Posted on

Stepping Out Smart by Avoiding Ticks

As the weather warms up, many of us look forward to spending more time walking and hiking on trails and in parks. However, a tiny menace awaits—Ixodes Ricinus, the blacklegged tick. Also known as the Deer Tick, these crafty parasites cling to vegetation waiting to latch onto passing animals or people, looking for a meal of blood. While going unnoticed, they can transmit Lyme disease, an illness you’ll want to avoid. Let’s look into stepping out smart by avoiding ticks. Protect yourself with some tick smarts before heading out on your next walk.

stepping out smart by avoiding ticks

Ticks and Lyme Disease

Blacklegged ticks in their nymph stage are most likely to pass on Lyme. These poppy seed-sized insects are efficient transmitters of the corkscrew-shaped Lyme bacterium. Infected ticks secrete the bacteria into the skin when they insert their feeding tube.

What Are the Symptoms?

If a tick infected with the Lyme bacterium has fed on you, a rash might emerge on your skin around the bite within three to 30 days. The infamous ‘bullseye’ circular rash, called erythema migrans, appears in about 70-80% of infected people. Flu-like symptoms like fever, headache, stiff neck, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue often accompany the rash.

Without treatment, more severe joint swelling and pain, heart palpitations, and neurological issues involving numbness, paralysis, and memory problems can occur. See a doctor right away if you experience any of these warning signs of Lyme after spending time outdoors. Prescription antibiotics at an early stage can treat the infection effectively.

When walkers return from wooded areas or fields with tall grass, they must perform thorough tick checks over every inch of exposed skin. Look carefully in warm folds around armpits, the groin, back of knees, scalp, and ears. Tiny young ticks are easy to miss.

Stepping Out Smart by Avoiding Ticks

The best defence to avoid close encounters with these disease-carrying freeloaders is to minimise exposure of unprotected skin by wearing trousers and long-sleeved shirts. Stick to trails and avoid sitting on logs or in tall grass. Apply a DEET repellent on exposed areas of skin. After returning from a walk in an infested area, immediately put clothes in the tumble dryer on high heat to kill stragglers. Check your body closely and document any tick finds. Prompt removal within 24 hours using pointy tweezers can stop disease transmission. If you remove a tick that has bitten you it can also be a good idea to bag in and put it in the freezer for later examination by the NHS if Lyme symptoms appear.

Ticks may be small, but the illnesses they can transmit pack a serious punch. With vigilance, preventative measures, and quick tick removal, walkers can continue to roam the landscapes they enjoy—without unwelcome fellow travellers tagging along.

Ian Lancaster, Walks & Strolls Coordinator

Follow this link to learn about tick removal

Follow this link to the NHS Lyme Disease information page

Posted on

Responsible Dog Walking

The South Downs National Park encourages responsible dog walking to help farmers and wildlife. Take the lead and keep those paws on the path! That’s the call to action to dogwalkers from the South Downs National Park Authority as ground-nesting bird and lambing season starts this March.

With dog ownership at an all-time high post-pandemic, the National Park is re-energising its “Take The Lead” campaign, which encourages responsible dog walking with simple actions, such as keeping canines on leads around livestock and bagging and binning dog poo. Since the National Park Authority came into being in 2011, the number of dogs in the UK has significantly increased – from around 8m in 2011 to around 13m today – meaning it’s more important than ever to follow some simple guidelines when walking your dog in the countryside.

Responsible Dog Walking

The four messages for Take The Lead are:

  • Keep dogs on a lead near livestock
  • Bag and bin your poo, any public bin will do
  • Stick to the path. Protect ground-nesting birds by sticking to the paths, especially between 1 March and 15 September during the breeding season.
  • Do not enter military training areas when the red flags are flying

To mark the campaign, the National Park is inviting dogwalkers to enjoy the stunning views and snap a picture of their pooch on the lead and sticking to the path in the South Downs. The competition starts on 15 March and runs through the Easter Holidays and Discover National Parks Fortnight, finishing on 14 April. The prize for the best image will be an amazing dog hamper full of tasty treats for your four-legged friend and a “poop scoop” Dicky Bag – an award-winning neoprene bag that’s lightweight, airtight, washable and leak proof to store your dog poo bags until you find a suitable bin.

To enter simply post a picture with #PawsOnThePath and #TaketheLead on Instagram or facebook. Dr Marc Abraham OBE, or ‘Marc the Vet’ as he’s usually known, a multi-award-winning veterinary surgeon, author, broadcaster, and animal welfare campaigner, will be judging the entries.

