Exploring East Sussex’s Countryside by Canoe

The Anchor Inn is tucked away on a lonely stretch of country lane in Barcombe, East Sussex along the River Ouse. It’s the type of place you need to know you’re headed, rather than somewhere to stumble upon, but the effort to get there is worth it.

My husband and I hadn’t done much research other than scanning Google Maps for a secluded pub within easy driving  of Lewes, England. So when we drove down the thin ribbon of a country lane, precariously narrow for oncoming traffic, we were giddy when we saw the Inn nestled along the river bank.

Since I’m easily amused, I was already beaming with happiness even before we realized we could rent canoes. We found an available table in the lively garden and ordered a few pints, making up commentary for the dogs running about and eavesdropping on conversations about parties in London. It was a perfectly, lazy English afternoon.

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Pints and Paddling Along the River Ouse

After enjoying our drinks and a hamburger (that wasn’t all that amazing, but not so bad it dampened the mood) we thought it best to digest a bit before rocking about in a boat. A footpath meanders alongside the river within easy walking distance of the pub. Never ones to pass up a good walk, we strolled through a ridiculously picturesque East Sussex setting.

Despite being only a few miles from Lewes, it seemed we had the countryside to ourselves. The birds chirped from the trees and brambles, and the wild flowers along the path waved enthusiastically in the breeze. You could almost imagine we’d stumbled upon a time warp if the occasional hum of a plane overhead, or canoe of drunk kids trying to catch fish with their hands, hadn’t rattled us back to reality.

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To be able to enjoy a casual afternoon at a pub built in 1790, slightly buzzed from beer and happiness, is a gift not to be taken for granted. To be able to explore the English countryside by a boat you can rent from said pub, well, now you’re just getting ridiculous.

We bought ourselves an ice cream and shakily boarded our canoe. The teenager in charge gave us some vague directions about which direction to go when the river divides (left, left and then right) and we were off. For £12 an hour, we were exploring the countryside via the River Ouse.

Despite my tendency to paddle us toward the right side of the river bank, and being overly confident we could reach the end of the two-mile stretch of waterway (despite the trees that had fallen and blocked the last stretch of river) it was a gloriously relaxing afternoon.

Every so often we’d stop and let our canoe drift with the current, nothing but the whoosh of the leaves blowing in the wind, the tips of branches skimming the water’s calm surface. In some stretches we had the river to ourselves and we’d sit in silence taking it all in. Exploring this stretch of the East Sussex countryside by canoe was the perfect way to welcome in the summer season.

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Know Before You Go:

Arriving at the Anchor Inn is easiest by car, but I’m sure there are additional maps on walking and cycling routes. You can find directions on their website, but unfortunately, there’s no convenient access to public transportation.

It’s first come, first serve, so be ready for a wait if it’s a beautiful day during half-terms. If you are fortunate to have a warm day in early Spring, make the most of it and head out for an afternoon on the river with a minimum wait time.

Make sure to phone ahead if you are wanting to hire a boat for the entire day, otherwise the rental cost is:

  • £6/hour per adult
  • £3/hour per child under 14 years

Bring cash so you can buy yourself an ice cream. Next to the ticket booth for the boats is a snack shop, and nothing completes an afternoon in the East Sussex countryside like a sweet treat while paddling down the River Ouse.

If you want to explore the maximum stretch of river, be prepared for a steady paddling pace for a few hours. Remember, it’s all fun and games to paddle into the quiet solitude a few miles away, but eventually, you’ll have to turn around make your way back.

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