48 Hours in the South Downs

Welcome to a collection of walks on the wild side and beautiful places which will give you a sense of the magic of this glorious area in the heart of the South Downs National Park.  Described by Rudyard Kipling as the, ‘blunt, bow-headed, whale-backed Downs’ the rolling chalk downlands offer long sweeping views and an abundance of nature. These walks will give you the opportunity to explore this beautiful landscape, breathe in the forests, surrender to nature and let all of your stress melt away. Check out some fabulous places to stop and have a drink, grab a bite to eat and sample wonderful local products. Ensure that you bring the right footwear, suitable clothing and plenty of drinking water.


Itinerary: Day 1


La Follia

Start your day in South Harting with breakfast at La Follia Caffe Italino, using local seasonal ingredients they have the best coffee in South Harting. It truly is a slice of Italy and after breakfast browse the beautiful lifestyle designs of Lamb and Newt, curating the past for the present. This magnificent place will sustain you for the walks ahead and fill you with ideas for sustainable inspiration for your home, whilst rescuing and reusing these rich, textural pieces from different pasts.

Harting Down

Harting Down has dramatic hilltop views and you can park right at the top at the National Trust carpark. Take a leisurely walk on to the ridge with beautiful views of South Harting and the surrounding countryside. Look out for the Vandalian Tower, a once extravagant ornamental folly situated across the road from the car park. Enjoy a steep hillclimb up to Harting Beacon, a wonderful example of a hilltop enclosure, an Anglo-Saxon burial mound and a telegraph station on Beacon and Pen Hills (approx 3 miles). There are an abundance of wild flowers here in the summer and a vast array of wildlife including deer, and if you are lucky you might just spot a field mouse scurrying amongst the tufts of grass on the hillside, or witness a spectacular cloud formation.

Nearby is Uppark House and Garden an exquisite National Trust property, the old orangery has been converted into a glorious cafe with magnificent views of the South Downs. Sky Park Farm in West Harting has brought the past into the present, Harting had been famed for its deer parks since medieval times and this family-owned working farm is now devoted to deer, breeding, farming and supplying venison. There is so much to explore here for the whole family, including the farm experience, adventure playground, The Grazing Rooms and farm shop.

Before lunch, stop off at Iping and Stedham Common for a short walk through rare heathland and follow part of The Serpents Trail. There is an abundance of nature, flora and fauna here. See if you can spot hidden jewels of the lichen kingdom such as Devils’s Matchsticks and Pixie Cups near the tumuli, wander along vibrant yellow gorse lined paths, dotted with silver birch trees and witness the purple haze of heather in late summer. You will spot the undulating hills of the South Downs in the distance.

Nearby are Chithurst Buddist Monastery and Hammer Pond which lead you on a path of peace and tranquility. Older Hill is also within easy reach and has stunning views with parking on top of the hill so it is a great place to drink in the scenery without having to have a hill climb.

Lunch: If you love craft ale then head to over to Langham Brewery in Lodsworth and visit their friendly tap room affectionately named The Gulp and brewery shop. Langham Brewery is an award-winning micro brewery, they are so welcoming and passionate about producing innovative, distinctive and flavoursome craft beers. Enjoy a delicious local Faretti Pizza and a pint for lunch. Also look out for monthly brewery tours and special events throughout the year, including live music, comedy nights, quiz nights, Langham Pride, Bonkers for Conkers and beautiful walks from the brewery with Rural Strides.

Nearby Midhurst also has a vast array of places to stop for lunch or a bit of shopping.




View from Heyshott Down with hot air balloons

After a delicious lunch, venture to Heyshott Down for a short but steep walk with magnificent panoramic views. Park near The Unicorn Inn, then head for the hills and walk up the track which has the Wildwood Antiques sign on the left. Walk up the track and take the left fork, carefully navigate the chalky bridleway until you see a rail and some rough steps on your right. This will take you along a beautiful path with wildflowers and a beautiful landscape lovingly known as the lumps and bumps, until you reach a plateau which has a chalk stone heart to make a wish in, or take a fabulous photograph with glorious views beyond.

Next look up the hillside and you will see some natural steps cut into the chalky Downs, head up here keeping left and you will find some even more impressive panoramic views. If you continue up the steep hillside it will take you over a field, past a trig point and on to The South Downs Way.

At this point (1 mile) you can head back to Heyshott, an easier route down is turning left onto The South Downs Way heading towards Graffham and a little further on is a gate with a sign to The Unicorn Inn and it will take you down the bridleway back to where you started. Alternatively, add another loop to your journey and cross over the South Downs Way, and walk down the bridleway, cross the next track and notice the swishing of the beech trees all around you. The high levels of negative ions in forestation (which are positive to health) can be felt here. This is Charlton Forest a stunning beech tree plantation, also known as The High Woods. At the end of the bridleway, turn left and follow this exquisite path. Reminiscent of Mr Men Hills, the path is visible way into the distance with wonderful rolling hills of beech trees along the way. Follow this bridleway until you reach the stony track and turn left, follow this until you see a public footpath sign to your right which will lead you back on to the South Downs Way. You will spot the gate with The Unicorn Inn wooden sign and head back down the bridleway (3.5 miles). Head off for a drink at The Unicorn Inn which has incredible views from the garden so you can sit back and see where you walked and how much you achieved with that hillclimb.

