While much of the world appears to have ground to a halt this year, one inexpensive hobby has remained a constant source of respite across the county – walking.

And, with the stunning South Downs and beautiful beaches all mere miles from residents’ doorsteps, Sussex is one of the best places you could possibly be when it comes to rambling. These are the best-rated destinations in the county for a stroll – though remember some are shut due to the pandemic so do check before setting off.

The Argus:

1. Cupani Garden in Seaford

After analysing thousands of TripAdvisor reviews, shoemakers Clarks found a stroll around Cupani Garden in Seaford had left visitors more satisfied than anywhere else in Sussex.

A whopping 93.68 per cent of the reviews left for the garden gave it full marks, awarding it five stars.

A description of the garden on its website reads: “Cupani Garden in Seaford is an award-winning tranquil haven, a delightful mix of trees, shrubs, perennial borders, gazebo, water features, courtyard garden and lots of space to sit.

“We changed our garden name in 2016 to celebrate our love of sweet peas.

“Cupani is one of the oldest known varieties, having been introduced to our island in 1699 by the monk Francis Cupani.

“This sweet pea is closely related to the wild strain found in Sicily at that time.

“Although small by comparison to other National Garden Scheme gardens, we have a deceptively large and colourful garden that offers the visitor a series of gardens to wander through.”

However, the gardens has had to remain closed through 2020.

The Argus:

2. Driftwood Garden in Seaford

Seaford has scooped the top two spots in this list. Argus garden columnist Geoff Stonebanks’ Driftwood Garden was the second highest-rated place to go for a walk in Sussex on TripAdvisor. An impressive 91.74 per cent reviews of the garden gave it five stars out of five.

Geoff has a weekly column in The Argus teaching readers how to make their gardens bloom, and he practises what he preaches to create a stunning display of plants and flowers. In 2018 he was he was awarded the Don Mabey Award for “exceptional services to the town of Seaford” at the annual town forum.

This came after more than a decade of opening his garden up to the public and raising more than £100,000 for a range of charities from donations he received through the site. Unfortunately, the gardens have also had to remain closed this year due to the pandemic but hopes are high for next year.

The Argus:

3. Woolbeding Gardens in Midhurst

The immaculate attraction prompted the vast majority (81.67 per cent) of visitors to leave a five star review.

A National Trust property nestled in a quiet corner of countryside in the west of the county, the space provides a feast for the eyes.

It is “a true horticultural haven bursting with colourful planting, sensational views and a whole host of surprises”, the National Trust website promises.

It sayd: “Woolbeding delights at every turn with distinctive garden rooms set against thoughtfully composed borders.

“Formal gardens merge into the far reaching rural landscape of the River Rother, a perfect backdrop for the many sculptures and follies you’ll come across. A masterpiece of colour and design, you’ll lose hours exploring this carefully cultivated and constantly evolving garden.”

However, the gardens are currently closed as a result of coronavirus.

The Argus:

4. St Helen’s Park in Hastings

The East Sussex site took third with more than three quarters of reviewers giving it five stars (76.19 per cent).

The beautiful 104 acre estate at the foot of the High Weald offers open areas of greenery as well as historic woodland.

This tranquil environment is home to a wide range of plants and wildlife.

This includes colonies of common spotted orchid, green winged orchid as well as a host of meadow and woodland flora.

The park is owned and managed by the St Helen’s Park Preservation Society.

Ramblers looking for something a bit more challenge than a saunter through a picturesque garden may have found their haven here, with a network of footpaths running through the expansive site.

The Argus:

5. Tinkers Park in Uckfield

A slight change of direction with this entry takes us away from rolling hills and colourful flora, angling more towards the industrial age instead.

Tinkers Park is home to the Claude Jessett Collection, a large accumulation of steam engines which was started in 1942.

And the vehicles are a hit with visitors, particularly those who attend its annual steam engine rally, with 75 per cent giving the site the best possible score of five stars.

The attraction’s website states: “At Tinkers Park a band of dedicated volunteers is working hard to restore the collection in order to feed your senses with the sights, sounds and smells of Britain’s rural industrial past.

“Take a ride around Tinkers Park on the Great Bush Railway, hear the mechanical musical fair organs and meet the mighty steam engines.”

The Argus:

6. Cuckmere Haven near Seaford

A more traditional destination for a Boxing Day walk, Cuckmere Haven offers stunning views of the county’s cliff-lined coast to the south and the relaxing, rolling green hills of the South Downs to the north.

Sandwiched in between the two, walkers can find plenty of trails to traverse with a route from Seaford Head to Cuckmere Valley proving particularly popular.

Of the TripAdvisor reviews left on the Cuckmere Haven nature reserve page, 72.25 per cent are five stars.

One visitor said: “We had a lovely walk en route to Brighton.

“We only walked for about 40 minutes, but it’s a very easy walk and it’s very peaceful with stunning views.”

Another said: “My wife and I walked from Alfriston to Cuckmere Haven along by the Cuckmere River.

“A very easy 12-mile return walk.

“We had perfect weather and the walk really is very nice – lovely countryside, lovely river, cows grazing peacefully, tranquility.

“The last part of the walk towards the beach is also rather lovely.”

The Argus:

7. Guestling Woods near Hastings

There is plenty to explore in this magical ancient woodland, which is watched over by the Woodland Trust.

A spider’s web of footpaths and more offer visitors plenty of options to discover more about the area on their own terms.

The Woodland Trust website states: “A typical High Weald ancient woodland with spectacular wood anemone and bluebell displays in spring.

“A small stream known as Lady Brook flows along the site’s western boundary.

“The wood has two public footpaths and a good network of rides and paths.

“In 2013 the wood was awarded funding from SITA Trust through the Landfill Communities Fund towards key management works.

“The grant contributed to the annual ride-side coppicing programme which is helping to create a more diverse woodland which will benefit a wide range of wildlife.”

It is accessible to the public and has parking available at the site, making for an easier experience for visitors.

This, twinned with the spectacular surroundings, may have played a part in the site amassing a whole host of five-star reviews on TripAdvisor.

In total, 70 per cent of the feedback left by visitors awarded the woods the highest possible score.

The Argus:

8. Ifield Mill Pond and Bewbush Water Gardens near Crawley

Last but not least is this serene site on the outskirts of Crawley.

All in all, 68.57 per cent of the reviews of Ifield Mill Pond and Bewbush Water Gardens issued it with top marks.

The site, which has been designated a Site of Nature Conservation Importance, is made up of a series of ponds, surrounded by natural planting.

The Ifield Water Mill, a 19th century weatherboarded watermill, is also nearby.

The building fell into disuse in the 1930s, but was lovingly restored to working order by enthusiasts four decades later after they were leased the site by the local council.

One reviewer said: “My kids love Ifield Mill pond, it is so quiet and clean and filled with all types of birds and ducks. My children and I go and feed the ducks and have a little picnic on the bench.

“There is plenty to learn about and my kids, who are seven, five and three, always ask to go here.

“It’s free and the fresh air is so good for them. It’s also safe, and all the people we have met are super friendly.”

Another said: “This is a nice, peaceful place to visit for a stroll over the footbridge while observing the wildlife. Our grandchildren enjoyed seeing the ducks and other wildfowl.”