South Downs, Rackham Hill

Best Of Britain: Summer Challenge

Summer is a fantastic time to explore the South Downs National Park in Southern England. The countryside is alive with wildlife and the South Downs Way walking trail is very inviting at this time of year to say the least.




Best Summer South Downs Walks

With many locations just over an hour and a quarter from Central London by train, the South Downs are the ideal destination for a day out in summer.

I’ve chosen just a few of my Best Of Britain: Summer Challenge walks to tell you about, you can challenge yourself to walk all or just a part of them this summer.

Bignor Hill, South Downs Way
Bignor Hill, South Downs Way

From Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in East Sussex, the South Downs will take your breath away, I promise you. Challenging walks up hills, sweeping vistas, Roman roads, mystical hill-forts, towering white cliffs; the South Downs has something for everyone.

Walk With Romans – Stane Street

If you enjoy far-reaching views, wide open countryside, peace and quiet, then come walk along the Roman road of Stane Street. The more energetic of you can take the train to Amberley Station and then walk a circular route of 15 miles.

Stane Street is the modern name given to the Roman road that linked London to the Roman town of Noviomagus Reginorum, or Regnentium. Otherwise known by the locals as Chichester!

Stane Street, South Downs
Stane Street, South Downs

You will walk through Houghton Forest, along Stane Street at Gumber Farm, through the enchanting Eartham Wood and finally admire the amazing views from Bignor Hill. If you wish to arrive by car there is parking available at Bignor Hill as well as Bury Hill (A29) and a limited number of spaces at Amberley Station.

Bignor Hill, South Downs Way
Bignor Hill, South Downs Way

For photos and a map of this walk, please see my blog post here – Walking Roman Streets.

Mystical South Downs Hill Fort

Perhaps you would like to spend a warm summer’s evening watching the setting sun, whilst the cooling breeze rustles the leaves of the trees at the mystical Chanctonbury Ring. An Iron-Age hill fort with far-reaching 360 degree views, this is the place of ghost stories and legends.

Chanctonbury Ring South Downs
Chanctonbury Ring South Downs

Chanctonbury Ring has something about it, there are legends of the Devil and carbon dating on an animal bone suggest the hill fort was built in the early Iron Age, in the 6th to 5th centuries BC, but some Bronze Age pottery has also been found on the site.

South Downs Way, Chanctonbury Ring
South Downs Way, Chanctonbury Ring

Accessible on foot after a brisk walk uphill from a car park just off the A24 at Washington, West Sussex. Chanctonbury Ring is one of my favourite South Downs destinations to sit and have lunch. Families picnic here in the summer, you cannot fail to be impressed by the views.

The main South Downs Way trail runs right alongside the hill fort, for more photos and a map of the area see my blog post here – Chanctonbury Ring walk.

Coastal South Downs – Those White Cliffs

If your idea of the perfect day out in summer is dramatic coastline, then a walk along the South Downs from the Seven Sisters Country Park to Birling Gap, East Sussex has to be a must see.

Cuckmere Estuary, Exceat Sussex
Cuckmere Estuary, Exceat Sussex

Once again the more adventurous walker could start this walk at the pretty East Sussex village of Alfriston. This village is quaint Sussex through and through.

St Andrew's Church, Alfriston, Sussex.
St Andrew’s Church, Alfriston

Popular with walkers, any trip to the South Downs of East Sussex should include a visit to Alfriston. Walk alongside the Cuckmere river as it meanders towards the sea at Cuckmere Haven.

Alfriston, East Sussex
Alfriston, East Sussex

If you prefer coastal breezes then park at Exceat and walk along Cuckmere Haven towards the English Channel before turning left at the end of the land and climbing the dramatic rising chalk cliffs.

White Chalk Cliffs, Sussex
White Chalk Cliffs, Sussex

Head east towards Birling Gap, where a very welcome National Trust cafe awaits the walker. After a refreshing lunch you could choose to continue walking eastwards towards the famous Beachy Head and its lighthouse; or you could walk inland to Friston Forest with its numerous forest trails.

South Downs Coast, Sussex
South Downs Coast, Sussex

Your choice of stunning views are numerous, Birling Gap has access to the beach for those wanting to paddle in the sea. Beachy Head towers over the bustling town of Eastbourne, the geographical end of the South Downs Way trail.

Cuckmere Haven, Exceat.
Cuckmere Haven, Exceat.

Cuckmere Haven can be busy place, popular with walkers, families and 75 years ago the military. There are pill boxes to explore, an 1890 shipwreck to discover, even an old tramway (well the footpath follows the route).

For more photos and a walking map, please see my blog post here – Seven Sisters Walks

Amberley Wildbrooks and Wildlife

If the sound of trickling water, birdsong and the breeze rushing through reeds sounds like your perfect summer day out then a walk around Amberley Wildbrooks is just the tonic. Park at Amberley Station, West Sussex and within a minute be far away from modern life as you follow the River Arun towards Amberley Castle.

River Arun, Houghton.
River Arun, Houghton.

From the chocolate box village of Amberley the Wildbrooks extend northwards towards Greatham. The grassland which was once natural floodplain is dissected by numerous drainage ditches, dug throughout the 1800s to assist in draining the land.

Amberley Wild Brooks, South Downs
Amberley Wild Brooks, South Downs

As the Wey South Path heads north, so the Wildbrooks change from open grassland to boggy woodland. The path is strewn with wooden planks to aid the meandering hiker across boggy sections. Green, brown and black water fills the ditches, wildlife thrives here.

Amberley Wildbrooks, Wey South Path
Amberley Wildbrooks, Wey South Path

You could end your walk through nature at Greatham Bridge, said to be completed around the very beginning of the 14th century, Greatham Bridge is a scheduled Historic Monument. Another option could be to walk east towards Parham Park and onwards to Storrington where you can have lunch in one of the many fine establishments.

Greatham Bridge, River Arun
Greatham Bridge, River Arun

For more photos and a walking map of the area, see my blog post here – Walk Amberley Wildbrooks.

South Downs Summer Day Out

Come and walk the South Downs National Park, from high up on the chalk escarpment you can see the Isle of Wight to the south and Leith Hill Tower in Surrey to the north. Skylarks sing cheerfully above your head as you walk. Birds of prey circle above the fertile land.

My Best Of Britain: Summer Challenge

I hope you enjoyed reading about my favourite walks in the South Downs National Park; where are you going to explore next as part of the Best Of Britain: Summer Challenge?

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