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Walking in the South Downs National Park with a Cicerone guidebook - Introduction

Cover of Walks in the South Downs National Park
3 May 2016
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm
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Walks in the South Downs National Park

by Kev Reynolds
Book published by Cicerone Press

Guidebook with 40 circular walks throughout the South Downs National Park, exploring the beautiful chalk hills between Eastbourne and Winchester. The walks range from under 5 miles to 11 miles, including Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters, Ditchling Beacon and hundreds of prehistoric sites. Accessible all year, but wild flowers best in spring.

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Guidebook to 40 day walks in the South Downs National Park. The walks, which are designed to suit all abilities, are dotted all over the National Park and range from 4¾ miles (7.5km) to 11 miles (17.5km). Each walk is circular, and where possible begins and ends at a place accessible by public transport.

 With some of the most iconic landscapes in southern England, including the white chalk cliffs of Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters, and such well-loved landmarks as Ditchling Beacon and atmospheric ancient monuments like the Cissbury Ring, walking in the park proves a delightful experience mile after mile.

 Step-by-step route descriptions are accompanied by 1:50,000 OS mapping. Also included is information on the plants and wildlife of the Downs, as well as handy practical information on accommodation, car parking and public transport.


  • Activities
    Short walks and day walks
  • Seasons
    Accessible in all seasons but spring and early summer are best for wild flowers and birdsong.
  • Centres
    Eastbourne, Alfriston, Washington, Storrington, Amberley, Arundel, East Meon, West Meon; and easy access from Brighton, Worthing, Chichester and Winchester.
  • Difficulty
    Walks to suit all ages and abilities; no difficulties apart from some short steep uphill and downhill sections.
  • Must See
    From Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters to the Hampshire Downs near Winchester; villages like Alfriston, Amberley and East Meon; viewpoints like Seaford Head, Bostal Hill, Ditchling Beacon, Harting Down, Beacon Hill and Salt Hill, historic sites such as Cissbury and Chanctonbury Ring and Old Winchester Hill.
Walk 2:
Please note that the signpost indicating the way to West Dean that stood on the edge of Friston Forest after leaving Jevington, mentioned on p34, no longer exists. Neither does the oak post at the four-way crossing ½mile further on. 
The way ahead through the forest on the broad ride is clear, as is the four-way crossing, so continue to follow directions in the book. After crossing Snap Hill, the way descends to a crossing track. This is now metalled. Over this continue up the slope ahead as per the guide, eventually leaving the trees to a broad open view that includes Friston Water Tower seen across the valley. Descend the grass slope to enter more forest in Butchershole Bottom, and shortly come onto a very narrow tarmac lane alongside the grounds of Friston Place.


The essential Downs
Plants and wildlife of the Downs
Walking on the Downs
Using the guide
Public transport and car parking
Where to stay
The Country Code
The Walks
1 Eastbourne to Birling Gap and East Dean (9½ miles)
2 Butts Brow to Jevington and Friston (7 miles)
3 Jevington to Friston Forest and the Long Man (7½ miles)
4 Jevington to Alfriston and Wilmington (8½ miles)
5 Exceat to East Dean and the Seven Sisters (8 miles)
6 Exceat to the Cuckmere Valley and Alfriston (7 miles)
7 Exceat Bridge to Cuckmere Haven and Seaford Head (6½ miles)
8 Alfriston to The Long Man of Wilmington (5 miles)
9 Alfriston to Bostal Hill, Alciston and Berwick (7 miles)
10 Bopeep to Bishopstone (7½ miles)
11 Glynde to Beddingham Hill, Firle Beacon and Bostal Hill (11 miles)
12 Glynde to Mount Caburn and Saxon Cross (6 miles)
13 Southease Station to Rodmell and Telscombe (7½ miles)
14 Cooksbridge to Plumpton Plain and Buckland Bank (10 miles)
15 Hassocks to the Clayton Windmills and Ditchling Beacon (10 miles)
16 Devil's Dyke to Edburton Hill and Poynings (6½ miles)
17 Devil's Dyke to Mile Oak Barn and Edburton Hill (6½ miles)
18 Wiston to No Man's Land (6½ miles)
19 Findon to Cissbury Ring (7 miles)
20 Washington to Chanctonbury Ring (4¾ miles)
21 Washington to Kithurst Hill (7½ miles)
22 Chantry Post to Myrtle Grove Farm (7 miles)
23 Storrington to Parham Park and Rackham Hill (7½ miles)
24 Amberley to The Burgh (6¾ miles)
25 Burpham to Angmering Park (6 miles)
26 Arundel to South Stoke and Burpham (8 miles)
27 Bignor Hill to Sutton (6¼ miles)
28 Bignor Hill to Slindon (7¾ miles)
29 Duncton to Barlavington and Sutton (5 or 6 miles)
30 Singleton to Littlewood Farm (5½ miles)
31 West Stoke to Kingley Vale and Stoughton (6½ miles)
32 Compton to East Marden (5 miles)
33 Harting Down to Beacon Hill and Telegraph House (5 miles)
34 East Meon to Salt Hill (5 miles)
35 East Meon to Small Down (6 miles)
36 West Meon to Brockwood Copse (5 miles)
37 West Meon to Old Winchester Hill and Henwood Down (9 miles)
38 Exton to Warnford and Beacon Hill (6 miles)
39 Exton to Lomer Farm (6½ miles)
40 Cheriton to Tichborne (6½ miles)
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Useful addresses
Appendix C Bibliography


