PULBOROUGH This is where the Arun valley becomes spellbindingly beautiful, and houses backing on to it are extremely sought-after, though beware flooding. ‘The wetlands, the bird sanctuary, the downland walks, make it an absolutely glorious place to live, full of sunny corners,’ says one local resident. Local societies do their stuff – Cubs, Brownies, rugby, cricket and plenty of vigorous football. The green-fingered work hard on the allotments and join the horticultural society. The village has two butchers, two supermarkets, a modern village hall and good schools. In the jumble of brick, flint and thatch you might find a 16th-century two-bedroom cottage with inglenook fireplaces for £350,000, or a three-bedroom version for £425,000.
Many of the villages on the felted slopes of the South Downs are lovely. West Burton and Sutton, for instance, are small and rural, no more than a handful of cottages and a pub. A pretty four-bedroom detached cottage here might cost £700,000.
Nutbourne, just to the north east, is another little hamlet with a pub, The Rising Sun, local vineyards. You might find a two-bedroom cottage for £350,000 or a small manor for £1m. Further west you come to what local people tend rather dismissively to call the Surrey part of Sussex – meaning that it is more suburban in character than the wilder countryside to the east. A four-bedroom cottage in manicured West Chiltington will cost £550,000 to £600,000. It is close to the shops at Storrington, a village that long ago burst its boundaries with new houses, but which offers a reasonable range of shops and the prospect of a Waitrose supermarket in the future. There are two ponds with ducks and swans, and the Elizabethan Parham House, with a romantic walled garden (open from Easter to September). The River Stor has not burst its boundaries since 2000, but ask about flood risk if you are buying a house here. A modern four-bedroom detached house costs from £300,000.
The star in the west is Petworth, the town that stands at the gates of Petworth House, with hundreds of acres of National Trust land and a house begun by the Duke of Somerset at the end of the 17th century. The old timber-framed houses in the tangle of narrow streets around the square attract lots of tourists in summer, when the large local car park fills up by breakfast-time, much to the annoyance of the local shoppers, although there is an overflow car park. Petworth is also an antiques centre, with more than 30 antiques shops, but it has a butcher, supermarket and hardware store for essentials, as well as a gunsmith for the sporting fraternity. A music festival is held in summer and the annual fair takes place in November. Villagers feel oppressed by the traffic coming through on the A285 and the A272, but it is hoped that a lorry ban being introduced in 2009 will alleviate part of the problem. A 300-year-old, three-storey, part-timbered, four-bedroom terraced town house recently sold here for £450,000. Commuters have the choice of using the faster line into Waterloo from Haslemere, which is ten miles away.
Fittleworth, closer to Pulborough, is a more mixed kind of village where the former council estate is now part of a housing association. It has its own shop, church and inn, a very good primary school and is close to marvellous riding country in Bedham Woods and on the Downs. A four-bedroom house set in 15 acres would cost £1m.