Brooklands opened its doors as a bed and breakfast only last month but already it has had guests saying they will back. Owner Moya Burns says: ‘We have truly enjoyed getting to know our guests, who come to Lewes for many different reasons. Many come for Glyndebourne, of course. Some come to walk the South Downs, some to do the Bloomsbury trail, visiting Charleston Farmhouse and Monk’s House, and some come just for a bit of a relaxation and pampering weekend. It has been very rewarding to see our guests enjoy their time here, leaving refreshed and more knowledgeable about Lewes and the area.’
This Grade II listed Georgian house, set in its own garden, is in the historic Southover part of Lewes. Built in 1792, it was originally a wheelwright’s, but now offers two rooms with king-sized beds.
‘We recently renovated the Cleves room to a clean modern style, installing a panelled wall. It has a Victorian fireplace, plenty of storage and a smart TV. What surprises visitors is the very spacious light and airy luxury bathroom with walk-in shower and modern roll-top bath, the window looking on to the garden below.
‘The Rose room is spacious, more traditional in style, with the original broad wooden floorboards. We chose Designers Guild wallpaper and blinds to set it off. It has an adjacent shower room that has just been completed with modern features and walk-in shower but traditional-looking patterned Fired Earth floor tiles,’ explains Moya.
Guests have exclusive use of the comfortable sitting room at any time of day, in which breakfast is also served. ‘We serve full cooked breakfasts to order but also offer lighter alternatives, such as smoked salmon and scrambled eggs served with toasted bagel. Another popular option has been French toast made with thick slices of brioche, served with banana and maple syrup.’
Though close to the train station (eight minutes’ walk) and the town centre, Brooklands is ideal for walkers. ‘From just across the road, you can join the ancient track, Jugs Road, which quickly takes you up into open countryside by Kingston windmill where you can see 360 degrees and on a clear day the sea!’ says Moya. ‘You can carry on up onto the South Downs Way and walk south towards the coast, enjoying spectacular views. As keen walkers ourselves, this was very important to us when moving to Lewes. On returning, walkers just need to stagger across the road for a good meal at the lovely and popular Swan Inn. Alternatively, they can walk into the town and select from the very many restaurants and pubs.’
There are plenty of places to visit close to Brooklands. A couple of minutes stroll further down Southover High Street is Anne of Cleves House, the 15th-century building open daily to visitors, with its own café and garden. ‘The house was given to Anne of Cleves by King Henry VIII as part of the divorce settlement,’ explains Moya. ‘She was a canny woman and did better that some of the other wives!’ The substantial ruins of an extensive Cluniac Priory nearby can be explored just off the Southover High Street and Southover Grange Gardens is also close by, with its beautiful grounds. The impressive house, which originally started life in 1572, now operates as a registry office.
Further afield, Moya says, ‘This area is just full of things to do and see. Apart from the stunning coastline, some suggestions are the Bloomsbury Trail (Charleston House, Monk’s House and St Michael’s Church in Berwick) and Alfriston Clergy House, the first National Trust property. The Longman of Wilmington, the strange huge hillside medieval drawing, is just outside Wilmington village near Alfriston.’
The Medieval Castle of Lewes, which was begun soon after 1066 by William de Warenne, is in the centre of Lewes and can be visited daily. Firle Place and Glynde Place, two Elizabethan Manors open to the public in season, are magnificent buildings with grounds. Farley Farm House in Chiddingly, which was the home of photographer Lee Miller and artist Roland Penrose, can be visited on Sundays.
‘As artists, we are keen to keep up with exhibitions and, as well as local Lewes galleries, we are delighted that we have three major art galleries within easy reach. We are regular visitors of The Towner in Eastbourne, with its well curated and unusual contemporary exhibitions, but also enjoy the De La Warr in Bexhill and the Jerwood in Hastings. Brighton, with its many independent galleries and shops, is just 12 minutes by train.’
Moya thinks also worth including in a visit are the local vineyards, such as the Rathfinny Estate near Alfriston, one of the newest English wine producers. This estate organises Winemakers’ Lunch tours and Afternoon Tea tours. Breaky Bottom is five minutes down the road from Brooklands and, here, visits must be organised by prior arrangement. RidgeView Wine Estate and Court Garden Vineyard and Winery are both in Ditchling and give tours.