The quintessential Downs: the eastern Downs, from above Wilmington

The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.

Charles Dickens (1812–1870)

A few days ago we walked the last of the routes for this book. The forecast was not promising; the late summer sky was heavy with impatient clouds, and rain fell as the Downs hove into view. But half an hour into our walk the cloud cover broke, and sunshine swept the great open spaces like searchlights picking out individual features before moving on. It was midweek and we had the world to ourselves – plus a few hundred sheep and skylarks that hung as tiny specks over our heads hour upon blustery hour.

We walked southward, the distant sea speckled with white. In one direction a harvested field had been rolled into pillows of golden straw; in another cropped grasslands stretched into infinity. The spire of an ancient church beckoned from a wooded hollow, and as we wandered down the slope to investigate, we ate our fill of sweet, juicy blackberries and breathed in the fragrance of honeysuckle.

The church was a gem. For over a thousand years it had marked the hopes and aspirations, the joys and sorrows, new life and tearful parting, of countless generations of South Downs folk. Its carved arches caught our breath with wonder. Its windows cast patterns on a floor worn by prayerful knees; its walls echoed the peace of ten centuries and more. On a memorial tablet we discovered a verse that struck a chord, so perfectly did it sum up what the World Out There meant to us. It could become our epitaph.

At a junction of paths just below the crown of a hill but sheltered from the wind, we settled on the grass to eat our sandwiches with a panoramic view of something like 300° to gaze upon. A local woman exercising her dogs stopped to pass the time of day, to share enthusiasm (hers and ours) for the beauty of the scene, for the enriching goodness of the Downs, for the freedom and energy to be able to enjoy them. If anything, her appreciation increased ours and we parted with smiles of friendship.

Having crossed and recrossed the Downs we arrived back where we'd begun several hours earlier, and now gazed northward across the Weald – the Weald patterned with field and meadow, blotches of woodland, a few tiny villages, and more hills far off and blue with distance.

In a little over a month we'll be in the Himalaya among sky-scratching peaks and tumbling glaciers. But it'll be no more beautiful or rewarding than our days wandering on the South Downs. Just different. The ‘blunt, bow-headed, whalebacked Downs’ are no substitute for bigger hills. Complete in themselves, they're enriching, fulfilling, uplifting, and anyone who enjoys a walk with a big broad view and the brush of an unchecked breeze will find all they need here.

The walk across the Seven Sisters is a much-loved outing (Walk 5)

Some of England's loveliest villages are found in the South Downs; this thatched cottage is in Amberley (Walk 24)

This book is a guide to some of the most rewarding walks to be had in the South Downs National Park, and is the result of many years spent exploring these lovely hills, valleys and villages. Literally hundreds of miles have been walked, in all seasons and in all weathers, and we've enjoyed every one of them. The difficulty was in choosing just 40 routes to represent the essential Downs.

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