The South Downs National Park is England’s newest National Park, having only been designated as such in 2009. The Park is situated in south east England, stretching from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east and covering an area of 1,627 km2 (628 sq mi).
The park features dramatically contrasting scenery, from the chalk ridge of the South Downs to the heavily wooded vales of western Weald. Undulating pastures, prehistoric woodlands, river valleys and bustling towns and villages make up this arresting landscape.
The entire area is full of history and artistic culture; from the cathedral city of Winchester, the former capital of England, to the country home Glyndebourne, now the site of a world famous opera house. The South Downs National Park has been densely populated over the last 6,000 years and numerous archaeological sites document the story of this landscape’s past. Well-known sites include the Iron Age hill forts of Cissbury Ring, Bignor Roman Villa and Lewes Priory, but hundreds of other additional sites and buildings reveal some of the complex history of this area.
With over 46.3 million day visits a year, the South Downs National Park Authority carefully balances conservation and preservation with opportunities for recreation and sport. Much of the Park is privately owned and as a result there is no general ‘right to roam’, but there are many public rights of way and open access land. One popular walking route is the 160 km (100 mi) South Downs Way, which spans the entire length of the park from Winchester to Eastbourne. Other activities include cycling, sightseeing and exploring the beautiful landscape. More adventurous pursuits include mountain-boarding, water sports and even hang-gliding.