Where to go in the South Downs?

The South Downs are the perfect holiday destination for anyone interested in getting away from the hustle and bustle of ordinary life.  The South Downs are a range of chalk hills situated in Hampshire, between Winchester and Chichester  This is a beautiful and serene part of the world, with plenty of outdoor activities on offer and some of the best dining opportunities in the south of England.

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The hills of the South Downs cover approximately 670 square kilometres, from Itchen Valley in Hampshire to Beachy Head, in East Sussex.  The towns situated within the South Downs include Eastbourne, Seaford, Newhaven, Lewes, Brighton, Steyning, Worthing, Arundel, Chichester and Winchester.  The South Downs are a part of the South Downs National Park — England’s newest national park, which was established on 1 April 2011.

There are plenty of enjoyable activities available in the area for people of all ages.  Here are a few of the best!

 

Hiking or Biking Along South Downs Way


South Downs Way is a huge 160-kilometre path that runs along the chalk escarpment of the South Downs.  The path is of historical significance and historians believe it has been in use for more than 8,000 years.

 

Enjoy the West Sussex beaches in the Ferring Beach Houses!

 

Hiking or biking along the trail is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Southern England.  South Downs Way winds through many villages and towns, where you can enjoy some of the best pub food in England and learn more about the history of the region.

A number of other trails intersect with South Downs Way including:

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  • Shipwrights Way
    A new 50-mile long trail in East Hampshire that links many villages and towns. The trail features 20 beautiful carved stone sculptures which pay tribute to the history of the area and local wildlife.
  • Hangers Way
    A 21-mile long path that starts at Alton Railway Station and finishes at Queen Elizabeth Country Park. The path travels through some very lush Hampshire countryside, and a series of steep-sided wooded hills, known as “The Hangers”.
  • St Swithun’s Way
    A 34-mile long-distance walk from Winchester to Farnham. The path winds its way through the picturesque Itchen Valley before passing through a number of lovely local villages.  The path goes through Alresford, Alton, and Chawton (the home of Jane Austen).  Walkers can also hitch a ride on the Watercress Line — Hampshire’s steam railway.
  • Pilgrims’ Trail
    A medieval route from the shrine of St Swithun at Winchester Cathedral to Bishop’s Waltham. This trail follows in the footsteps of the Miquelots — pilgrims who would continue on to the sanctuary of Mont St Michel in Normandy, France.  It is a beautiful trail that many people find spiritually rewarding.
  • Staunton Way
    Staunton Way is a 8.5-20.5 mile path from Queen Elizabeth Country Park, near Petersfield on the South Downs to Staunton Country Park near Havant. There are many interesting buildings and historic sites along the path, which can be walked in one session or divided into shorter segments.
  • Rioters Walk
    On Monday 22nd November 1830, rioters ransacked a workhouse in Selborne, Hampshire, then pulled down the roof! The next day, they did the same thing to another workhouse in Headley, 7-miles away.  This walk allows visitors to re-trace the steps of the rioters.  An interesting and educational walk with a great deal of historical significance.

Another popular location within the South Downs National Park is The Devil’s Dyke.  It is the  largest chalkland dry combe (a large waterless valley) in Britain.  It is home to a plethora of native plants and animals.  It features spectacular views towards the Weald and south over the sea.

 

Cultural and Historic Activities


The South Downs has many historical buildings and areas of cultural significance.  One of the best ways to enjoy the natural beauty of the area and its cultural significance is to go on a literary walk.

Smartphone applications can be downloaded to guide visitors through the walks, helping them learn more about these remarkable writers.  Some of the popular literary walks include:

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  • Jane Austen Trail
    Thousands of visitors come to Winchester each year to learn more about Jane Austen. The Jane Austen trail visits many of the important landmarks of her life around the local area.  It includes her house in Chawton and Winchester Cathedral, where she was buried.
  • William Cobbett Literary Walk
    William Cobbett was a farmer, soldier, politician, prisoner, journalist and writer who led a very interesting life. This 6-mile walk visits many of the locations that inspired his writing.
  • H. Hudson Literary Walk
    William Henry Hudson was a self-taught naturalist who spent years documenting the natural environment of the South Downs.
  • Edward Thomas Literary Walk
    A self-guided walk around Steep and Ashford Hangers which visits the homes of Edward Thomas. Thomas wrote many essays, reviews and biographies before being killed in the Battle of Arras in 1917.

 

Eating Out


There are many fantastic restaurants in the area, with a strong emphasis on pub food.  Some of the best restaurants in the South Downs include:

The Royal Oak Poynings

  • The Shepherd & Dog, Fulking (near Devil’s Dyke)
    A wide range of traditional ales, delicious pub food and entertainment. The Shepherd & Dog blends traditional and contemporary food to create an interesting menu that uses a lot of local produce.
  • The Royal Oak, Poynings
    Enjoy beautiful views while having a delicious meal and ale.
  • The Plough, Pyecombe
    The Plough has a large menu that includes pizzas, Mexican food, traditional British pub food and Italian dishes.
  • The Jack & Jill, Clayton
    A family-owned pub that specialises in quality pub food that uses local produce — local free range eggs, fresh fish caught off the Sussex coast and local cheeses are the highlights.
  • The White Horse, Ditchling
    Delicious traditional food with a contemporary twist!

 

Other Activities in the South Downs


In addition to exploring the outdoors and enjoying some great food, a few other popular activities in the area include:

Winchester front

  • A tour of Harveys brewery
    The oldest brewery in the South Downs and the perfect place to visit after a day on the trail!
  • Wine tasting at The English Wine Centre, Berwick
    The English Wine Centre has a huge range of English wines. They run a wine tasting session on the first Monday of each month.
  • Wine tasting at Ridgeview Wine Estate and Upperton Vineyards
    Both of these South Downs wineries produce great-tasting wines that are worth sampling.
  • Visit Winchester Cathedral and Wolvesey Castle
    Both of these historic buildings are “must-see” locations when visiting the area
  • Sussex bushcraft school, South Downs
    The bushcraft school helps people learn about the natural environment of the South Downs as well as learning some useful survival skills.
  • Mushroom walks in Sussex
    A fun and educational experience that helps people learn about the delicious bush foods available in the South Downs.
  • Arundel Wetland Centre
    60-acres of ponds, reed beds and lakes to explore on foot or in a boat. The perfect day out with the children!

 

 

 

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