South Downs Way

South Downs Way South Downs Way Waymarker

The South Downs Way National Trail follows the chalk ridge of the south downs from Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, to the historic cathedral in the city of Winchester.

At the eastern end of the path, there are two alternative routes between Eastbourne and the village of Alfriston; one via the coast and one inland. To make it one continuous walk, I started at Alfriston and took the inland path to Eastbourne and then the coastal route back. As the path works its way west, it also gradually heads further inland.

The majority of the walk follows the exposed top of the chalk ridge, with many magnificent views over the surrounding settlements and countryside, especially to the north over the relatively flat inland areas of Sussex and Hampshire. Along the ridge, particularly at the highest points, are numerous tumuli -- round neolithic burial mounds dating back between 2,500 and 4,000 years.

In a number of places along the downs, one can also find dew ponds -- hollowed out of the porous chalk and lined with clay to allow them to hold rainwater for livestock before water was piped up to farms on the downs. Most are now dried out, but a couple have been restored.

There are regular descents and ascents along the path, as the Way crosses several wide valleys which have been carved through the downs over millennia by small rivers. It is generally in these valleys that the walk passes through towns and villages and meets up with public transport.

 StageStart and FinishDateDistance
Alfriston to Eastbourne 1 Alfriston to Eastbourne 06 Jul 2011 11.9km
Eastbourne to Southease 2 Eastbourne to Southease 07 Jul 2011 28.2km
Southease to Devil's Dyke 3 Southease to Devil's Dyke 08 Jul 2011 28.8km
Devil's Dyke to Amberley 4 Devil's Dyke to Amberley 24 Mar 2012 28.9km
Amberley to Cocking 5 Amberley to Cocking 05 Apr 2012 19km
Cocking to Queen Elizabeth Country Park 6 Cocking to Queen Elizabeth Country Park 06 Apr 2012 19km
Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Winchester 7 Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Winchester 07 Apr 2012 37km