Green hills of the South Downs with blue sky and wildflowers
Green hills of the South Downs with blue sky and wildflowers

Hampshire - South Downs National Park

Explore the stunning South Downs

The South Downs is internationally-renowned for its quintessentially English countryside, pretty chocolate-box villages and stunning white chalk cliffs. And, if you're feeling energetic, there are incredible biking and walking trails as well as places to try your hand at paragliding, kite surfing and other higher-adrenaline sports.

The South Downs spans a large area between the seaside town of Eastbourne and the city of Winchester, which dates back to Roman times. Its 1,625 km2 encompasses a wide range of landscapes and is home to charming villages such as Alfriston, Ditchling and Firle, as well as several historic towns including Arundel, Lewes and Midhurst.

If you travel through the South Downs, you'll find a diverse array of habitats that are home to numerous species that are globally unique and important. In fact, the Downs' nature reserves are home to some of Europe's most endangered birds, mammals, and insects.

Rare plants like the round-headed rampion, numerous orchids, delicate butterflies like the Adonis and chalk hill blue, and a plethora of other wildlife can be found on the iconic sheep-grazed downland.

From the mysterious yew woodlands of Kingley Vale to the hangar woodlands of the steep slopes, the South Downs is also home to magnificent ancient woodland. Specialty species like the barbastelle bat and our native bluebell plant live in these woods. In fact, it's the most densely wooded national park in England and Wales.

The heathland habitats are home to a wide variety of unique plant and animal communities, as well as heathland specialists like the silver-studded blue butterfly, despite only covering 1% of the Downs at the moment. Woolmer Forest, the only place in the British Isles where all of our native reptile and amphibian species can still be found, is one of the largest heathland sites in the area.

The South Downs also has a lot of river valleys that support wildlife and wetland habitats. Pulborough Brooks, for example, is a great place for spotting waterfowl. The chalk streams of Hampshire, such as the Meon and Itchen, are home to numerous fish, amphibians, and invertebrates including elusive otters and water voles.

Along the Heritage Coast at the eastern end, chalk sea cliffs, shoreline, and the Cuckmere Estuary are home to a wide variety of coastal wildlife, including breeding colonies of seabirds like kittiwakes and fulmars.

If you have time on your holiday, you can travel the entire length of the South Downs using the South Downs Way. The eastern end finishes at the sea from east of Brighton Marina to Eastbourne.