Food & Drink
If you look from the top of the South Downs, your view will be filled with fields in most directions. 85 per cent of the South Downs is farmland of one kind or another. There are cattle grazing, orchards, vineyards and fields of wheat. This is a place full of things to eat and drink.
You will probably also see sheep, and lots of them. The South Downs has two unique varieties, the Hampshire Down and the Southdown. Known for their extreme hardiness, they are old breeds with a smooth rich taste. So distinct and important is the Southdown breed that the international Slow Food Foundation, which works to preserve rare and unique foods from all over the world, includes it in its Ark of Taste.
It’s not the only local produce to make it into the Ark. The banks of rivers such as the Meon and Itchen in Hampshire are the UK’s home of watercress, and traditionally grown Hampshire watercress (Nasturtium officianale) is also included. It’s got a distinctive peppery, mustard-like flavour, and can be enjoyed in pubs and cafes across the National Park in soups, salads or as an accompaniment for beef. Slow Food may bring international recognition, but it comes thanks to the many people working inside the National Park to preserve our culinary heritage. Based in Lewes, Common Cause supports local food schemes ranging from seed swaps to a community orchard in Ringmer. In Stanmer, Fork & Dig It is a community horticulture project growing delicious, nutritious organic food for local supply. And over in Slindon, the village has set up its own community-run shop in the Forge to provide local residents with food and groceries from the area.
You can also visit the South Downs Food and Drink Portal to find a wealth of tasty produce from across the National Park. The site includes over 200 businesses, including farmers markets, farm shops, food festivals and places to enjoy quality local produce.
You can also buy a wide range of our finest produce at one of the many farmers markets that take place each weekend across the park. In Sussex they can be found in Lewes, Pulborough, Slindon and Lynchmere; in Hampshire at Petersfield and Alton. Or head to Winchester every second and final Sunday of the month for the largest – and recently voted the best – farmers’ market in the UK.
Many of our finest pubs and restaurants pride themselves on the quality of their local produce. At the White Horse Pub in Chilgrove all the game and fish is locally caught or shot. At the Chestnut Horse in Easton, not only is local food served in the pub, there’s a village shop in the car park that the pub has opened to supply the surrounding villages with provisions as well.
Finally, and as a visit to any of these pubs will show, it’s not just food of which this area is proud. Whether you fancy a locally brewed beer or a glass of our world-famous sparkling wine, you’ll find there’s always something delicious to wash it all down.