The Willows is a solid hunk of traditional England, lovingly tended by successive generations and now opening its arms to embrace new families ready to explore Sussex’s rolling South Downs. With a unique pool, Victorian orchard, vineyard and four acres of trees, it’d be easy to get too attached. No squatters, please.
In a land of fresh air and open space just an hour from London, you’ll climb Ditchling Beacon for views of the Weald, trek the windmills loop from Keymer, hang loose in the woodland, play croquet on the lawns, and splash around in the pool. Did someone say pool? Oh yes. Open from May to September, it’s kept at a toasty 28 degrees. Dive in.
Everything here is deliciously stylish, from the exposed beams to the stained-glass windows to the oak stairs, and the crisp-cotton beds. And yet you’ll feel the family-friendly comforts in the soft sofas, the glowing fire, the deep carpets, and the spirit of togetherness you’ll forge in the warm embrace of a generational family home.
Generations of kids have brought fairytales to life in the woodland, helped with the vines, and picnicked on the lawns. Now you can join them. Kick a ball around, get out to the games area, wander the woodlands, explore the vineyard.
In summer, an air-source heat pump keeps the outdoor pool at a constant 28 degrees. Dive in, splash around, lose a few hours. Dry off for croquet or cricket, a book in the Chartwell-green summerhouse, or head indoors to wrap up in towels and load another log on the fire.
This is a rambling, ruddy-cheeked place with a roaring log fire that invites you to round up your nearest and dearest and shepherd them through the doors for a Nespresso in front of the Netflix. Get together with the folks and remember why you’re proud to call them family.
The Willows might go back through the generations, but today, the traditional furniture sits in a framework of clean lines and exposed beams. There’s a generous helping of homely quirk, though, in the shape of the old church door, stained-glass window, antique sideboard and more.
Snuggle down on the squishy sofas to catch some Netflix or Freeview on the 55” smart TV. Raid the bookcase for reading material. Escape to the reading room to turn your pages quietly, stoke the fire, and sip your drink. Fire up the broadband to stream and surf. Or crank up the Sonos Bluetooth and party loud and long.
Reception rooms here offer the perfect level of flexibility for families. You can be as social or separate as the mood takes. Get cosy with the crowd in the living room, grab a little me-time in the reading room, or escape completely to the garden summerhouse, to recline inside or out with a long drink.
The house holds 14 and you’ll all comfortably fit around the dining table to butter the bread and quaff the wine beneath the exposed beams with the sunlight flooding in from the garden. Cook on the double oven and large induction hob or get The Garden Chef or housekeeper to do it for you.
Whoever gets the nod will enjoy a fully equipped kitchen with hot-plate drawer, wine chiller, and American fridge/freezer. Prepare snacks in the kitchenette and wrap up your days with rounds of toast from the toaster. When every last crumb’s been digested and every glass drained, pile your pots into the dishwasher and let the tech take over.
For al-fresco dining beneath the birds and the big skies, the tables and chairs sit on the terrace and the coal barbie’s ready to sear the meat from Adastra deli or Holmansbridge Farm Shop. Get your cheeky takeaways from Hassocks for fish and chips or Tiny Thai for yummy chicken satay or green curry.
Eat out at The Bull in Ditchling, a beacon of good taste, with modern British food sourced from the pub garden wrapped up with white chocolate Bailey’s cheesecake and salted-caramel ice cream. Or how about The Half Moon in Plumpton for confit duck-leg curry or pan-seared sea bass?
The Willows sleeps 14 in seven sumptuous bedrooms. In the wilds of the Sussex South Downs, in the shadow of Ditchling Beacon, the only sounds that reach your ears will be a lonely hoot or the breeze through the boughs.
Bedroom one (Forsythia) on the ground floor offers two single beds with an annex, shower room and kitchenette. On the first floor, bedroom two (Snowdrop) provides an en-suite bathroom with Jacuzzi and walk-in wardrobe, while bedroom three (Sage) comes with two singles.
Bedroom four (Rosehip) is a double with separate bathroom, while bedroom five (Wysteria) offers a kingsize bed and en-suite shower and toilet. On the second floor, bedroom six (Bramble) is a kids’ escape with two single beds and walk-in shower that’s shared with bedroom seven (Brook, a double).
There are four acres out there in which to hunt for bugs, play mums and dads in the summerhouse, tick off birds from a list, and generally feed young minds with memories that last a lifetime. Wander the woodlands for scavenger hunts, bark rubbings and hide-and-seek, or discover the orchard, vineyard, and outdoor play area.
From May to September, the main attraction here is the outdoor pool. Heated to a toasty 28 degrees, it’s ready to devour a few hours. Dry off and play croquet on the lawns as mum and dad sip some fizz in the summerhouse. Head back out at night with a stargazing app to check off the lights that multiply in the heavens.
Inside, there’s wifi for streaming and a 55” TV for Netflix, movies and matches. Stay up late with mum and dad playing cards by the light of the fire. If you can keep your eyes open, there’s a telly in your bedroom, too. Raid the fridge and make it a midnight feast. We won’t tell if you don’t.
Elsewhere, there are books to be raided from the bookcase, music to be played on the Sonos, and memories to be made running wild and free in the shadow of the wild and wonderful Sussex Downs.