The counties of East and West Sussex havelong been desirable locations, famed for both the South Downs, which form the backbone of the area, and the Weald, which is part dense forest and part rolling countryside.

The South Downs, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are characterised bydramatic and northward-facing slopes with magnificent views from the ridges, and deep valleys offering glimpses of sea. The area has also been chosen to be the site of the UK’s newest National Park, which should open in 2004.

The Weald, although now partly farmland, still has plenty of dense woodland, including the Ashdown Forest (made famous by AA Milne as the setting for his Winnie the Pooh books), which is relatively unspoiled, and provides miles of stunning countryside to explore.

These areas, in addition to the magnificent coastline and the rustic character of many of the villages and towns mean that this area hasmuch of the beauty of counties further to the west of the country, but are more easily accessible from London than Devon or Cornwall.

There is a tangible sense of history throughout East and West Sussex, embodied in places like Arundel Castle and Petworth House.Much of the scenery is so unspoiled because it remains privately owned, which makes for fantastic views, but also proves problematic for people who want to redevelop any of the land.

The beaches are peppered with sand dunes and the shores are popular with watersports enthusiasts throughout the summer, and thealmost endless sunensures that sunbathers and watersport enthusiasts have months of glorious weather to keep them on the seashore.

The villages and towns are gems of architecture and atmosphere, and make great family retreats providing a welcome lack of hustle and bustle compared with the city, andit is this which especially attracts the potential buyer.

The elements to be found in a typical Sussex village are a historic church, a picturesque High Street, a tranquil pond graced by wildfowl and a large open Common, not to mention history dating many centuries back.Almost every town in Sussex has some story to tell about a Norman King or a Saxon treasure.

Midhurst, in West Sussex, came second only to Alnwick in last year’s Country Life Quality of Life survey which heralded it as one of the best places to live in the country.

There are also some beautiful gardens in the area. From Petworth to Arundel, all year round there islots to see, and for more adventurous ramblers after real wildlife there is always the Ashdown Forest.

The property market now

Interest from users of Countrylife.co.uk in the counties of East and West Sussex madeWest Sussex the 6th most popular county, attracting 8.03% of for property enquiries in the second quarter of 2003. The most popular price point was ?2m, which attracted 18% of all responses, while the most popular price range was £1,750,000 to £2m, with 29% of all responses.

East Sussex was the 8th most popular county, with 4.57% of the overall response in the second quarter of of 2003.The most popular price point was £4m, while the most popular price range was £4m to £4m – both attracted 24% of all responses.

Taken together, West and East Sussex accounted for almost 13% of the enquiries generated off the website, making itthe second most popular area after Buckinghamshire. And for good reason.

In the current property scenario,the higher end of the market still focuses largely on West Sussex. In general, the easier the commute by car to London the more desirable a property becomes, although this is not always the case for everybody.

Different types of buyer will be attracted to a property for various reasons, according to Tommy De Mallet Morgan, from FPD Savills: ‘In the Midhurst and Petworth area of West Sussex, you find fewer properties coming on the market, mainly becausemuch of the land is protected from redevelopment, due to the large proportion of estate ownership.

‘So houses round this area tend to be sold almost before they come on the market, but this ispurely a matter of supply and demand.’

Therefore, properties further east have their own separate attractions: ‘Towards Horsham buyers tend to bekeen to be able to get to and from Gatwick as easily as possible, which is a major advantage for people who travel often, or have property abroad.’

Mr De Mallet Morgan says that their office had a Grade II listed house in the picturesque village of Lodsworth, with four bedrooms and two bathrooms which went for £895,000 within seven days, and according to him that wasa typical sale for this area at the moment.

‘However, there are less high-end properties available in East Sussex which may not fetch as much, if there is less interest at that time’ he continued. ‘It is back to supply and demand.’

Greg Pickard from Strutt & Parker says thatthe market is strong, and performing well, but that houses, particularly in West Sussex, are affected by London prices, so they do rise along with prices in the capital.

‘All in all,West Sussex tends to be about 15% more expensive than East Sussexbecause of the transport links to the capital, and villages near the Downs are also extremely sought after.’

His advice to people selling is: ‘If you are realistic about the price then your property will sell. We are prettyconfident that the market is going to remain healthy for some time to come. ‘

Simon English from Lane Fox thinks that the situation is very different to that of twelve months ago, but that the right property will sell quickly: ‘It used to be that anything that came along sold in a rush, but now buyers are more discerning than they were, and tend to take their time more than people did last year.’

Mr English professed to have every confidence in the market, and said he felt sure that there would be no sudden ‘leaps or bounds’ in either direction, although‘special’ houses would always sell fast.

It looks like property in the area should remain steadily selling for the foreseeable future, as people take a little longer looking around, but as a wholeit seems there will always be a market for houses which perfectly embody the rural Sussex ideal.