“ Address: Gilberts Drive / East Dean / East Sussex / BN20 0AA / England „
Whenever I vist my boyfriend in sunny Eastbourne, I drag him out of bed every day to go and show me the local sights, aided by a little yellow book that gains us free entry to a variety of attractions - his mum works in a local attraction herself and gets us these trade passes . I'm sure at some point the novelty of a new place to see will wear off, but we have a few left on the list yet . However, one that we've now ticked off is the Seven Sisters Sheep Centre in East Dean, just a few miles outside of Eastbourne .
Although it's only a short drive from Eastbourne, its very scenic along the way, with magnificent views all around - turn one way, and you'll see Eastbourne nestled below you, the waves glinting in the sun.
Turn the other, and you'll see lushly green Sussex downland, it's undulating curves covered in grazing sheep, and depening on the time of year, maybe some lambs too! For someone whose normal travel in my home city of Nottingham generally involves taking a bus through run down council estates, this is a great drive .
Pulling into East Dean village itself, you'll see quaint little cottages, a traditional village green, and a nice looking pub. Just past these is the Sheep Centre - a huge old flint barn, part of a working sheep farm open to the public during lambing and shearing seasons . It only has a small car park attached to the building, perhaps room for 8 or ten cars - however, during lambing season when more people visit, they do annex off one of their fields as extra parking space .
If you do have trouble finding a parking space, there are a couple of pubs nearby with parking spaces, although that may seem a bit cheeky, so best to pop in for a pint too! Oh, the hardship!
Our visit to this attraction was in spring, right in the middle of the lambing season , which meant there was plenty of 'OH, CUTE!' exclamations. We decided to buy a couple of bags of sheep feed, 40p each or 3 for a 1, and set off to explore .
The first area we came to was a selection of stalls, each housing a ewe and her lamb(s). Each stall had a noticeboard telling us the ewes name, the breed of sheep, and the date and time of birth of the lambs . I thought this was a lovely touch. The ewes clamoured to the front of the stalls, eager to get at the feed we had with us, some of them making angry noises if we didn't get it to them quick enough!
I loved this - I loved being able to feed and pet the sheep, who were really incredibly friendly . The lambs in this section, all being newborn, were very timid, and in most cases were curled up sleeping - they were so cute though .
One stall stood out to me . In it was a sheep with it's head in a sort of brace, with feed and water easily available to it . There was a sign explaining that this ewe was depressed (something I'd never thought about) and had been trying to harm her lamb. The board kept her from nipping at it, and allowed the lamb to drink safely from it's mother, and the sign said that, in most cases, the ewe will get over the depression and take to her lamb, but that if not, the lamb would be bottle fed .
Heading out of this area, we came to an open yard, where Ewes and slightly older lambs were in larger areas, with lots of hay. The lambs here were a little older and more active - some of them excercising their voices, others bouncing about and waggling their long tails. One bold little soul was standing on top of a Ewe I guess to be his mum, staring around imperiously as if to say 'This is my domain, I rule here.' It was really quite funny to watch . Again, the ewes here came forward for petting and feed, and it was great to see all the different breeds - some creamy pale, some dark, some with crazy afro hair, and even a couple with panda eye markings . A couple of the lambs even came forward, but darted away as we tried to stroke them .
A little further along, we came across some pigs, who didn't seem ovely bothered by our presence . We could reach into their sty and give them a pat, but they really didn't seem all that bothered - it was a hot day, and I think they just wanted a rest.
There were also geese and ducks wandering around this area, being very noisy and splashing in water wherever they found it .
Then we came to a stable, where there was a lovely donkey and a couple of horses and ponies . There was a sign here asking us not to feed these - which I think is probably a wise safety measure, as many children and some adults may not know that due to the cropping motion of horses mouths when they eat, the safest way to feed them is with a flat palm . They were very friendly though, and allowed themselves to be patted and petted.
There was also a chicken run here, which to be honest I didn't find that interesting - in all honesty, a chickens a chicken to me, and there isn't a lot of interaction to be had!
In this area were also some climbing frames for children, picnic benches, and a tractor giving rides . We didn't go on the tractor, but it looked like a lot of fun.
Entering another shed area, we saw some guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, and baby chicks . Now, while chickens might not interest me, chicks are delightful little yellow balls of fluff, and the cute overload had me staring at them for a good few minutes. The guinea pigs were happy and playful, and ranged in age - some were clearly very young, bouncing and running about, while others were older, calmer, and just resting . The noticeboard said they were all girls, but I did hear some guinea pig growling, so I suspect they might have had an unidentified boy in there!
Going further in, we saw milking apparatus, and later we saw some ewes milked . The person doing the milking was great - he interacted with the audience every step of the way, explaining each step of the process, from filling the grain bowls, to disinfectiing the teats, to what happened to the milk after it was gathered . I liked that he interacted - it made it more interesting and made me feel like part of the process.
The best part of the visit for me, by far, was getting to bottle feed a lamb! I was given a glass bottle with a rubber teat, and told how to hold it, and to just let the lamb take it all down . The lamb sucked on it greedily, it's little tale wagging away excitedly -almost like a dog when he hears the word walkies .
Then we went through a yarn room, where we could see the wool of different sheep, and carpets made from the wool .
After that, we went to the cafe /gift shop . The cafe is very basic, serving cakes, tea, icecream and cans of pop . I'd probably recommend bringing a picnic or eating elsewhere rather than eating here .
The gift shop selled a range of products, from sheeps fat soap, to woolen rugs, to little knitted cardigans for babies . It wasn't a wide range by any means, but it was all relevant to the sheep centre, and the sheeps fat soap had a lovely leaflet nearby explaining how many shepherds have soft hands due to the natural oils on sheep fleece .
Overall, I really enjoyed the visit here . Although we got in free with the trade passes, normal entry is £4.50 for adults and 3.50 for a child - which I think is very worth it . I would recommend visiting on a sunny day, as I imagine it could potentially be very muddy after rain . The farm has regular taps for washing your hands .
You should also bear in mind that this centre is not open year round - only during lambing and shearing seasons, as below .
Open : March 7th to May 4th
Closed: May 5th to July 3rd
Open: July 4th to September 6th
Opening times are 2pm-5pm on weekdays, and 10am - 5pm on weekends or East Sussex school holidays .
A great place to go, with a great level of interaction with some very friendly animals . It will only take you a couple of hours to go round, maybe less, so why not go on a weekend morning, then spend the afternoon at nearby Beachy Head cliffs, or on the beach at Birling Gap, all within a few minutes drive .
Find over 40 breeds of sheep and a lot wool at the centre! Great for young and old!