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Registration of historic rights of way and of the benefits of extending the cut-off date for their registration – House of Lords Short Debate

On Tuesday 2nd April the House of Lords held a short debate to discuss the benefits of extending the 2026 cut-off date for registration of historic rights of way. Our President, Baroness Maggie Jones, spoke in this debate in support of an extension with a mention of the society, “… as the President of the Friends of the South Downs – which does fantastic work campaigning to protect and preserve the landscape of the South Downs National Park and providing a huge range of guided walks on the footpaths and bridleways.”

“The rights of way network is one of our nation’s greatest assets: it connects people to nature and our rural environment and describes how our ancestors interacted with, and enjoyed, the landscape over centuries.


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STOP THE CUTS: Campaign for National Parks and 38 Degrees join forces for South Downs walk to highlight the effects of the Government cuts on National Park services

The South Downs Society has organised a special walk at Queen Elizabeth country park, Hampshire, for environmental pressure group 38 Degrees in support of its campaign, with CNP, against government budget cuts for the country’s national parks.  CNP has issued a press release as follows:

National Parks will welcome hundreds of people this weekend as part of a unique partnership between the Campaign for National Parks and pressure group 38 Degrees to highlight our Stop the Cuts campaign.

Walks have been set up in all ten of the English National Parks to enable people to meet together to learn more about the challenges facing our precious landscapes and to enjoy the glorious countryside.

The South Downs 5km walk has been set up by our sister organisation, the South Downs Society. It starts in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park and includes a fairly steep uphill climb to the top of Butser Hill, which at 270m is the highest point on the South Downs chalk ridge and the second highest within the National Park.

National Park Authorities have had their Government budgets cut by up to 40% in real terms over the past five years and there is real concern that Defra – the lead Department for National Parks – will have to make huge cuts to meet the Government’s £20bn savings plan over the lifetime of this parliament.

Fiona Howie, Campaign for National Parks Chief Executive, said she was delighted that so many people were taking part in the walks to help promote the huge challenges facing National Park Authorities.

“National Parks are among the most beautiful and valued landscapes in the British Isles, containing some of our most breath-taking scenery, rare wildlife and cultural heritage. Ninety million visits are made to them every year, with people eager to enjoy their iconic landscapes, uninterrupted views and tranquillity.

“Our Parks are living landscapes, home to diverse communities, and must be conserved for the benefit of all – both now and in the future. That is why we are leading a campaign calling on the Government to stop cutting funding for the English National Parks and to make sure National Park Authorities have enough money to protect our most iconic landscapes for future generations.

“To deal with the huge funding cuts National Park Authorities have been forced to cut back on the maintenance of footpaths, close visitor centre and reduce funding for flood protection, forestry, climate change, education and ranger services.”

Robert Cheesman, South Downs Society chair, said: “As the Friends group for the South Downs National Park, we campaigned vigorously for the creation of the National Park and we believe the new Park Authority needs the resources to do its job of caring for this precious landscape.

“We are wholly behind the efforts of the Campaign for National Park and 38 Degrees in calling on government to protect the National Parks from damaging budget cuts, and we are delighted to arrange a special walk for their supporters. A well cared for National Park is good for the local economy and vital for local communities.”

The walk comes a fortnight after the annual National Parks Week when the Minister Rory Stewart MP, described National Parks as the soul of Britain and as areas which brought together the environment, traditional farming communities, tourists and elements of our history, poetry and literature.

“I would like to work very closely with National Parks and the British public to make sure everybody in Britain has the unique experience of going to one of our National Parks,” he said in a You Tube video.

Ms Howie welcomed the Minister’s words but said warm words were not enough: “We recognise that National Parks need to continue to evolve and we know they are being proactive about accessing new sources of funding. But National parks are national assets and the Government needs to give them sufficient resources to make sure they continue to deliver important environmental, social, economic and cultural benefits to the nation,” she stressed.


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A celebration of the South Downs National Park's 5th birthday

Owen Plunkett, publicity officer for Hampshire Ramblers and South Downs Society member organised a celebratory fifth anniversary event at the Park Centre in Midhurst on Saturday 4th April.

