Get to know the quiet side of the South Downs
When you think of the South Downs, where do you think of? Is it the iconic cliffs of Seven Sisters and Beachy Head? Maybe Devil’s Dyke is your go to spot? If you’re in Chichester, maybe Kingley Vale is where you head for a stroll amongst the Bronze Age barrows?
Regular visits to these spots probably know that many of these locations can soon get busy, with car parks becoming full by lunch time and people resorting to parking on verges (which you definitely shouldn’t do).
Here’s our tips on some alternative locations you may not have previously considered when spending a day in the South Downs.
Charleston, Ditchling and Southease
We’ve teamed up with partner organisations in this quaint part of East Sussex to launch a new immersive walking experience across three cultural venues.
You can download the App from your phone’s app store:
One Garden at Stanmer
Following a massive restoration, in April 2021 the new One Garden has opened at Stanmer Park, the largest park in Brighton and Hove.
Visitors can wander among themed garden areas designed by landscape architect Dominic Cole, who worked on the Eden Project, and browse in the farm shop and glasshouses. Interpretation boards exploring some of the historic themes that have shaped Stanmer life for more than 5,000 years are being installed, along with wind-up “listening posts” where visitors will be able to listen volunteers recount their park memories.
New pathways and trails, plus an off-road route alongside the central driveway, give visitors a fresh perspective on the park’s sweeping 18th Century designed landscape.
The Serpent Trail (various)
The trail snakes its away from Haslemere in Surrey (the head and tongue), climbing up to its highest point in the National Park at Black Down, then weaving its way onward to Petersfield in Hampshire.
The 100km (65 mile) Serpent Trail can be considered the ‘little sister’ of the more well-known South Downs Way.
As with the South Downs Way, the Serpent Trail can be completed all in one go or by stages.
If walking with dogs, be sure to keep them on the lead to protect the rare wildlife such as the sand lizard and nightjars, one of our very unique groundnesting birds.
Heathland Sculpture Trail
Lowland heathland is a super rare habitat (rarer than rainforest, in fact!). The Heathlands Reunited project has brought together eleven partners to restore, reconnect and recreate this habitat.
Inspired by the stories from the communities near the heaths, seven bespoke stone carvings have been created and placed on heathland sites, creating the Heathland Sculpture Trail.
Why not make a summer adventure by slowly trying to find all of the heathland sculptures? To help you out, we’ve created some videos offering clues on how you can find them all.
Benefitting from a mainline train station connecting London Victoria with the south coast, Amberley is perfect for car-free day outs.
With two pubs, a working pottery, museum and a whole host of walks taking in the South Downs Way and the River Arun (plus a few diversions to some of the other country pubs in nearby villages), Amberley is ideal for those looking for a stress-free retreat from busy crowds.
Downs Link (Shoreham-by-Sea)
Connecting the South Downs to the North Downs, the Downs Link follows two disused railway lines and crosses the Surrey Hills and Low Weald.
The path is accessible via number of locations in Surrey and West Sussex.
With a train station at Shoreham-by-Sea, it makes for both a perfect start point and end point.
Intersecting at times with other paths and trails, you can choose to make quick diversions, including to the top of Trueligh Hill near Steyning and Bramber. The view from the top of the hill provides views out to both the English Channel and the breadth of the central South Downs.