Days Out: Newhaven Fort, East Sussex

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The Independent Travel

The venue

Newhaven Fort was the first fort to be built into the English landscape, rather than standing on top of it. It was constructed in the 1860s high on the cliffs of the Sussex coast to see off Napoleon and its advantageous position was utilised in both World Wars. The fort was handed over to the local council in 1962 and was eventually restored as a military history attraction. The big guns facing out to sea on the cliff can be climbed over, and the old Victorian tunnels and corridors to the magazine (where gunpowder was stored) and the laboratory (where explosives were prepared) can be explored.

For children

Get barked at by a life-size sergeant major; huddle in a narrow air raid shelter as bombs fall outside and the lights flash on and off. The Second World War home front exhibition is particularly vivid, stuffed with artefacts, photographs and interactive displays. The First World War exhibit pulled off the impressive feat of explaining the conflict's origins to an 11-year-old in an opening film. Peer over sandbags into a trench and see a wounded soldier braving rudimentary medical aid. There is also a moving audio account of the writings of the war poets, set amid relics of the battlefields.

For adults

Military and architectural historians will be in their element. A short film describes the fort's revolutionary design: it was the first to use concrete, with shingle winched up from the beach. There are also displays about the Sussex services including the Royal Observer Corps, which until 1991 secretly practised how to track clouds of radiation and deal with the aftermath of a nuclear attack. The fort was also heavily involved in both the disastrous Dieppe raid of 1942 and the D-Day assaults in Normandy two years later. There are detailed interactive exhibitions of both operations and you can hear a doodlebug whining then cutting out as well as listen to the German propagandist Lord Haw-Haw on the wireless.

Refreshments

Baked potatoes, soup, sandwiches and cakes at the Searchlight Café. It has outdoor tables for picnics.

Access

All the major exhibits have ramps, and most cliff-top areas are accessible with assistance. There is an adapted unisex toilet.

Admission

Open daily, 10.30am-6pm until 31 October (5pm closing after). Adults £5.50, concession £4.60, children £3.60, family ticket £16.50.

How to get there

Newhaven Fort, Newhaven, East Sussex BN9 9DS. (01273 517622; newhavenfort.org. uk). By car: Newhaven is on the A259 between Brighton and Eastbourne. The fort is signposted on all approach roads. By train: Newhaven Town station is about a mile from the fort served by Southern Trains (08451 272 920; southerntrailway.com). By bus: town centre bus stops about 15 minutes' walk.

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