Think of Britain’s newest National Park, The South Downs, and most people will mention the South Downs way, a beautiful long distance walk from Winchester to Eastbourne (or vice-a-versa!).
Not many people will tell you about the 3000km or so of footpaths and bridleways that are largely free of crowds and take you to some stunning scenery, unique habitats and places of interest.
Two of my favourite areas are around Amberley and Slindon.
This walk starts in the picturesque village of Slindon and will take you up onto the downs with stunning views of both the Sussex coast and countryside.
The walk is dog friendly (I’m always accompanied by my Border Collie, barney) and thanks to the South Downs National Park’s “Miles without Styles” initiative, free of styles and other barriers to access for less mobile folks. It is ca 6 miles.
Take an OS Map (OL 10 is my go to) and as you progress along the route, you will come across other footpaths that will give you ideas for your next walk.
Park on the road by Slindon College. Parking is free but can be busy at peak times and especially in the lead up to Halloween, when the village pumpkin display attracts hundreds of people to the village.
The walk starts at the marked gate on the sharp bend just opposite the college entrance. Follow the bridle way (Butt Lane) and after half a mile or so, the views start to open out to your left and you will see Nore Folly (also known as Slindon Folly). This is a flint construction resembling a gateway but is a decorative piece which leads to nowhere. It was built in the 18th century by the Newburgh family, who owned the Slindon Estate. We shall explore this folly in more detail on a subsequent walk. But for now continue past the restored Barn and views of the downs now start to open up on your right.
After a kilometre or so you will come across a left turning down a well defined track. Follow this track down through the field and turn right onto the road. This road is little used but be aware of horse boxes and farm traffic.
Follow the road to a “Y” Junction. Take the left hand track. Soon you will come to another Y junction,, keep right here. You will now pass a memorial marker to Slindon Airfield. This was a refuelling station for airships patrolling the channel for U Boats in WW1.
Continue up the track continue straight at the cross roads. After 200 metres or so, you turn in through a gate to a replanted area of Slindon. The NT have undertaken to replant this wood with species of UK trees.
As you pass out of this area follow the path straight ahead, enjoying the views to Bignor and over open meadows. You should see many types of birds at this point – large raptors and sky larks seem to be popular, but come up at dawn or dusk and you should see owls and other nocturnal species Continue along this path, until you come to a farm track. Turn left up this track and continue towards Gumber farm.
As you reach the farm there is a footpath to your right, take this path up and over the hill, keeping to the right as you come across other paths.
You will now climb steadily through a wood and come out out onto the wide open pastures that form Great Down. As you follow the well defined path down hill, enjoy the panoramic views over Sussex, to Hampshire and the Ise of Wight.
Please note that sheep can be grazing in these meadows, especially at lambing time, so dogs on leads, please! If you want your dog to run free, you can follow the path down on the right hand side of the field. This is fenced from the field, but the views are not nearly so good.
Eventually you will reach a gate with a 5 fingered post. Take the right hand path and this will take you back to your starting point.