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.
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.