The South Downs passes through the counties of East Sussex, West Sussex and Hampshire; there is no great difference between the counties.
Towns and Cities
East to West:
all the towns above have a shop, public toilets, transport links and some form of life
The south Downs are the remnants of the former Wealden Anticline, which stretched across Sussex, The chalk was laided down between 100 and 65 million years ago, on top of the weaker Greensand and Sandstone which makes up much of the Weald, the beds were then folded from 30 to 1 million years ago, the top of the chalk was then eroded, leaving two nearly parallel ridges, which is why 'The Downs' form a long ridge. They are mirrored in the north by the North Downs.
The Downs have undergoing inhabitation since the Bronze age at least, with numerous camps and figures on the hills. There are remains dating from The Bronze Age to the Second World War, the Battle of Lewes was fought on the downs and in the Elizabethan times their height was used for beacons (this is preserved within names, such as Firle Beacon).
The South Downs extend about 70 miles (100 km) through East Sussex, West Sussex, and part of Hampshire. The South Downs Way is a bridleway that follows the South Downs. Towns include Eastbourne with its 164 m high headland Beachy Head, Lewes, Ditchling, Clayton and the nearby Clayton Windmills, Hassocks, Hurstpierpoint and the nearby Wolstonbury Hill, Brighton, Hove, Portslade, Shoreham-by-Sea, Washington, Arundel, and Midhurst.
The Downs are penetrated by several rivers, such as the (from East to West) Cuckmere (its lower reaches form the famous meanders), the Ouse, the Adur, the Arun (passing through Arundel). The Views from the Downs take in some of the most beautiful countryside in the South East of England.
There are main line trains and long distance coaches to both Winchester and Eastbourne as well as several places in between. Allow around 60 – 90 minutes from London. Ferries to Newhaven and Portsmouth, and the London Airports (especially Gatwick) are handy for overseas visitors. Train's from London stop at these places close to the route:
Cyclists Please note that at some periods of the day and on some operators bikes are not allowed on the trains. also most of the more modern trains only have space for 3-4 bikes, thus large groups may have to book ahead or travel in smaller groups. Southern for example requests that 'limited number' of cycles are carried free on all services except on trains due to arrive into London or Brighton between 07.00 and 10.00, or due to depart from London stations or Brighton between 1600 and 1900 on Mondays to Fridays. Reservations for cycles are not required.
Car parks Car parking is normally good, although in towns and villages be expected to have to search and pay for parking spaces. Car parks are usually free from crime. but normal precortions must be taken. narrow lanes are common, as are steep hills, trying to take a caravan around the South Downs is not recommended.
No Bus routes run the complete length of the path, although there are coastal and inland routes, the park is serviced by routes passing through it, and has a fairly decent train service. Check out Traveline South East for full transport routes.
If you want to travel by car (advised) the A27 runs parrel to the South Downs, with various roads passing through the area (A23, A284, A24 and more).
A popular way is by food, bike or horse, there is a route through the park (South Downs Way) which will take you over some of the best scenery in the UK (and you're not really affected by traffic).
See and Do
Eat and Drink
Every Village has its own pub, each with its own character, expect good quality food and great beers (normally the local beer, Harveys, brewed in Lewes).
If you want to try some of the lamb produced on the Downs visit a local butcher or see if it is a special at a pub. You won't be disappointed!
Accommodation is plentiful; Camping sites, barns, hotels, pubs, cottages, YHA Bed and Breakfasts are all available. Consult the city and town articles for specific listings. Often smaller villages will have perhaps a restaurant and a small hotel, but not anything else for a traveller.
As far as 'wild' camping is concerned it is legal; however landowners permission is needed and for now it is difficult to cover the whole route by backpacking. The Sussex section has more opportunities to 'wild' camp than the Hampshire section.
Although the Downs are far from remote people have died on them, therefore ensure you have good quality footwear and a map. The South Downs Way is as safe as anywhere and much safer than any city – you need have no security concerns about going alone, however it is probably best to ensure you stop before night, the route often has sections with steep sides.
If you are planning some serious activity, especially alone remember the area as a whole is not suitable for people who are frail and due to its nature is not specially surfaced for wheelchairs and so can be rough and/or steep in places.
If you want to take young children on the downs, since it can be very hilly it is probably best to bring a pushchair.
If you are older you’ll need a suitable electric cross-country buggy such as a Tramper. Contact the Trail Officer for detailed information about the path surfaces, slopes, and useful contacts.
A basic kit should be as follows:
Luggage movement For those who may not want to carry all the things they need for 3 days on their backs; http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/Southdowns/text.asp?PageId=25 has information on luggage movement services.
Take warm clothing e.g a jumper or fleece as even if it's sunny the wind speed can be high up on the downs.