HASSOCKS likes to think of itself as a village, but it is actually the size of a town with a population of 7,000, a high proportion of whom are retired. It snuggles up to Hurstpierpoint and Keymer, though the people of Hurstpierpoint regard themselves as quite separate. The small shopping parade meets basic needs, but for serious food shopping people go to the Waitrose or Tesco at Burgess Hill. Hassocks is not architecturally distinguished. It grew up around the railway in the 19th century, with new developments appearing in the Thirties and Fifties. But it does sit under the wing of the South Downs, so there are magnificent views of the Jack and Jill windmills on the crest where you can take lonely windblown walks.
You would pay around £300,000 for a three-bedroom modern detached house; £390,000 for a three-bedroom Thirties’ detached house with a large garden. A new development of 250 homes is underway. Hassocks has primary and secondary schools, which are thought to be good. There is a Beacon Club for the mid-teens, but not much for older teenagers to do. There is an amenity association that looks after conservation, plus drama and horticultural societies.
Ditchling, just to the east, is one of the most rarefied spots in this part of Sussex, luxuriating in a dramatic valley beneath the spine of the South Downs, though it is hammered by traffic heading straight through for Brighton. During the 20th century it attracted a succession of artists and calligraphers, originally drawn by a Roman Catholic community founded by the sculptor and typographer Eric Gill, which settled up on the Downs. A Thirties’, three-bedroom cottage-style semi might sell for £350,000; a detached Victorian family home with four bedrooms, £700,000. Houses at the cheaper end of the market can stick because people moving to Ditchling want something rather more special. Over the years it has attracted many famous inhabitants, including the actress Dame Ellen Terry and currently Dame Vera Lynn. It has a few basic shops, tea shops, an art gallery, a good primary school and a Museum of Local Life. It is particularly proud of its choral society. Nearby is Ditchling Common, offering nearly 200 acres of walks; and Ditchling Beacon, over 800ft high, where a fire was lit to warn of the approach of the Spanish Armada.
The illustrator Raymond Briggs lives in the nearby hamlet of Westmeston, which is also a beautiful quiet retreat at the foot of the Downs. The village pulse can be taken in the Parish Hall where events are held, including the annual flower show, yoga classes and a nursery. The nearest primary school is in Ditchling and there are secondary schools are in Lewes, Chailey and Hassocks. A six-bedroom detached house with indoor swimming pool, annexe, tennis court and two acres of land could cost £1.8m.