For the most part (the major development round Gatwick Airport is one of the few exceptions), West Sussex remains an essentially rural landscape dominated by the South Downs, a magnificent range of chalk hills. The South Downs Way, a 100-milebridleway along the crest of the hills from Winchester to Beachy Head, offers panoramic views across the Weald to the north and the sea to the south. It traces the long history of this area along ancient trails, passing Bronze Age barrows and Iron-Age hill forts. On the coast, Chichester, the county town, once a busy haunt of smugglers, is now a thriving sailing centre, while the small fishing villages of the past are quiet holiday resorts like Littlehampton, Bognor Regis and Worthing. The ancient woodland of the West Sussex Weald is now a landscape of pastures and hedgerows and small country villages. The trees were felled for fuel to drive the furnaces of the iron industry, which flourished here for centuries. The legacy of this prosperous industry can be seen in the wealth of elaborate buildings, particularly churches, built from the profits.
Evidence of early human habitation and culture abound in this area. The Romans settled in Chichester in the 1st century, and it later became a great medieval religious centre with a fine Norman cathedral. At Fishbourne, the Roman remains of a splendid palace built for the Celtic King Cogidubnus were discovered in 1960.
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