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South Downs Way

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Running from Winchester to Eastbourne near the south coast of England, the South Downs Way offers 100 miles of some of the finest lowland walking in the country. Following the ridges and the escarpment of the South Downs' chalk landscape the trail finds its way along the same ancient tracks that drovers used for centuries, if not millennia.

South Downs Way

These ancient traders wanted to escape the dense woodland of the wet valleys and so they took to the drier and more open hillsides. Thanks to them, we have wonderful tracks boasting amazing views northwards to the Weald and southwards out to sea over the English Channel.

You can think of the route as having three sections; farmland, woodland and rolling hills in the west, classic open chalk downland in the centre, and chalk sea cliffs in the east. Although the geology is consistently chalk, there is a significant amount of variety in the feel of the landscape.

Beginning in the west at the historic city of Winchester, take time to visit the cathedral before setting off. Soon after Chilcombe, the first climb takes you up onto high ground at Cheesefoot Head. The landscape here is a pleasing mix of farmland and beech woodland and the trail meanders gently through the landscape until it reaches the beautiful villages of the Meon Valley. An alternative route via the ancient sites of Beacon Hill and Old Winchester Hill is well worth considering here. From here, the trail closely follows the scarp edge to Butser Hill where it drops into the valley of the A3 and the Queen Elizabeth Country Park.

Back out on the scarp again, the next section of broken woodland provides tremendous views over to the Weald in the north and the sea to the south. Numerous Iron Age historical sites along this section are worth investigating. Soon the trail crosses the A29 and drops to cross the River Arun between Houghton and Amberley.

There are numerous choices for a well-deserved pint here so you can tackle the next climb well refreshed. Passing Chantonbury Ring and Upper Beeding brings truly impressive chalk scenery with the remarkable dry valley of Devil's Dyke and numerous opportunities to take in stunning views. Across the road at Pyecombe you'll find the twin windmills, Jack and Jill, just above Clayton and then the scarp is back in all its splendour, over to the tumuli at Blackcap where a sharp turn to the south takes us briefly away from the escarpment as we head to the crossing of the River Ouse.

Soon the Cuckmere River is crossed via the footbridge just outside the beautiful village of Alfriston and here the footpath turns south to follow the river down to the sea through the Seven Sisters Country Park. Stunning cliffs follow with the highlights being the Seven Sisters and the awesome Beachy Head, before final arrival at our destination on the promenade of Eastbourne.

 

 


 

 

 


 


 

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