12 new hobbies and skills to learn in Sussex for 2018

PUBLISHED: 14:30 22 January 2018 | UPDATED: 14:34 22 January 2018

Itchenor Sailing Club

Itchenor Sailing Club


A brand new year is the perfect time to learn a new skill or embrace new experiences. Jenny Mark-Bell finds plenty of inspiration, from traditional crafts to working with animals

Blacksmith skills

Alex Smith has been working as a blacksmith since 1998 and makes both functional and sculptural pieces. Alex runs courses varying in length from a day (£185) to ten days (£1,600). Participants will learn to manage their fire, shape metal using the hammer and anvil and use various specialist techniques to make items such as a poker, a window box or even exterior furniture. Courses are one-to-one and students are encouraged to come with their own ideas of what they’d like to make. There’s even the option to devise a bespoke course depending on the project you have in mind.

Lunch is included in the price.

Chalk Pit Forge, Amberley; www.chalkpitforge.co.uk

Make a rag rug

Furnish your house in a homemade cottage style. Over six weeks, course leader Debra Mallard will teach commonly used techniques to create rugs, wall-hangings and smaller decorative items using scraps of material. This course is suitable for all artistic levels: hessian and fabric is provided, but students are invited to bring their own scraps to enrich their designs.

The course will also include ideas for how to reuse old material – including making a fun fabric wreath.

Courses – which cost £65 – begin on 17 January and 25 April and take place on Wednesday evenings.

Varndean College, Brighton; varndean.ac.uk

Create a stained glass panel

Become part of the bohemian artistic tradition of Charleston with this one-day course led by tutor David Lilley. Learn the traditional techniques of cutting, leading up, soldering, cementing and polishing to create a decorative panel that will capture and colour the light as it streams into your home.

The cost of the day includes an artisan lunch, tea and coffees, and all tools and materials.

David has his own stained glass studio, and restores windows and lamps. He has just finished the fourth commemorative window at RAF Bentley Priory Museum in Stanmore, North London for Sir Hugh Dowding.

The course takes place on 24 February, priced £100-110.

Charleston, near Lewes; www.charleston.org.uk

Learn about birds of prey

Sussex Falconry is a private collection of birds based near Herstmonceux. Some of the birds have been owned by Steven Charlton for many years. There are many different one-to-one experiences on offer, with the main variation being the type of bird the participant works with. For an all-round introduction the VIP Falconry Experience includes flying and handling a selection of birds, whilst learning some basic falconry skills and facts about the birds themselves.

The experience can be tailored to suit aspiring falconers or those with a more general interest. The day will culminate with putting those new falconry skills into action, by free-flying at least one trained hawk solo.

The day costs £129 and guests may attend for a fee of £40. Dates are arranged on booking.

Sussex Falconry, Hurstpierpoint; www.sussexfalconry.co.uk/experience

Work with heavy horses

The Weald and Downland Museum has a variety of fascinating courses and workshops, from crafts and textiles to agriculture. Heavy horse courses include: care, management and harnessing of the horses; ploughing; and logging.

Courses are led by experts including Robert Sampson who has worked with Percheron horses all his working life. He is a registered farrier and farms 250 acres (using his Percherons whenever practical) on the edge of the New Forest. John McDermott has ploughed with Percheron horses since his late teens and now owns four. His horses are frequently seen demonstrating the St Giles steam fire engine at shows and events. Mark Buxton is the museum’s horseman. He has wide experience in working with horses and came to the museum from the Royal Parks, where he was head horseman for 14 years. His duties at the museum include sowing, chain harrowing, ploughing, harvesting and timber extractions.

Day courses (which cost £90) take place on various dates from March to November.

Weald and Downland Museum, Singleton, near Chichester; www.wealddown.co.uk/courses

Have fun and learn with your dog

Looking for something fun to do with your dog? Trick-training gives your dog constructive mental stimulation while teaching concentration and body awareness. Shy dogs can increase their confidence while boisterous ones learn self-control and focus.

Teaching by positive reinforcement, Odette Pidcock helps owners work with their dogs to learn fun tricks and useful skills, such as tidying up their toys at the end of the day. She runs a very popular weekly class in Broadbridge Heath along with Tricks 4 Tweens and Doggie Einstein workshops. Dogs of all sizes, breeds, ages and abilities are welcome. “Every dog can learn new skills,” says Odette. “From roll-over to skateboarding!”

