A very wintery Christmas market | West Dean, Sussex

Half the nation was covered in snow last weekend and Sussex didn't get as much as one flake! I was gutted! There I was dreaming we'd wake up to a Winter Wonderland planning a bum-boarding trip in the South Downs, but no such luck.

Instead, Mr Weatherman treated us to 40mph winds all along the coast!

We pretty much locked ourselves inside for most of the weekend, away from the stormy weather, but I started getting cabin fever, craving some fresh, un-central-heated air and fancied doing something a little more sociable to make the most of one of the last free weekends we had before Christmas. Plus, our DIY Advent Calendar project told us to go visit a Christmas market behind door 11, so it was settled (!) off we went to face the winds on an eventful drive to the picturesque West Dean village Christmas market in Sussex. 

What a tucked away little piece of paradise this quaint village is. I can't believe we've only just discovered it! 

West Dean Sussex Christmas Market
West Dean Sussex Christmas Market
West Dean Sussex Christmas Market

If you're Brighton based it's about a 30 min drive from us, at the foot of Friston Forest (which has had many a feature on my blog over the years, love that place). 

We took the Alfriston Road to access the village although it's recommended you park near Friston Forest and walk in because cars tend to get blocked in by their tiny roads. But it was so windy we just didn't want to be out bracing the weather. The Alfriston road got blocked by a fallen tree which was pretty crazy, so we had to try navigate to this tucked away little corner of Sussex via another route.... only to discover ANOTHER tree blocking roads in to the village.

We almost turned back and called it a day as we drove watching the trees above us shaking scarily in the winds (I was paranoid another would fall on the car!) but we braved it and sped through those empty country roads as fast as we could to dodge to branches and visit this little piece of Christmas heaven.  

West Dean Christmas market

We arrived to several warm, cosy barns full of delicious wintery food and mulled wine, and spent ages wandering through the old barns decorated in Christmas foliage and mistletoe which provided shelter to the independent sellers and their stalls of Sussex creations. 

West Dean Christmas Market
West Dean Christmas Market

The stalls carried festive treats from local made cheeses and crackers to sloe gins, jams and chutneys all home made by the sellers here in Sussex. Lots we could try and taste, and some special things we picked up as gifts for friends and family. 

What I loved especially was how every table we perused, the seller had a local story to share with us – "this was made from the old church roof" "I collected materials for this from the beach at Seaford" "I made these candle holders from fallen trees collected in Friston forest" – there was a r story behind every item, and a real sense of camaraderie and craftsmanship filled those barns. There's nothing quite as nice as having a chat with the person who's made the item you're buying either – what a rare chance. 

West Dean Christmas Market
West Dean Christmas Market Fifi McGee
West Dean Christmas Market

We actually found ourselves spending more time outside than we thought, being in such awe of the old flint fronted cottages and sash windows that made up the village. Theywere just too pretty not to take photos of! Can you imagine what that wisteria in the above pic is going to be like in the spring? I can't wait to come back and see this place through the seasons next year. 

West Dean Christmas Market
DSC_8148.JPG
West Dean Christmas Market
West Dean Christmas Market

A little explore around found us in the most miniature Christmas tree field I've ever seen, and at the bottom of the field, an old bothy stood with a roaring fire inside, a table and some children around it writing their letters to Santa himself. Honestly like a Dickens novel, it really was. 

West Dean Christmas Market
West Dean Christmas Market
West Dean Christmas Market
West Dean Christmas Market
West Dean Christmas Market
West Dean Christmas Market

I don't think it's possible for me to walk past fresh foliage sales and not buy stems for somewhere in the house. I'm hoping this will last out until Christmas day so I can use this for the Christmas table. It'll be a holly-themed red, green and gold classic table at my house this year. 

West Dean Christmas Market

Here's a rare shot of the infamous Neil – see, he does exist! I'm not making him up on here! Normally he's behind the camera but I have no photos of him so this needs to change. Fifi is to play photographer more often now! :)

We had such an eventful, festive day together and can't wait until the spring comes in so we can head back here and see the village with flowers budding. 

Thanks for reading, 

Fi xo


All pics by Neil Shaw – a Sussex wedding photographer