was across fields and through woodland - quite a long uphill slog to be honest. But the forecast had been for horrendous winds so we were glad of the protection the trees gave us. In fact we were beginning to wonder if the forecast had got it wrong - it was so sheltered it was warm and muggy!

Our destination was Petworth House, owned by the National Trust and containing their largest art collection. The final part of the walk was through the deer park and we did indeed see plenty of deer.

The house came in sight and the pace quickened. By now, tea, loos and lunch were all on everyone’s mind - not necessarily in that order! We could see the large marquees which were evidence of the family wedding taking place that day. Bad news for us - it meant that only 4 rooms were open instead of the usual 11.

With 3 hours to spend, it could have seemed like a long time. But I just don’t know where the time went! After eating our picnic lunch in the “almost but not quite rain”, I had a wander inside. One of the main attractions is the North Gallery, the result of a collection begun by the 3rd Earl of Egremont. I arrived in time for a “highlights talk” on the man himself by a very knowledgeable and entertaining guide. The Earl certainly led an interesting life! Tales of his 42 illegitimate children may be exaggerated (!) but he ended up dying without a legitimate heir. We saw several of the many paintings by JMW Turner who stayed at the house often.

The village was calling so I headed out of the gate, turned right - and there I was, right in the middle of Petworth village. What a charming place! Small but perfectly formed with a cobbled street lined with independent (and sometimes quirky) shops. As always, the bookshops drew me in and I ended up buying in both the secondhand bookshop and the “new books” shop. I’m leading a Discovery Tour here next year and one on the Bloomsbury Group - so they were needed for research!

Just time to pop in to the church and back to the House for a quick cuppa before meeting the other walking groups and returning on the coach.

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