From rolling hills to bustling market towns, the South Downs National Park’s landscapes cover 1,600km2 of breathtaking views and hidden gems. A rich tapestry of wildlife, landscapes, tranquillity and visitor attractions, weave together a story of people and place in harmony.
Discover the white cliffs of Seven Sisters, rolling farmland, ancient woodland and lowland heaths or enjoy our ‘picture perfect’ villages, traditional country pubs or flourishing vineyards. Let the South Downs National Park subtly seduce you.
Secret Hills Walking use this landscape as the backdrop to great walking - Green rolling pastures, open spaces, ancient woodlands and river valleys truly encompass the National Park’s ethos of being one of ‘Britain’s Breathing Spaces’. While bustling towns and traditional villages steeped in history offer a multitude of cultural opportunities.
We walk in the area bounded by Eastbourne to the east and Lewes to the west, mainly with the South Downs Way as a close companion.
The South Downs may be said to have three main component parts: the East Hampshire Downs, the Western Downs and the Eastern Downs, together with the river valleys that cut across them and the land immediately below them, the scarpfoot. The Western and Eastern Downs are often collectively referred to as the Sussex Downs. The Western Downs, lying west of the River Arun, are much more wooded, particularly on the scarp face, than the Eastern Downs. It is the bare Eastern Downs - the only part of the chalk escarpment to which, until the late 19th century, the term "South Downs" was usually applied - that has come to epitomise, in literature and art, the South Downs as a whole and which has been the subject matter of such celebrated writers and artists as Rudyard Kipling (the "blunt, bow-headed, whale-backed downs") and Eric Ravilious.
Four river valleys cut through the South Downs, namely those of the rivers Arun, Adur, Ouse and Cuckmere, providing a contrasting landscape. Chalk aquifers and to a lesser extent winterbourne streams supply much of the water required by the surrounding settlements. Dew ponds, artificial ponds for watering livestock, are a characteristic feature on the downland.
The highest point on the South Downs is Butser Hill, whose summit is 270 metres (890 ft) above sea level. The plateau-like top of this vast, irregularly shaped hill, which lies just south of Petersfield, Hampshire, was in regular use through prehistory. It has been designated as a National Nature Reserve.
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