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Walking the dog. Walking off lunch. Walking the 100 miles of the South Downs Way. Whatever your reasons for stepping foot on the South Downs, there’s a route that’s right for you. In fact there are more routes here than in any other National Park in the UK – 3,300km of footpaths, bridleways and byways in total.

Old railway lines have been converted to trails such at the Centurion Way or Meon Valley Trail. Food routes connect country pubs and afternoon tea rooms. And the Serpents Way winds for 64 miles through the gorse and heather-rich Wealden Greensand.

Enjoy a weekend walking between Polegate and Lewes, spending the night in the village of Alfriston, and you’ll encounter the full range of riches that make the Downs unique – Saxon burial mounds; the Long Man of Wilmington carved into the hillside; the unspoilt and undeveloped Cuckmere estuary; one of the oldest cricket grounds in the world; the smallest church in England; and the home of Bloomsbury writer Virginia Woolf.

Woolf was one of many writers who loved to walk on the South Downs, where the sense of space and ever-changing views brought her both inspiration and solace. Other local writers are the inspiration for other literary trails.

West Sussex Literary Trail

Thomas, whom Ted Hughes called “the father of us all”, was best known as a war poet. However for the two decades before the war he walked and wrote about the “frail tracks” and “long white roads” of the South Downs. Today, the literary trail around his home village of Steep takes hikers up to one of the most beautiful and distinctive views in the National Park, the densely forested hillsides called the Hangers. As you puff your way to the top you pass a memorial stone laid in 1937 by the then Poet Laureate John Masefield. Quoting Thomas, its inscription is a sort of walkers’ prayer: “And I rose up and knew I was tired and I continued my journey.”

Edward Thomas Literary Trail

Walking Trails

Hidden Landscape Trails

Beneath the ancient woodland of the South Downs National Park lies a secret landscape littered with traces of the people who have lived, visited and worked here. The woods have protected this hidden landscape with features unseen and unknown for years, even by the frequent visitor. However, recent research, including ground breaking LIDAR data of the project area, carried out by the Heritage Lottery Funded project Secrets of the High Woods  has revealed these treasures and some of the stories behind them. Come and explore this recently discovered landscape with our new Hidden Landscape Trails:

  • Stansted Park
  • The Trundle (coming soon)
  • Kingley Vale (coming soon)

Miles Without Stiles

Trails suitable for people with impaired mobility, wheelchairs, mobility scooters and push chairs.

Octagon Walks

Explore the Octagon Parish using these easy to follow walks, produced to help guide visitors through a beautiful and unspoilt part of West Sussex.

The Octagon Parish is made up of eight villages with churches: Stansted, Racton, Stoughton, East Marden, North Marden, Up Marden, Compton and Forestside and two villages without churches: West Marden and Walderton.

All of the walks are accessible by the number 54 bus.

Walks from our Partners


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