Top tips for enjoying the South Downs responsibly
Government advice is to stay at home.
Our absolute priority remains the safety of our visitors as well as the 117,000 people living and working within the National Park.
Please read our latest guidelines on staying safe and exercising the “3 Rs” – Restraint, Responsibility and Respect.
Generally speaking, National Parks are some of the safest places to be and most people enjoying the South Downs are courteous and responsible who treat wildlife, the landscape and other people with the utmost respect.
We head outdoors because we choose to witness nature at its very best.
However, it’s always good be aware of potential issues and how best to help us to look after the National Park and yourselves.
1. Keep it local
There’s probably more to explore on your doorstep than you think.
Ordnance Survey have produced a Green Spaces map to help people find green spaces close to where they live, without the need to travel long distances.
2. Leave the car at home
If you are worried about busy car parks and busy beauty spots, leave the car at home.
Travelling into the National Park by bike or on foot can easily become part of the experience and is just as rewarding.
You will also be doing nature and wildlife a favour by keeping your South Downs experience car-free!
Check out ViewRanger, they have a number of downloadable walks and cycle rides.
3. But if you are visiting by car, use a car park!
If you do have to visit the South Downs National Park by car, use a designated car park or parking bay.
Parking on verges can damage the landscape, destroy habitats and can make it difficult for larger vehicles, especially emergency vehicles, to pass.
Parking on verges can also break local by-laws and you may be subjected to a large fine.
4. Avoid fire risks
This one may seem pretty obvious but fire poses a huge threat, especially in the summer months. Although we’ve had a recent deluge of rain and wet weather, chalky soil, which constitutes large parts of the National Park, is free-draining and dries incredibly quickly.
The idea of a sunset BBQ at the top of a hill might seem like the perfect way to round-out a hot summers day, it carries huge risks to people and livestock, as well as to our rare habitats.
If you do see or suspect anyone of creating a fire hazard, please dial the police on 101.
In the event of seeing a fire, please call the fire service immediately on 999 with the location so they can take action.
5. Take the lead when walking with dogs
The period between March and October is prime brooding season for livestock and groundnesting birds.
While we normally associate early spring with lambing and calving, mums and dads of young animals remain protective throughout the year. At times, they can be unpredictable, especially if they’ve already had a few encounters with unruly dogs.
It’s important to keep dogs on the lead near livestock at all times and, if you know your dog might become agitated if near grazing cattle, be sure to give cows and calves a wide berth.
Also be sure to stick to the paths – lapwings and skylarks like to build their nests in and amongst the gorse – so make sure your dogs don’t go dashing off where you can’t see them.
Finally, please pick-up, bag and remove any poo. Flick and stick is not an option folks!
6. Be tick aware
Southern England is a high risk area for ticks. The grassy canopy and woodland provides the kind of humid, dense vegetation that allows ticks to flourish in the spring and early summer.
The best ways to avoid acquiring a tick is:
- Stick to defined walking paths and avoid brushing against vegetation
- wear light colours so ticks can be spotted and removed from clothing
- use a repellent that is suitable for repelling ticks and other biting insects
- wear long trousers and long-sleeved tops to reduce direct skin exposure
Following spending time outdoors, it’s always best to do a full body check just in case you encountered a tick. Remember, ticks are fairly small but swell up in time so make sure the check is thorough.
If you happen to spot a tick, the correct and safest way to remove them is to use fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as you can get and firmly pull upwards slowly to ensure you’ve removed the entire tick.
After a few days, if you notice any swelling around where the tick was removed or if you have any flu-like symptoms, make an appointment with your GP or visit your local pharmacist. If symptoms are especially bad, head to A&E.
Read full NHS advice on ticks and Lyme disease.
7. Carry in, carry out
No body likes to see a messy or trashy National Park.
However, despite bins being dotted around the National Park, they sometimes get full before local authorities have a chance to clear them.
Visitors can help us reduce the amount of rubbish in the National Park by carrying out everything you bring in, including food wrappers, bottles, cans, broken gear or equipment and dog poo.
8. Carry your own water
With many of our favourite watering holes currently closed, be sure to carry enough water for the exercise you are doing.
Although there are taps along the South Downs Way, it is safer for yourself and others not to have to rely on them to stay hydrated.
9. Read the signs
Nobody likes to hear the words “I did warn you” after something unfortunate.
If a sign warns you to keep clear of a cliff edge or asks you to stick to the path, it’s because they’re trying to tell you something important.
Signs come in different shapes and sizes but they will normally be in an obvious place, such as on a gate or near an established path.
Those signs are there for your benefit and to help you have a safe, enjoyable experience filled with memories you will keep and cherish.
10. Camping without the landowners permission is illegal
Wild camping is illegal in most parts of England, including the South Downs National Park.
If a wild camper does not leave when asked by the landowner or a representative of a landowner they will be committing a criminal offence for which they can be arrested for.
Some sites in the National Park are Scheduled Monuments, these are protected under UK law. It is a criminal offence to destroy or damage a scheduled monument either intentionally or through recklessness. Pitching a tent on a Scheduled Monument, resulting in damage to the monument, is an arrestable offence.
If someone is camping illegally on land, please attempt to contact the landowner. Some sites might have an interpretation board or signage in the car park indicating who owns the land.
If you are unable to locate contact information for the landowner, please call 101 stating the location and what the incident is.