Pyecombe is a small village in West Sussex, steeped in ancient downland shepherding history and which nowadays is better known as the gateway to Brighton through the naturally formed ‘Clayton Gap’ in the Sussex South Downs countryside.
The derivation of the word ‘Pyecombe’ is thought to stem from the Saxon name “peac cumb” which means ‘the peak valley’. The parish of Pyecombe comprises two settlements, ‘Pyecombe’ and ‘Pyecombe Street’ about a quarter of a mile apart. The separation of the two settlements is generally thought to be a consequence of plague in the 17th century which necessitated the temporary abandonment of the main settlement and its 12th century Saxo-Norman church.
Pyecombe’s downland setting is magnificent and the primary influence on the village’s development. The village lies within the Sussex Downs AONB and within the national park boundary, it also straddles the South Downs Way as it crosses the A273 and A23. It is a popular destination for walkers, horse riders, and cyclists because of its beautiful setting, easy access to the South Downs Way and many other footpaths and bridlepaths and for being a ‘typical’ downland village. There are also three riding schools in the village which attract experienced riders and novices alike from far and wide.
The most famous aspect of Pyecombe’s shepherding history is the distinctive shepherd’s crook, known as the ‘Pyecombe Hook’, which was crafted in the old Pyecombe Forge. The Pyecombe Hook was very popular amongst shepherds across the depth and breadth of the Sussex Downs in the latter part of the last millennium, One surviving Pyecombe Hook is integrated into the Tapsel gate at the entrance to the Churchyard. The Forge eventually closed and is now a private house.
The village has a historic pub, The Plough Inn, which was renowned as a staging post for passing horse-drawn coaches in Victorian times and was even used as a temporary mortuary during the Second World War. Nowadays, it has an impressive reputation throughout the district for its upmarket Italian cuisine and for which it is highly recommended.
More recently Wayfield Park Farm Shop and Cafe has opened, just the other side of the A23, which specialises in good quality local South Downs produce. The new extension in the Church is a great place for walkers as it provides a comfort break combined with tea and coffee making facilities. Whilst Pyecombe doesn’t have a community hall the Church is used for various community events and community gatherings along with normal Church services. There is also a small retail shop located within the BP garage which is open 24 hours. There are a number of local B&Bs in and around the village.
The Parish of Pyecombe comprises approximately 80 dwellings and its Parish Council is served by five councillors and one parish clerk. The Parish Council meets regularly in the Church or Wayfield Park Farm shop, usually on the second Tuesday of each calendar month, although this arrangement is sometimes altered in order to ensure maximum attendency of this rather small Council.
The Parish Council is kept busy with assessing the regular flow of planning applications which are brought to its attention by the South Downs National Park authority. The variety of houses in the village illustrate the evolution of a downland village through time. As a result they are an eclectic mix of styles ranging from former shepherd cottages to historic medieval buildings together with a scattering of less typical modern buildings.
The Village Design Statement is currently being updated by the Council and defines the characteristic style of the village and will be used as a planning guidance document. It is the duty of the Council to ensure that all developments are in keeping with the downland character, and that no unsuitable larger developments are allowed.
Pyecombe Parish Councillors are pleased and proud to be representatives of such a beautiful, historic and peaceful downland village as Pyecombe. They welcome residents and other members of the public to attend their monthly meetings at which there is always a short public forum where members of the Electorate can address Council on any Agenda items.