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South England, need to get a flavour...

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Hello to those who know much more than we!

So, going on a short trip to England and have only ever visited London. The plan is to land and train it somewhere south (Crawley, Farnam, Ashford?) to pick up a car, but that is as far as we have gotten. Here is what we do not want to do: spend time in cities, bedroom communities, or shopping.

We would like to find two home bases for three days or so each, to sample historical architecture, villages, churches. Some hiking, but not a 'hiking holiday'. Tentatively, we were looking at 3 days in Kent (driving distance to East Hastings and Canterbury, etc.) and then three days somewhere west of these (maybe somewhere within South Downs?).

So, without too much driving around, we are looking to taste the flavour of England south of London. Does anyone have any tips about what home bases would be ideal?

Thanks!
Jan.

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