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South Downs Way National Trail

The South Downs Way is a particularly attractive National Trail, for the walker, the horse rider or the mountain biker. Following the spacious chalk downland that sweeps from the pleasant south coast seaside town of Eastbourne to the ancient cathedral city of Winchester, it offers fabulous views, a magnificent sense of solitude, and at the same time easy transport connections. There are plenty of sights to see, from the pretty Sussex village of Alfriston to Cissbury Ring Iron Age fort, not to mention the sudden colourful flash of a hang glider serenely soaring above Devil's Dyke.

Along the beautiful open expanse of the chalk downlands, the route offers excellent vistas of the surrounding countryside, particularly from Beacon Hill. The route follows the northern escarpment for much of the way, and rarely descends to habitation except where river valleys interrupt the regular course of the Downs. Generally easy underfoot, the Way links many ancient and historical tracks, fine wooded areas, delightful river valleys and lovely villages.

Many sites will be of particular interest to those with a thirst for the past, but the main joy is the appreciation and recognition of this surprisingly secretive land that will please and delight any walker. Highlights include Beachy Head, the Long Man of Wilmington, Ditchling Beacon, Clayton Windmills, Butser Hill and Winchester. Depending upon the season you choose to walk, birds and wild flowers abound. The South Downs Way makes a good choice for a winter walk because the fast draining chalk ensures there will be no impassable mire. This, of course, is one reason why the route has been used since ancient times.

 The Way passes through the Sussex Downs AONB (35) and also part of East Hampshire AONB (12). Starting from Eastbourne the official guide book describes the route in eleven day walk stages as shown below.
Eastbourne to Alfriston - 10.5 miles
Alfriston to A27 crossing - 13.75 miles
A27 crossing to Pyecombe - 8.5 miles
Pyecombe to Upper Beeding - 7 miles
Upper Beeding to Washington - 6.75 miles
Washington to Amberley - 6 miles
Amberley to Cocking - 12 miles
Cocking to Buriton - 11 miles
Buriton to Exton - 12.5 miles
Exton to Winchester - 12 miles
The initial footpath section from Eastbourne to Alfriston follows a different route to the bridleway.

Walking conditions are reasonably easy, making the Trail a good choice for walkers new to long distance paths, but, as always, you need to be properly equipped. Watch out for horses, as the whole route from Alfriston is also a bridleway.


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Start: Eastbourne

Grid Ref: TV 615999

End: Winchester

Grid Ref: SU 488289

Distance: 159 km

Walking Time: 8 days

Counties Traversed

Explorer™ Maps
119; 120; 121; 122; 123; 132

South Downs Way Aurum

South Downs Way Cicerone

South Downs Way Companion

South Downs Way Harvey Map

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