Hot Rods and Romans in a Sussex Village!

By Lyn Funnell

Arlington is both a village and a civil parish. It stretches for miles, although it has a low population.

Most of the area is farmland, but with a few unexpected surprises!

245 acres of Arlington is now under water. Arlington Reservoir was built in the 1960s. The course of the Cuckmere River was diverted and now runs to the east in a straight line.

Signs of Roman occupation were unearthed during the construction of the reservoir.

The reservoir provides water to several towns and villages, and is a nature reserve. Over 170 species of birds have been spotted there, including kingfishers, herons, reed warblers, woodpeckers, and ospreys.

There is a bird hide where Twitchers can observe the bird life on and around the reservoir.

A path runs right round the reservoir and there’s a large car park, which now costs £1.50 for a ticket – card only. But there are also large laybys that often have room to park.

We drove out of the car park and back along the road where a signpost reads Arlington, 2 miles.

Along that road on the right, is Arlington Stadium, where they hold hot rod, stock car racing and banger racing. The oval speedway track is a quarter of a mile long.

We walked around to the car park where the hot rods were arriving. Drivers either had their heads under their bonnets or were walking around admiring each other’s vehicles.

Mike Daniels, aged 51, was unloading his car from its trailer with help from his wife, Louise.

He told me, “We come from Poole. We travelled here this morning. This is a short journey for us! We often travel to Scotland.”

LYN:  How long have you been racing?

MIKE:  I’ve been racing for 30 years. I’m no good at football, but this is something that I’m quite good at. If I’m not racing, we travel to watch. The better you are, the further back you start. White is first, then yellow, blue, and red are the champions.

LYN:  Do you turn over at all?

MIKE:  No. Hot rod is non-contact racing. Bangers bump and turn over, but they have to be specially reinforced.

LYN:  How old is this car?

MIKE:  It’s 10-15 years old. I’m a yellow competitor.

As we walked back to our car, tempting smells of hot dogs and chips followed us.

I really want to go back when it gets warmer. Everyone was so friendly and it’s a really interesting sport to get involved in.

There’s plenty of parking at £2 for the day, and everything’s a short walk away.

Nearby is Abbot’s Wood. It’s part of an ancient woodland that stretched right across the south-east of England.

It was bought by the Forestry Commission in 1953 and is a popular area for hikers, cyclists and horse riders as it’s flat.

Nightingales, dormice, deer, squirrels and pheasants live there and in the spring it’s carpeted with bluebells, primroses and wood anenomes.

Another couple of miles further down the road, we reached the actual built-up village, with attractive houses on each side of the road.

There’s a free car park next to the Yew Tree pub, so we parked there and walked along to the St Pancras Church.

To my surprise and delight, the door was open. So many churches are locked up to prevent thieves and vandals getting in. Isn’t that terrible?

The church dates back to Saxon times, but evidence of an older burnt out wooden building was discovered during the 19th century renovations. St Augustin dedicated several churches to the Saint in the 6th century and the Lewes priory was also dedicated to St Pancras, but there’s no proof of a connection.

St Pancras was the son of a Roman, but he was executed when he was only 14 for refusing to give up his Christian beliefs.

In 1613 John Williams was hanged for theft. His wife gave birth to a son a few days later and he was baptised in Arlington’s church. The church register says, 14 March, Stephen, the sonne of John Williams, executed fortnight before for stealing. God give his sonne more grace.

Sadly, baby Stephen was buried on the 18th February 1615.

In a glass jar in the chapel is a large complete urn, which was found when the Tower foundations were being renovated. It was at first thought to be Roman, but the British Museum said it was a Medieval jar used for food storage.

The three bells, which have been restored, date from 1606, 1610 and 1677.

The earliest written records of the church date from 1455-1479.

We walked back to the pub. The smells of the Sunday lunch were wonderful and strangely English.

Luis the Portuguese landlord sat down to talk to us. He’s very friendly, enthusiastic, and good looking.

He’s been the landlord for 4 years.

The Yew Tree was built in 1901. It used to be next to the church, but it was demolished and moved along the road.

A row of tables there are made of yew.

They sell more food than drink. As the pub is off the main roads, they rely on recommendation and people come for the delicious food. They don’t drink much as they have to drive there.

Yew Tree rear garden

The pub specialises in traditional English food and older pub classics. But their pork belly and sea bass are very popular and Sunday lunches are always a sell-out. And in the summer Luis has Portuguese sardines on the menu.

Recipes are home-made and prepared quickly.

Now that we have visited the Yew Tree, we will definitely go back there for a meal!

They have a special January offer of 20% off your food bill if you quote YEW20. And tell them that you saw the offer in Unknown Kent and Sussex.

01323 870590


  • Lyn Funnell

    Lyn is the co-owner of Unknown Kent and Sussex. She lives in Sussex. Lyn has been writing for most of her life, both Fiction & Non-Fiction. She loves cookery & creating original recipes. She's won a lot of prizes, including Good Housekeeping Millenium Menu & on BBC The One Show as a runner-up, making her Britain's Spag Bol Queen! She has had nine books published so far. History, Travel & Restaurant Reviews are her main interests.

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