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Sussex is a historic county in South East England corresponding roughly in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex. It is bounded on the north by Surrey, east by Kent, south by the English Channel, and west by Hampshire, and is divided for local government into West Sussex and East Sussex and the City of Brighton and Hove. The city of Brighton & Hove was created a unitary authority in 1997; and was granted City status in 2000. Until then Chichester had been Sussex's only city.

The divisions of West Sussex and East Sussex were originally established in 1189, and had obtained separate administrations (Quarter Sessions) by the 16th century. This situation was recognised by the County of Sussex Act 1865. Under the Local Government Act 1888 the two divisions became two administrative counties (along with three county boroughs: Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings).

The appellation Sussex remained in use as a ceremonial county until 1974, when the Lord-Lieutenant of Sussex was replaced with one each for East and West Sussex. The whole of Sussex has had a single police force since 1968.

Sussex still retains a strong local identity and the county's unofficial anthem is Sussex by the Sea. The county's motto, "We wun't be druv", reflects the strong-willed nature of its people in past centuries. Sussex's device shows six martlets. Sussex's county flower is the round-headed rampion, also known as the Pride of Sussex. June 16, the feast day of the county's patron saint St Richard, has been declared Sussex Day by West Sussex County Council. Although it retains a strong identity, most people say West Sussex and East Sussex today and even use them in lists of traditional counties sometimes.

The physical geography of Sussex relies heavily on its lying on the southern part of the Wealden anticline. The major features of that are the high lands which cross the county in a west to east direction: the Weald itself, and the South Downs. The former consists of clays and sands; the latter chalk. Between those two ridges, mainly in West Sussex, lies the ‘’Vale of Sussex’’; at the eastern end of the county is the valley of the River Rother, which flows into what was a long sea inlet to reach the sea at Rye Bay.

The Weald runs in an easterly direction from St Leonard’s Forest, south-west of Crawley; and continues to Ashdown Forest. Its eastern extremity is in two sections, divided by the River Rother valley. The northern arm reaches the sea at Folkestone (in Kent); the southern at Fairlight Down east of Hastings.

Within the Weald lies Sussex's highest point, the pine-clad Black Down, close to the Surrey border at 917 feet (280 m). Another high point is in the part called Forest Ridges: a height of about 800 feet (240 m) is reached at Beacon Hill in the neighbourhood of Crowborough.

The High Weald, as the main area is known, gets its name from ’’wilderness’’ or forest, and it retains the highest proportion of ancient woodlands in the country. Around 1660 the total area under forest was estimated to exceed 200,000 acres (81,000 ha) , and supplied the furnaces of the ironworks which formed an important industry in the county until the 17th century, and which survived even until the early years of the 19th century.

The South Downs start from a point near Petersfield in Hampshire . On entering Sussex, their summit is about 10 miles (16 km) from the sea. They run east for some 50 miles (80 km), gradually approaching the coast, and terminating in the bold promontory of Beachy Head near Eastbourne. Their average height is about 500 feet (150 m) though Ditchling Beacon is 813 feet (248 m) (the third highest summit) and many other summits exceed 700 feet (210 m).

The Vale of Sussex is the lower undulating land which came into being when the softer clays between the Weald and the Downs were worn away. Crossing the Vale are most of the rivers in Sussex: those rising on the slopes of the Weald and cutting through the Downs to reach the sea.

The Coastal Plain is a fertile narrow belt from Chichester to Brighton. Once noted for market gardening, it is now heavily built-up into a sprawling coastal conurbation. The beaches along the coast vary from sandy to shingle: that factor, together with the mild climate of the coast, sheltered by the hills from north and east winds, have resulted in the growth of numerous resort towns, of which the most popular are (east to west) Hastings, Bexhill, Eastbourne, Seaford, Brighton, Shoreham-by-Sea, Worthing, Littlehampton and Bognor.

There are several areas of low-lying marshland along the coast; from west to east these are:
- in the west of the county, south of Chichester, lying between Chichester Harbour and Pagham Harbour;
- beyond Beachy Head, the ‘’Pevensey Levels’’;
- beyond Hastings, the ‘’Pett Levels’’;
- beyond Rye, the ‘’Walland Marsh’’ part of Romney Marsh.

All were originally bays; natural coastal deposition and man-made protective walls have given rise to alluvial deposition.

The rivers wholly within the county are relatively short. All rise in the Weald (St Leonard’s Forest area) and, apart from the eastern River Rother, flow south to the English Channel, using gaps in the South Downs as they do so. The mouths of all have been affected by longshore drift, particularly during violent storms during the Middle Ages. From west to east they are:
- Arun, and its tributary the western River Rother: source of Arun near Horsham ; entering the sea at Littlehampton
- Adur: source near Cuckfield; mouth near Shoreham-by-Sea
- Ouse: source near Lower Beeding; mouth at Newhaven
- Cuckmere: rising near Heathfield; mouth ‘’Cuckmere Haven’’.
- Eastern River Rother and its many tributaries including the Rivers Bewl (flowing through Bewl Water) and Tillingham: source, the Weald near Heathfield; it flows in an easterly direction and enters the sea at Rye Bay. A section known as the Kent Ditch forms the boundary between East Sussex and Kent.     

South East England combines the highest average daytime temperatures found in the British Isles with the highest sunshine averages on the British mainland. There are between 25 and 30 inches (635-760 mm) of rainfall; and there can be high variation of temperature between day and night.

The climate of the coastal districts is strongly influenced by the sea, which because of its tendency to warm up slower than land, can result in cooler temperatures than inland in the summer. In the autumn months, the coast sometimes has higher temperatures. Rainfall during the summer months is mainly from thunderstorms and thundery showers; from January to March the heavier rainfall is due to south-westerly frontal systems. The coast has consistently more sunshine than the inland areas: sea breezes, blowing off the sea, clear any cloud from the coast.

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