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Rolling Chalk HillsThe South Downs

Chalk hills roll to the horizon, their emerald-green pastures glowing warm in the sunlight. River valleys snake through the landscape and when the sun sets, the sky is illuminated by millions of glittering stars, perfectly visible in the dark-skied countryside. The South Downs bewitch visitors every year with their understated beauty. From historical cities to visible prehistory in the landscape, ancient pathways and woodlands to the iconic white, chalky cliffs of the coast, this area of Southern England is hidden gem.

The South Downs National Park covers 628 square miles in southern England, and spans over the counties West Sussex, East Sussex and Hampshire. The park is relatively new in comparison to others in the country, being formed in 2011 and more recently it became an International Dark Sky Reserve. The landscape consists of chalk and clay hills, wooded sandstone and sits near to the coast.

The South Downs Way National Trail spans the length of the park making it a popular destination for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. In addition to this there are also 1,200 kilometres of bridleways to explore and plenty of places to hire a bike if you don’t have one and lots of stables offering well organised riding tours if you don’t own your own horse.

Other than walking, riding and cycling, the next most popular activities in the park are hang gliding and paragliding. On warm summer days it is common to see people soaring in the skies above the park and launching from the rolling hills. The sport of gliding actually started here on the Downs in 1909 when the first flight was recorded, so you know it is a perfect place to practise some aerial acrobatics. The shape and location of the Downs creates ideal conditions for catching updrafts and gliding for long periods. There are plenty of clubs, schools and instructors around the park which offer lessons and tandem flights.

For something a little different, there are a couple of places within the park which may be ideal for wild swimming. Or, if the weather isn’t ideal for any of the above activities, the South Downs are well placed for access to surrounding cities and towns which are home to some excellent indoor facilities for rock climbing or dry slope skiing. So the South Downs is a great place to visit with family and friends in search of a little adventure.

Explore the South Downs

Adventures that you can do on your own, with the right knowledge, skills and equipment

Local Guides

Find local specialists who provide organised adventures in this area, great for those without experience or equipment

  • Sailing

    Wimbleball Sailing Club

    Wimbleball Lake, Brompton Regis, Somerset, TA22 9NU

    Wimbleball Sailing Club is situated at the 385 acre Wimbleball Lake in Brompton Regis, Somerset.

    The club provides adult and junior sail training courses and activities, with boats suitable for all ages and abilities.

    Equipment and instruction are provided by the centre. Other facilities include toilets and a nearby café.

  • Sailing

    Sutton Bingham Sailing Club

    Halstock, Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 9QP

    Sutton Bingham Sailing Club is situated in the village of Halstock in Yeovil, Somerset.

    The centre provides RYA sail training courses for children and adults of all abilities. The courses are suitable for beginners to learn how to sail and then improve skills and move onto the more advanced levels.

    Equipment and instruction are provided by the club. Other facilities include changing rooms, showers and meals and drinks available on-site.

  • Canoeing, Kayaking

    Wimbleball Outdoor and Active Centre

    Wimbleball Lake, Brompton Regis, Dulverton , Somerset, TA22 9NU

    Wimbleball Outdoor and Active Centre has facilities for canoeing and kayaking on Wimbleball Lake in Somerset.

    Wimbleball Lake consists of approximately 400 acres of water in the countryside of Exmoor. The centre offers self launch and hire for both kayaking and canoeing as well as courses and training for people of all ages and abilities.

    Facilities include equipment hire and instruction, an onsite café, parking and accommodation.

  • Paragliding

    Air Adventure Paragliding

    South Downs National Park, East Sussex, United Kingdom

    Air Adventure Paragliding have facilities for paragliding at several southern hangliding club sites and private sites in the area, with views over the South Downs including Devil's Dyke, Caburn, Bo Peep, Firle and Ditchling.

    On a tandem flight your instructor will control the glider for take of launch, flight and landing for you, allowing you to enjoy the experience without needing any experience. If conditions allow, you may be able to control the glider during your flight. A flight will usually last for around 20 to 30 minutes. This centre also runs courses for paragliding for those who wish to become a qualified pilot.

    All instruction and equipment are included but there are no other facilities so make sure you bring your own snacks and drinks and are fully prepared for the day. Equipment is also available to purchase from this centre.

  • Paragliding

    Airworks Paragliding Centre

    The Old Station Glynde East Sussex UK BN8 6SS

    Airworks Paragliding Centre has facilities for tandem paragliding in the South Downs National Park in East Sussex.

    On a tandem flight your instructor will control the glider for take of launch, flight and landing for you, allowing you to enjoy the experience without needing any experience. If conditions allow, you may be able to control the glider during your flight. A flight will usually last for around 20 to 30 minutes. This centre also runs courses for paragliding for those who wish to become a qualified pilot.

    All instruction and equipment are included and there is a café, gear shop and on-site camping accommodation available.

  • Paragliding

    Fly Sussex Paragliding

    Fly Sussex Paragliding Tollgate, Nr.Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6JZ

    Fly Sussex Paragliding has facilities for tandem skydiving, taster days and pilot training in the South Downs in East Sussex. 

    On a tandem flight your instructor will control the glider for take of launch, flight and landing for you, allowing you to enjoy the experience without needing any experience. If conditions allow, you may be able to control the glider during your flight. A flight will usually last for around 15 to 30 minutes. This provider also runs courses for paragliding for those who wish to become a qualified pilot.

    All instruction and equipment are included. You must wear appropriate clothing for the day and bring a packed lunch as the flying sites may not have any facilities.

Adventure Inspiration

Everyday Adventure stories from the South Downs