Head to Cocking and stop at The Blue Bell for a drink or grab a snack at Cocking Village Shop. Just down the lane from the shop is the Philip Jackson Gallery you need to contact them for exhibition opening dates however if you wander down to St Catherine of Siena Church you will spot some sculptures from the graveyard.
Philip Jackson sculptures, Cocking


The Fox Goes Free

Book a table at The Fox Goes Free in Charlton. This is a beautifully kept 400-year old traditional English pub serving wonderful home cooked food and nestled at the foot of Levin Down.

Where to stay: Wake up with a view of the vines at Tinwood Estate. (Sussex is the home of English sparkling wine - sparkling and still wine grown in this region has been given PDO status). The luxury lodges at Tinwood are a downland delight set within the South Downs National Park near Chichester. These beautiful lodges include a 2 person jacuzzi bath, barrel sauna and free use of mountain bikes. Vineyard tours are available and the Vineyard Kitchen offers modern British tapas, picnics, afternoon tea, or Sunday lunch.

Tinwood Lodges

Another option is Ashling Park Estate which brings you a new style of vineyard stay, dining, tours and tastings. Think Napa Valley but with a twist of the English Countryside. It offers luxury accommodation with its beautiful lodges including a wood burner, kitchenette and spacious bathroom with a cast iron roll top bath, with 1-2 bedrooms. Dine at the restaurant, join a gin making course or cocktail masterclass.

Ashling Park Vineyard

Day 2


Design Vintage

Breakfast at Design Vintage, this is a stunning cafe and showroom in West Stoke, perfect for breakfast, lunch and has plenty of delicious cakes to choose from. Then browse through their unique mix of original vintage furniture and Scandinavian homewares in the lifestyle store. The seating is wonderful inside or outside, it is a little gem tucked away near Chichester.

Kingley Vale

Next stop, park at West Stoke car park and head to Kingley Vale Nature Reserve.This will give you the opportunity to walk through history and bathe in nature whilst following the Yew Tree Trail. Known as the Cathedral of Trees, this was the place where legends tell the tale of a great battle in the ninth century between the invading Vikings and the men of Chichester. The men of Chichester triumphed and the yew trees were supposedly planted in the blood of the Vikings.  Look out for the Grandfather Tree at the end, a spectacular finale to the trail.
Wander up the grassy coombe and then climb the steps up the hillside to see breathtaking views over Chichester Harbour. Continue on to the The Devils Humps on the summit of Bow Hill, here you will find four Bronze Age Burial mounds with far reaching views.

Lunch: Visit West Dean Gardens and its beautiful walled garden, or Weald and Downland Living Museum, delicious lunch is available, or grab some snacks at West Dean Stores.

the cafe at Weald & Downland Museum overlooking the mill pond in winter


The Chalk Stone Trail

If you are in the mood for an afternoon hike drive towards Cocking and park in the car park on the left at the top of Cocking hill. The Chalk Stones Trail is a wonderful way to see this part of the South Downs. This is a trail of thirteen, 6-7 foot wide chalk stones on a spectacular five mile hike  through the Sussex countryside. It is a self guided walk that was designed to celebrate the chalky landscape and is a collaboration between environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy and Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. Installed in 2002, the chalk stones have changed quite a bit, some having been completely reclaimed by nature. You will wind your way back to West Dean Gardens and can catch the number 60 bus towards Midhurst to return to your car and have a drink at Cadence a wonderful place to refuel, just up the track near the farm.

The Trundle

The Trundle (St Roche’s Hill) at Goodwood is a beautiful place to relax and enjoy multiple views across Chichester and towards the Isle of Wight. There are wild flowers galore here including wild orchids in the season and the round headed rampion, the official flower of Sussex. The sunsets are also magical here.

Take a swift walk to Halnaker Windmill, journey through the tree tunnel on foot and see this beautiful windmill. This is a short and glorious walk with stunning vistas in every direction (1 mile).


Sunset in South Downs

This is just a taste of what this part of West Sussex has to offer, there are many national trails which criss-cross through Sussex, the most famous one is The South Downs Way, also look out for The Monarchs Way, The West Sussex Literary Trail, The New Lipchis Way, The Serpents Trail and The Centurion Way along the old long since closed railway line, perfect for cyclists. If you are not very confidant about navigating some of these walks by yourself, you could book a walk with Malinka at Rural Strides, the founder of The Petersfield Walking Festival and a truly knowledgable, skilled and passionate walk leader. Every season holds something truly wonderful in Sussex, the wild flowers, wildlife, forests and dreamy coast lines including West Wittering Beach and Bosham situated in Chichester Harbour.


Words and most of the images by Angela Tysoe - The South Downs Girl (Instagram:@thesouthdownsgirl). This article, based on her many explorations, is her love letter to the South Downs.

Angela Tysoe in South Downs

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