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Things to do in East Dean, West Sussex

The Church of St.Simon & St. Jude at East Dean © Geoff Miller
The Church of St.Simon & St. Jude at East Dean © Geoff Miller

The delightful village and parish of East Dean is on the outskirts of Chichester, tucked away between the West Sussex villages of Singleton and Upwaltham. Set in the scenic Upper Lavant Valley of the South Downs, it is a sleepy little village with great charm.

East Dean has a long history of settlements. Court Hill, just north of the village, still shows the outline of its Celtic field systems and Roman pottery and coins have been discovered near the village.

Despite its tiny size, East Dean has its own football team which plays in the West Sussex league and was founded over 130 years ago.

Present Day East Dean

In the 2001 census, the village had 102 households with 217 residents. It has a chapel and a village hall which was built in 1782 as the old schoolhouse. For social entertainment and pub food it has the excellent Star and Garter pub.

East Dean is centred around the village pond which is considered the source of the River Lavant. It has the local All Saints Parish Church, a squat Norman building with a stumpy crenellated square tower. It is surrounded by farmland and the rolling fields of Green Hill.

The architecture in the area is very distinctive, with flint houses and cornerstone quoins defined in brick. The hazard of fire has led to some of the old cottages replacing their original thatch roofs with slate tiles. There are still some thatched cottages on the narrow winding lanes leading northwards out of the village and bordered with hedgerows.

Former residents of note include playwright Christopher Fry who was very famous for his work in the 1940s.

Things to do in East Dean

For walkers, East Dean offers the Monarch's Way, a long-distance footpath which crosses the Downs to the south of the village and can easily be joined. The local fields are cut through with ancient rights of way and well maintained footpaths make it ideal for walkers and ramblers.

Visitors to East Dean can climb the two mile route up to Crown Tegleaze and look down on East Lavington from its position on the South Downs Way.

Walkers enjoying the South Downs should keep a keen eye open for flint tools which often turn up in the area and date back to the Stone Age. The area around East Dean also has a number of Bronze Age Round Barrow burial sites in the parish.

Goodwood Racecourse is just over a mile away and offers a pleasant day out for those who want a punt on the horses, or try the fairways at the neighbouring Goodwood Golf Club.

The Roman town of Chichester is a delightful place to visit just seven miles south of East Dean. It still has its Roman walls and four main streets which intersect at the decorative market cross. Canal trips are available inland from the Chichester Harbour and the 11th century Chichester Cathedral is well worth a visit.

For more ancient relics, visit Fishbourne Roman Palace Situated north of the A259 off Salthill Road Fishbourne is approx 1.5 miles west of Chichester. Here you will find the remains of a Roman Villa with Roman Mosaic floors, a museum and gardens.

At neighbouring West Dean, West Dean Gardens are quite superb and offer a 2-mile circular walk through the West Dean Arboretum and parkland.

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