South Downs Way: A Classic Walk through southern England:
Britain’s South Downs Way National Trail is open to walkers, cyclists and horse riders. It runs for about 160 km between Winchester and Eastbourne following the rolling chalk downs of Sussex and Hampshire. The route follows prehistoric droveways that have been in use for at least 6,000 years, and numerous Bronze Age round barrows decorate the trail.
The Way begins in Eastbourne, passes the villages and towns of Alfriston, Kingston, Clayton, Bramber, Amberley, Cocking, Buriton, Exton and finally Winchester.
Kev Reynolds wrote one of the original guidebooks ‘The South Downs Way: Eastbourne to Winchester’, which is a useful illustrated book, with line-drawings, detailed maps and route directions.
The South Downs Way route is 160 km long and for those contemplating this trail for their walking holiday in England, a certain amount of planning is required. Although the path is well marked, the English weather is unpredictable and needs to be catered for.
Some general information about the walk: South Downs Way Route: Starting from Eastbourne, the 160 km trail wends its way westwards and ends at Winchester, King Alfred’s Saxon capital. Walking over the rolling cliffs of the Seven Sisters is a pleasure. There’s an exhilarating sense of space on the Downs. The track dips down into valleys and passes through the woods and fields of the Weald.
Some Highlights: Beachy Head and Seven Sisters chalk cliffs
Cuckmere valley – classic river meanders down to the sea
Devil’s Dyke – an impressive dry valley carved out in the Ice Age
Chanctonbury Ring – Iron Age hill fort and Roman remains
Amberley village and Wild Brooks – a picture postcard village overlooking the Arun flood meadows
Uppark House – 17th century stately house, the childhood home of HG Wells
Old Winchester Hill – Iron Age hill fort and National Nature Reserve
The Meon villages – attractive old villages along the river Meon
Winchester City – first capital of England.
Walking Route Planner:
The number of days required depends on how fit and how quickly or leisurely you want your walking holiday to be. Work out the average number of kilometres you are prepared to do in a day, taking into account the landscape and the town or village in which you will end your day. It’s also nice to plan on arriving a little earlier in a village if there are interesting attractions you may like to visit, such as in Amberley or Winchester. We did the walk in 9 days, however it’s also possible to do it in about 7-8 days.
Luggage transfer: This efficient service is readily available and can be organized through a number of tour operators on the ‘self-guided’ itineraries.
Your South Downs Way Accommodation: This is usually in B&Bs or inns and should be booked in advance.
Food: Mostly good quality traditional English food is served up at B&Bs and village inns and there are wide choices in their menu. Cider and ale are common. Most B&B owners can cater for vegetarians or people with other food preferences if given sufficient notice.
When to go? The northern spring or autumn seasons are recommended as accommodation is easier to obtain and the tourist numbers are lower.
Walking Gear: Good walking boots and socks are critical. Your shoes should have been worn in. Also important is what rain gear to take. Make sure it’s made from a breathable material.
The walking on this 160 km journey through southern England is fabulous, so remember to bring your camera. Be prepared for rain and the wonderful walking. The path is well sign posted. See you on the track.