I have recently returned from a trip along the South Down’s Way. This walk exceeded all my expectations and this part of England was a delight, full of bustling market towns, traditional culture and ancient history. All this and scenery that surprised and delighted every day.
Stretching for 100 miles through England’s newest national park (the South Downs National Park, strangely enough!) this route offers the best of rural England and its landscapes. The trail starts in Winchester, the Saxon capital of England, it links many ancient tracks, used by traders since the Stone Age and is one of the easiest National Trails in the UK. The trail passes through open grassland, over rolling countryside, through picturesque villages and allows you to enjoy the ever-changing landscape of meandering rivers, beautiful woodland and the wonderful views of the Isle of Wight and the North Downs.
My personal highlight of this walk was the walk from Alfriston to Eastbourne, the grand finale of the South Down’s Way. The trail passes through the traditional village of Alfriston, skirts the Chuckmere river, traverses over a number of chalk peaks known as the ‘Seven Sisters’ then east of Birling Gap the route passes Belle Tout lighthouse, from here you are then treated to amazing views down to the red and white stripped Beachy Head lighthouse before you start the climb to the top of Beachy Head itself; the tallest chalk cliff in Britain, and then finally you reach the descent into the sunny seaside town of Eastbourne.
The Seven Sisters country park is made up of 280 hectares of chalk cliffs, flowing rivers and open chalk grassland. The park is a great place to explore and offers spectacular views of the Seven Sisters cliffs, Seaford Head Nature Reserve, Cuckmere Haven and the surrounding rolling downlands. Chalk cliffs joining a beach are a very rare occurrence and Sussex is one of the best places in the country to see them.
The cliffs are known as the Seven Sisters due to the seven hilltops that make up the silhouette of the cliffs. The bright white colour of the stone is due to the amount of chalk that makes up most the front of the cliffs. The cliffs were created in prehistoric times when the land was under water and seawater pushed the softer chalk to the surface, as the water lowered the cliff face was then exposed.
The names of the Seven Sister cliffs from west to east are: Haven Brow, Short Brow, Rough Brow, Brass Point, Flagstaff Brow, Bailey’s Hill and Went Hill, still today no one knows the reason for their names but the original Seven Sisters are the Pleiades; a group of seven stars which Greek mythology portrayed as sisters.
The sea, the South Down’s and the white chalk cliffs allow you to explore some of the country’s most beautiful views so put on your boots, pack your camera and set on your way for an exciting hike along one of Britain’s finest unspoilt coastlines!