Unfortunately there have been several reported incidents of sheep worrying in the South Downs over the past couple of years and statistics from the National Sheep Association show that 70% of UK sheep farmers have experienced a sheep worrying attack in the past 12 months. It’s not only young lambs that are are risk from being chased by dogs, pregnant ewes can abort their unborn lambs if scared by dogs. For any farmer it’s devastating emotionally and financially to discover any of their flock has been injured, or worse, killed, in a dog attack.

Sticking to the paths is particularly important at this time of year as many birds, such as nightjar and curlew, lay their eggs directly on the ground and can easily be disturbed by a curious canine. Mothers will often abandon a nest and her eggs if disturbed.

Andy Gattiker, who leads on access for the National Park Authority, said: “Our focus at the National Park is on education and engagement when it comes to dogwalking.

“Responsible dog walking is a great way for people to get out, get fit and experience the National Park. However, we also understand that having dogs off leads can potentially have a devastating impact on farmers, as well as fragile wildlife-rich habitats.

“The aim of our ‘Take The Lead’ campaign is to help everyone, including dog walkers, to have an enjoyable and safe experience in the National Park.”

One of the “myths” that often arises at the National Park’s engagement events is that dog poo enriches the soil and helps plants and animals.

Andy said: “Many of the habitats in the National Park, such as chalk grassland and heathland, have actually developed over thousands of years because of soil that is low in nutrients. This gives the amazing array of specialist species that we see today. Introducing dog poo can change this soil profile and interrupt these fragile ecosystems. It’s also very unsightly when you’re trying to enjoy this beautiful landscape and carries the risk of serious bacterial infection to humans.”

Sussex-based vet, animal welfare campaigner, and South Downs enthusiast Dr Marc Abraham OBE said: “Once again it’s a huge honour to judge the South Downs National Park’s #TakeTheLead and #PawsOnThePath photo competition. Dog ownership is at an all-time high post-Covid, so it’s never been more important to make sure our four-legged friends are kept under control at all times, which means sticking to the paths during ground-nesting bird and lambing season, as well as picking up their poop and disposing of it safely and responsibly, plus highlighting a new online ‘toolkit’ for communities looking to set up their own dog ambassador schemes.”

Dr Marc Abraham OBE

If you’re looking to raise awareness in your local area about responsible dog ownership you may want to think about setting up a dog ambassador scheme. Having regular dog walkers in your area talking to other dog walkers can be a great way of helping educate people about how they can ensure they have a fun and safe visit to the countryside with their pooch. The National Park has created an online toolkit, full of useful information on setting up a dog ambassador scheme, and it can be seen here

For more information on Take The Lead visit

Posted on

Rother Valley Railway

Between Petersfield and Midhurst there is only one section of public footpath along the former track bed of the Rother Valley Railway, but there are several places where paths cross it.

The Friends of Rother Valley Way (FoRVW) is a community group of local individuals and organisations who have come together to work alongside Shortcut (Sussex Hampshire Off-Road Track – reg. charity established 2012) to establish a multi-user pathway between Petersfield and Midhurst, following, as much as possible, the route of the former railway. The FoRVW Steering Committee was formed in 2017, bringing together statutory authorities such as South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA), West Sussex County Council (WSCC) and Hampshire County Council (HCC) together with groups including Sustrans & Midhurst Area Cycling (MAC).

History of the Rother Valley Way

The Downs are an imposing natural barrier to the south of our area, so it is no surprise that for centuries local people preferred to travel and trade along the flat, sandy soils of the Rother, between Petersfield and Pulborough rather than up and over the steep, scarp slope.

If you know where to look, the history of this vital communications corridor is still visible today, providing a vivid picture of centuries gone by. There are the pubs that were once coaching inns; the remains of toll houses and turnpike gates, constructed to gather revenue; a plaque on a river bridge warning drivers of steam engines against seeking water; as well as the many bridges and cuttings of the former railway that once ran through the valley.

Between Petersfield and Midhurst there is only one section of public footpath along the former track bed of the Rother Valley Railway, but there are several places where paths cross it. Despite having walked these routes many times, on each occasion I find myself wondering what could have been. You only need look as far as the Meon Valley Trail or Centurion Way between Midhurst and Chichester to see what a wonderful active travel and leisure facility former railway lines can provide.  Back in the 1960s a local paper headline read, ‘Branch Rail Line to Be Torn Up – No future plans, says Railway Authority, but open to “bright ideas”’. Clearly everyone was out of bright ideas back then.