Muttley Matters, Broadbridge Heath near Horsham; www.muttleymatters.co.uk

Get closer to nature

Explorer and natural navigator Tristan Gooley is the author of several books including The Natural Navigator and How to Read Water. He has appeared in the press and on television many times. Tristan, whose father set up the travel company Trailfinders and who is now its vice chairman, has led many expeditions around the world. He is the only living person to have both flown solo and sailed singlehanded across the Atlantic.

Tristan runs bespoke courses for those with an interest in the outdoors, teaching natural navigation and appreciation of the landscape in the South Downs.

Courses start at £480 (which can be shared among a group) and dates can be arranged direct.

Eartham, near Chichester; www.naturalnavigator.com

Conquer the road

Brain Mason’s love affair with motorbikes started when he was a teenager and in the most unlikely of places – a jumble sale. “I came back with a Honda 50,” he says. “Much to my mother’s disgust!” Now, after a career spanning from farm management to working as an international strategy consultant, Brian is happily running his business American Motorcycle Experience in the South Downs – with another branch in the Peak District.

The bikes are Harley Davidson Road Kings, former police bikes imported from Houston, Texas, with a couple of sportsters for those daunted by the size of the Road Kings. Brian will lead a tour of roads in the South Downs, often stopping at Goodwood for lunch or tea, with participants either on one of the Harleys or riding pillion. “Occasionally we get people who were last on a bike 30 or 40 years ago – perhaps when they were 18 they went on the back and they’ve never done it since,” says Brian.

Meet at St Christopher’s Green, Haslemere, Surrey; americanmotorcycleexperience.co.uk

Rule the waves

Itchenor Sailing Club is renowned throughout the UK for its racing heritage with its members competing in nine separate Olympic games, including new RYA Director, Ian Walker MBE. Formed in 1927, the club has a long and esteemed heritage. It caters for all ages and abilities, and offers a wide range of training courses for beginners as well as those who are looking to brush up on their skills.

Mirror and Topper Beginners Training: these half-day sessions are led by parents and are a gentle introduction to sailing at Itchenor Sailing Club. SWIFT Ladies Training: whether you are a complete beginner, have sailed a little, or are up to a racing standard, this training series for ladies takes place at Itchenor on Wednesday mornings during the spring/summer. RYA Powerboat 2: this course provides the skills and background knowledge required by a competent powerboat driver and is the basis for the International Certificate of Competence. Also on offer are keelboat training, all RYA dinghy modules and first aid training.

Itchenor, near Chichester; www.itchenorsc.co.uk

Fix it yourself

If you’ve recently found yourself on the hard shoulder decrying your lack of mechanical knowledge, this might be just the thing to restore your confidence. This course supplies students with the knowledge to maintain their car and carry out basic repairs. Topics covered include: tyre checks; cooling systems; air induction; brakes; lubrication; and routine servicing. The course costs £200 for six weeks (21 February-26 March) and no previous experience is necessary: in fact it would make a great gift for a new driver and would eventually pay for itself.

Plumpton College also offers training for professional mechanics (as well as a wealth of other short and longer courses). There’s a modern workshop fitted out with ramps and all the equipment needed to learn the ropes of car maintenance.

Plumpton College, Plumpton near Lewes; www.plumpton.ac.uk

Become a natural beauty

Make-up artist and holistic therapist Ellie Gill leads a natural beauty masterclass on 29 April at AS Apothecary in Lewes. The three-hour session, which costs £70, will cover the following areas: skincare advice and facial massage lesson; why it’s important to use non-toxic cosmetics; how to ‘clean up’ your makeup bag; which items are the most important or easiest to swap first; beauty from the inside – foods for beautiful radiant skin; harmful ingredients to avoid; which clean beauty products are most effective and best value for money.

AS Apothecary is a small batch distillery making natural scents, creams, aromatic waters and balms from flowers, bark, leaves, roots, blossom and moss that the company grows or picks wild in fields, mountains and gardens in Sussex, Cyprus and Scotland.

AS Apothecary, Lewes; www.asapoth.com

Picture this

Capture the beauty of the golden hour with this spring dawn and dusk landscape photography course at West Dean. For intermediate users of DSLR and advanced compact cameras, the course takes place over a weekend 20-22 April and costs £241.

Take your images to another level by learning about the two elusive fundamentals of all successful landscape studies – lighting and timing. Course leader Benjamin Graham is an internationally published landscape photographer with more than 35 years’ photography experience. His work celebrates the beauty of the UK coast and countryside, regularly appearing in the UK and around the world in major newspapers and magazines.

West Dean has 400+ spring/summer courses which include 30 different week-long summer schools during July and August, in a huge variety of disciplines.

West Dean College, near Chichester; www.westdean.org.uk

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