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

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

Sample Route

Alfriston to The Long Man of Wilmington
Start/FinishRiver Lane, Alfriston (TQ 521 032)
Distance5 miles (8km)
MapsOS Explorer 123 Eastbourne & Beachy Head 1:25,000
RefreshmentsPubs, cafés, restaurants and shops in Alfriston, pub in Wilmington
AccessBy Cuckmere Community Bus, or Ramblerbus from Berwick Station ( or ☎ 01323 870920). Nearest railway stations at Berwick and Seaford
ParkingPublic car parks at northern end of Alfriston village (TQ 521 033)

This gentle circular walk climbs onto the slopes of Windover Hill, and passes below the Long Man of Wilmington before descending to the Cuckmere Valley and returning to Alfriston by way of the earthworks of Burlough Castle, and a short stroll alongside the river.

From the Market Cross at the northern end of Alfriston High Street, walk down River Lane (sign for the South Downs Way), and at the bottom turn right along the bank of the River Cuckmere. On coming to a footbridge, cross to the east bank and, ignoring footpaths to right and left, keep ahead as far as a narrow lane opposite the attractive Great Meadow Barn (Plonk Barn on the 1:25,000 OS map). Turn right and, after a few paces, take a footpath on the left, signed to Jevington.

Halfway up the slope, bear left through a line of trees, then angle up and across the sloping field to a gap in a hedge. Through this gap continue across the next field. Off to the right the spire of Lullington Church, partly hidden among trees, can be seen nearby. On the far side of the field a stile leads onto a crossing path where you turn right. This is on the route of the South Downs Way. Very shortly arrive at another narrow lane beside a small parking area at TQ 532 032.

Cross directly ahead onto a continuing chalk path rising up the flank of Windover Hill. Pass a flat-topped underground reservoir, go through a gate and immediately turn left onto the crest of the Downs to gain a view across the Cuckmere Valley to the long line of the South Downs stretching north-westward, forming an effective wall to the low-lying spread of the Weald.

Follow a fence-line for a few paces, then take a footpath off to the right. Keep ahead at a crossing path, then go through a bridle gate and wander along the steep west slope. When the path forks, keep on the upper branch to pass below the Long Man of Wilmington.


The Long Man of Wilmington is said to be England’s largest chalk figure. Cut into the Downland slope facing north, he is 226ft (69m) long and with outstretched arms holds a 250ft (76m) staff in each hand. Although his origin is unknown, he was traditionally thought to have been created in the Bronze Age, some 4000 years ago. Others speculate that he was carved by the Saxons, but whoever was responsible for this most famous of Sussex figures, he was cleverly designed in such a way that he is never seriously foreshortened from wherever he is studied, despite the steepness of the hill.

Ignore the path which descends to a gate and continue ahead on what is part of the Wealdway long distance path. This eventually brings you to another gate by some trees. Through this turn left on a broad sunken path which leads to Wilmington High Street opposite the 12th-century church of St Mary and St Peter. Beside the church stands an ancient yew tree thought to be about 1600 years old. Turn right and walk through the village to a telephone box, where you then turn left along a tarmac drive. For refreshments continue along the High Street a short distance to the village pub. When the road curves a little to the right, leave the drive for a footpath going ahead, then over a stile follow the right-hand edge of a field to a gap in the hedge. Go through this, then with the hedge to your left maintain direction, and at the far side of the field go through a small plantation and into another open meadow. Across this pass alongside an attractive flint-walled converted barn, and continue across interlinking fields following Wealdway signs to reach a country road at TQ 538 049.

Where there’s chalk there’s flint – a common building material on the South Downs

Cross a stile into another field directly ahead, and follow the right-hand hedgerow to an oak tree. Cross another stile and turn left for a few paces, not far from the busy A27. Bear left across a small field to yet another stile giving access to a sloping field, where you keep along its left-hand boundary with Berwick church seen at the foot of the Downs off to your right.

In the distance, The Long Man of Wilmington, icon of the Downs

Pass alongside some ruined flint walls, and by way of linking fields come to the earthworks of Burlough Castle, after which the way goes along a hedge-lined track. This eventually spills onto a lane at a bend on the outskirts of Milton Street. Walk ahead along the lane, but at the far end of the boundary wall of Milton Court Farm, go through a kissing gate on the right, and over two linking fields to another narrow lane. Turn right, cross a bridge over the Cuckmere, then follow a raised footpath on the left to accompany the river back to Alfriston, and come to River Lane where the walk began.

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