The meeting began with an address from Margaret Paren, chairman of the National Park Authority, who said that she preferred to look to the future rather than dwell on the past. She spoke of an aim to produce an innovative local plan based on ecosystem services, initiate  a ‘shared identity for the park’ and for the park to become part of an International Dark Skies Reserve.

Kate Ashbrook, president of the Ramblers and general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, also addressed the meeting. She congratulating the park on its five years of achievement, and that it was wonderful to see 98-year-old Len Clark who had arrived by bus from his home in Godalming. Len had been present at the second reading of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Bill in 1949 and had been a major voice in the campaigne for the South Downs National Park.

Kate went on to say;  The National Park is close to many population centres which is both a problem and an opportunity. There are numerous pressures for development close to its boundaries, threatening its grand landscape and its dark skies, and  it is a vital place for refreshment and reinvigoration, especially for urban dwellers”.

She commented on the need for more open spaces on the downs and links between the scattered and inaccessible mapped areas and later congratulated the South Downs Society in doing a splendid job devising walks which take in access land and link up the sites.

Some 30 or so of the audience were then conducted on a 7 miles circular walk across the Cowdray Estate which proved very enjoyable. This was followed back at the Centre by drinks and cake including a toast to the national park.

The Society took the occasion to publically launch its new series of 10 Open Access Land map leaflets with their associated guided walks. These fitted in well with one of the themes in Kate Ashbrook’s talk and were well received by those present. The maps can be found HERE.

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Society attends new South Downs Centre event

On Sunday 27 July the society attended a special community open day at the new South Downs Centre in Midhurst.  The event, to celebrate the new facility and mark the start of National Parks Week, was attended by over 500 visitors.

The Society received a very positive response from people we talked to at our stand.  It was an excellent opportunity to talk about our work in protection of the unique landscape and the cultural heritage of the South Downs and we received a number of enquiries about membership and volunteering opportunities.

Some 50 people arrived via organised walks or cycled in from the surrounding area, with the Society leading walks in from Lodsworth, Stedham and Cocking.  The Fernhurst Society organised a walk in from Fernhurst.

A number of other local groups were at the event to talk about their projects, including The South Pond group, Coultershaw Heritage and Beam Pump Trust and Butser Ancient Farm.  Meanwhile young people were kept entertained with giant jigsaws, a mobile planetarium, sash making and face painting.

The Society is pleased to have been able to support the South Downs National Park Authority at this well attended event.

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Love the South Downs? Leave the car at home and come explore with the South Downs Society’s Festival of Green Travel Walks.

Brighton & Hove Breeze Bus - Credit Jacquetta FewsterThe South Downs Society invites you to join their guided walks and begin exploring the National Park.  Make a start with their Festival of Green Travel Walks offering eight free walks between 14 and 21 September.  Take the bus or the train and join fellow country lovers for anything from 4 to 16 miles walking.

Jane Major from the South Downs Society says:  “ Without doubt the best way to explore the Downs is on foot.  Just remember to put on suitable footwear and dress for the weather.  Take a snack and some water and arrive at the start point ten minutes before the walk is due to start.  This festival provides something for all levels of walkers, so do join us for any or all of the following.   Our walks leaders are friendly and knowledgeable.  Do come along and enjoy your National Park.”

Saturday 14 September:  1100 – 1530 leaving from the bus stop outside Brighton Rail Station on the 11.12 Breeze Bus 77 to Devils Dyke then on a 6½ mile linear walk along the South Downs Way to Saddlescombe, Pyecombe, the Jack & Jill windmills and Hassocks where you can return to Brighton via train or bus.  Remember to bring a picnic lunch.

Sunday 15 September:  1015 – 1345 for an 8 mile circular walk starting at Clayton windmills car park OS Explorer ref 122/303134 (bus service 769 leaves Brighton Station at 0940 to stop nearby, walk up from the A273.  Return on 40X or 769) and heading south to the Chattri Indian Memorial.  Then along the Sussex Border Path and the South Downs Way back past Pyecombe church to the windmills.

Monday 16 September:  1035 – 1530 a 9½ mile circular walk from Haslemere Railway Station to the highest point in the National Park.  Strolling past Camelsdale, Marley Common, Valewood Farm, Blackdown, Temple of the Winds, the Serpent Trail and High Barn Farm, ascending a total of 1162 feet.  Bring a picnic lunch.

