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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

    Adventure Inspiration

    Everyday Adventure stories from the South Downs