West Sussex offers an irresistible mix of rolling countryside, picturesque coastline and vibrant towns and a city – plus handy connections to London.
Living in West Sussex: what to expect
The average house price in West Sussex currently stands at around £381,000, slightly above the UK average of £297,806, according to Zoopla data. But you’re certainly spoilt for choice: a home in a village, town or city? On the coast or inland?
The cathedral city of Chichester is good place to start your property search. Earlier this year, it was placed third in The Sunday Times Best Places to Live list for the south east.
It packs a big punch, with its own planetarium and science centre as well as one of the UK's most significant collections of modern British art at Pallant House Gallery. Some of the best loved actors in the world tread the boards at the award-winning Festival Theatre. New productions often start here before transferring to the West End.
The pedestrianised streets around Chichester Cross, a market cross in the city centre, boast a mixture of well-known stores, such as John Lewis and House of Fraser, with high street chains and individual boutiques. In the summer, the central cafés and restaurants put out pavement tables and floral displays, bringing a continental flavour to the city. Chichester’s Norman cathedral is visible from many places around the city, but if you want one of the sought-after houses within the city walls you’ll need to be patient as they rarely come on to the market.
Chichester University ranks as one of the best for student experience in The Times Higher Education magazine and is also highly rated for its teaching quality. It has a second campus at Bognor Regis.
If you’re a watersports or yachting enthusiast, head towards the safe waters and marinas that surround Chichester Harbour. It’s a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the pretty villages dotted around here command premium prices. East and West Wittering (known locally as the Witterings) are particularly popular with families, sailors and retirees thanks to their blue flag-standard beaches, primary schools, shops and child-friendly eateries close to boatyards and moorings.
Alternatively, coastal towns, such as Worthing and Bognor Regis share much of the charm of neighbouring Brighton’s seafront (the latter is actually in East Sussex). And property prices are below the county average. Worthing’s picturesque pier, arcade, theatre and Georgian houses will no doubt be a particular draw if you’re a seaside lover.
Shoreham-by-Sea is home to what’s now Brighton City Airport, the oldest airport in England. Houses along Old Fort Road have sea views, and stylish riverside developments along Ropetackle and Oyster Quay are setting a new tone. Victorian villas and thatched cottages lie along its inward-facing streets.
Littlehampton has been rejuvenated by visionary new buildings alongside its traditional Georgian and Victorian facades. The town boasts two family-friendly beaches and the longest beach in the UK (it is 324 metres end-to-end). High-spec waterside apartments and townhouses with views across the River Arun are quickly snapped up. Meanwhile, terraced houses without coastal views and newer housing estates in the suburban villages of Toddington, Wick and, slightly further away, Lyminster, offer good access to the town, seaside and countryside.
Heart of Sussex
If you’re keen on antiques, Petworth should be on your list. It was voted antiques town of the year (it has 30-plus shops within a half-mile radius). It’s also home to independently-owned boutique shops, cafés, and restaurants – try The Hungry Guest.
For a celeb spot, the actor and national treasure Julie Walters lives near the picturesque village of Plaistow, which has a store opposite the green, a duck pond, school and pub.
Getting around and about West Sussex
Train: West Sussex is served by South West Trains and Southern Railway. Journey times include:
Crawley to Gatwick Airport: 5 minutes
Crawley to London Victoria: 40 minutes
Chichester to London Victoria: hour and a half
Littlehampton to London Victoria: hour and 40 minutes
Worthing to Brighton: 30 minutes
Chichester to Brighton: hour
Crawley to Littlehampton: hour
Car: Two ‘A’ roads ‘cut’ through the county to the coast: the A24 from London and the M23/A23 from the M25 (which circles London). And the A27 runs along the coastline.
Air: Gatwick Airport flies to more destinations than any other UK airport, including 10 destinations within the UK.
Things to do in West Sussex
If you’re a keen walker, you’ll find plenty of vistas in West Sussex. Why not take a walk up the Trundle, an Iron Age hill fort near Goodwood, for a view stretching to Chichester and the English Channel? Another popular walk through the National Trust-owned Harting Down nature reserve offers a panorama of the countryside and the copper spire of South Harting’s church.
Food and drink
Book a table at the award-winning East Beach Café in Littlehampton and enjoy local produce in a building of architectural interest, or nip down to the best chippie in town at the West Beach Café (great views).
Alternatively, grab a coffee and a crab cake at the Boat House Café in Chichester Marina (it’s as much a bistro and restaurant as a place for a teacake) and listen to the sound of the rigging in the wind.
Historic houses and museums
West Sussex has some handsome historic properties and landscaped parks and gardens that will make you green with envy. Look no further than Petworth House, now a National Trust property, and Arundel Castle on the edge of the South Downs.
And visit Fishbourne Roman Palace for the largest collection of early Roman mosaic floors in Britain.
Majestic Goodwood House is open to the public 60 days of the year. The estate also hosts some high-profile events, such as the annual Festival of Speed, featuring historic motor racing vehicles.
Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, a collection of 50 historic buildings in the village of Singleton, was voted Sussex Visitor attraction of the year 2015. The farm buildings, shops, houses, watermill and church were all rescued and rebuilt on the site thanks to the vision of the founder Dr J.R. Armstrong.
Take in the dunes and go fossil-hunting among the pebbles of West Beach, Littlehampton. The area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
And get practising for the British and World Marbles championship, which is held every year at the Greyhound pub in Tinsley Green.
It won’t be a secret for much longer! Cowdray Farm Shop, near Midhurst, was recently dubbed the Fortnum & Mason of West Sussex by actor Hugh Bonneville (aka Lord Grantham of Downton Abbey).
4 Reasons to live in West Sussex
- Top-notch connections to London – and the rest of the world (thanks to Gatwick Airport near Crawley)
- Watersports at Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Country pursuits in the South Downs National Park
- Antiques hunting in Petworth