Tuesday 17 September:  1030 – 1630  (or 1745) a 12½ or 15 mile linear walk around the boundary of East Brighton starting near the entrance to Brighton Pier and finishing nearby at Old Steine.   Taking in the Seafront, Undercliff, Saltdean, Falmer (return on the 28 or 29 bus from here) or continue to Hollingbury and return on bus 5b from Crowhurst Road).  Remember your picnic lunch and if travelling by train take no. 7 bus from Station to Old Steine.

Wednesday 18 September:  1030 – 1430 (or 1530) a 4 or 6 mile stroll starting from the South side of Chichester Railway Station along the Chichester Canal to the Yacht Basin – all flat walking.  Lunch stop at The Spinnaker, or take a picnic.  Head back by bus with one of the two leaders or continue to Dell Quay for the bus back to Chichester Station.

Thursday 19 September:  1020 – 1650 starting at Amberley Station,  a 16 mile circular walk through Arundel Park to Arundel and on to Burpham with a 45 minute stop for pub lunch at George & Dragon.  On to Barpham and Kithurst Hills and return on South Downs Way.

Friday 20 September:  1110 – 1530 starting at the A272 entrance to Hinton Ampner Park (OS Explorer 132/587277) an 8 mile circular walk through farmland, woodland and along quiet lanes.  Hinton Ampner, Kilmeston, Beauworth (pub stop at Milbury’s) and returning via the source of the Itchen.  Total ascent 708 ft.  Velvet bus 67 leaves Petersfield Station at 1032 alight Hinton Ampner Park.

Saturday 21 September:  1000 – 1600 from East Dean car park an 11 mile circular walk to Friston Place, Lullington Heath, Wilmington Hill, Jevington (pub stop at the Eight Bells) returning via Combe Hill and the South Downs Way.  Travel on bus 12/12a Brighton to Eastbourne route.  Alight at Gilberts Drive stop which is 3 minutes walk from East Dean car park OS Explorer ref 123/557978.

Walks guidance notes can be found HERE.  For more information telephone 01798 875073 any morning Monday to Thursday.

The South Downs Society is a registered charity dedicated to protecting the downs for the peaceful enjoyment of all as well as for future generations.  Membership costs from £23 per year and provides access to over 200 organised walks, strolls and bike rides a year as well as events, talks and focused workshops.  A quarterly magazine, The Downsman, is sent to all members as well as regular electronic updates.  Click HERE to join.

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Join us for our “Lord of the Rings” family stroll on Sunday 2 June

Why don’t you join us on Sunday 2 June for  a fabulous 4 mile “Lord of the Rings” family stroll?

We will be walking up to and around Cissbury Ring to find out about Stone Age miners and factory workers, Iron Age fighting farmers and downland wildlife with a bit of treasure hunting (geo-caching) thrown in.  Bring a GPS if you have one.

Note that it is a stiff climb up to the Ring and dogs may have to be on a lead if livestock are present.

We meet at Storrington Rise Car Park at on the junction of Storrington Rise and Long Meadow Findon Valley BN14 0HT or OS Explorer 121/128077 nearest bust stop some 400 metres at A24 Findon Road/May Tree Avenue.

We depart at 1:30pm and should be completed around 4:30pm.

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A Walk in the Park

The annual South Downs Way walk was first organised by West Sussex County Council in 1980 as a one-off event to celebrate an anniversary of the Ramblers. Today, 34 years later, the event is as popular as ever. Although, naturally, much has changed – the trail is 20 miles longer now extending all the way to Winchester,  and runs through the heart of Britain’s newest National Park – the only national trail contained within its own park boundaries.

South Downs Way Walkers 2012

We are delighted that the current organisers of this annual walk – Footprints of Sussex – have invited the South Downs Society to join them in walking the trail this year. Members of the Society can join the walk from 7th to 15th June, and receive a 10% discount simply by quoting their Society membership number.

Each day walkers are picked up by coach from one of four pick-up points, Shoreham, Worthing, Arundel or Chichester, and taken to the start of that day’s walk. Coaches depart regularly through the afternoon to return people to these points. Local farms, churches, pubs and an ice cream maker join in, providing refreshments along the way – a truly community event.

There are places still available at all the pick-up points; simply log in to and join in the fun.