Disappointed by what could have been, I have been busying myself of late researching what was. I have discovered that the Rother Valley Railway was described as ‘among the most beautiful lines in England’. Opening in 1864, this beauty, however, didn’t prove a big enough pull, and the line was eventually closed to passengers in the 1950s long before Beeching’s axe fell a decade later. Leading up to the war, the line appears to have been quite well used and even profitable, but it unfortunately never recovered from the arrival of buses and lorries afterwards. Paradoxically, in the weeks leading up to the line’s closure to passengers in 1955 thousands of people turned up to ride the 9 ¼ mile journey. Perhaps you were one of them.

Petersfield resident, Gordon Churchill, has vivid memories of these last days as his father was a signalman at the station. It appears it was an almost party-like atmosphere along the line with everyone desperate to have a ride, and well-wishers waving as the trains went by. Knowing many of the engine drivers through his father, Gordon was lucky enough to get rides on the engine footplate to Midhurst and sometimes as far as Pulborough.

Listening to stories about the railway from different local people, it seems the local area might have been quite different without the Rother Valley Railway. On the line, Nyewood station was known as ‘Rogate for South Harting’ as the tiny hamlet barely existed on the map. The reason we know of Nyewood today is largely due to an old brick works. This existed long before the arrival of the railway, but it had been losing money. In the late 1800s a new owner saw the opportunity the railway provided to turn the business around. He moved the yard alongside the line, where it had its own siding, and installed more modern facilities. By the early 1900s the works was producing 100,000 bricks a day, employed 60 men, had acquired an international reputation, and given rise to two pubs in the village. If only we could find similar stimuli for economic growth (read ‘to keep pubs going’) in our rural communities today.

Effects of the Rother Valley Railway on Farming Communities

At first glance it would seem the railway had little effect on farming communities, simply steaming on past, but there you would be wrong. Not only did it provide jobs for lengthsmen, who were as vital then as today’s countryside rangers when it came to managing the flora and fauna along the line, but the railway was also the ‘common carrier’. This meant it was obliged to transport anything and everything. This included whole farms. The mind boggles at this concept today, but believe it or not, some of our local farming families moved to this area from further afield by putting their livestock on the train and then driving the animals the final few miles from the station.

Gordon also remembers seeing wagons full of antlers in the Petersfield goods yard, possibly from the annual cull at Petworth. One other big plus of the railway was that it transported polo ponies across to Cowdray. Just imagine, no enormous horse lorries navigating the bends and narrow bridge around Trotton. It’s almost worth turning back the clock for that.

One of the most endearing tales I heard about the Rother Valley Way was its contribution to local weather forecasting. It was said that if you were in Elsted and heard the whistle on steam trains at Buriton tunnel on the main line, rain was imminent but hearing the whistle on branch line trains was a harbinger of the weather set fair. At first, I thought this an apocryphal tale, but when you consider the role wind plays in carrying sound it could be as accurate a forecaster of the weather as any of the tech we use today. Perhaps, when Petersfield recruits its new town crier their audition should include whistle blowing from various parts of the town, so they can provide an up-to-date weather forecast as well as the news!

Malinka van der Gaauw

Walks Leader

Posted on

Your Opinion Matters

Friends of the South Downs was established 100 years ago by ordinary people taking action to protect our precious Downland landscape. Over the past 100 years, our charity’s growth and the achievement of National Park status has been down to the continued involvement of people who care. Now, as we make plans for the next 100 years, we are keen to discover your views on our charity and the issues that you feel most deserve our attention going forward. Your opinion matters to us.  We value your contribution to our future planning and look forward to sharing the results with you in future.

The Friends of the South Downs is owned and run by its members and there are many ways in which you can help. We have many volunteering opportunities for people of all ages, abilities, skills and fitness levels. If you are able to give up some of your time to help us, you’ll meet many interesting and sociable people who really care and work hard to help protect the landscape and heritage of the South Downs.

We are almost totally reliant on our volunteers in helping us achieve our aims and objectives so anyone offering to become a volunteer is always made very welcome.

Here is an example of some of the typical activities you can help us with:

Walks & Strolls Leaders

If you have local knowledge of the South Downs and are good at organising events you can help research our annual programme and lead one or a few of our over 200 walks and strolls.

Trustees / Council Members

If you want to be part of setting the strategic direction of the Society and making sure that its aims are achieved then you would be welcome as a Council member. Your opinion matters. Council meets four times a year but in addition, most members are active in other areas of the Society’s work.

District Officers

Help us keep an eye on and comment on planning applications in your own locality.

Get in touch today!

Posted on

The Pump Barn

Seven Sisters Country Park was transferred from East Sussex County Council to the stewardship of the SDNPA in 2020 and remains in public ownership. Since then, several improvements have been made including a visitors centre at Exceat, a food outlet, offices and toilets. But the authority, due to financial constraints, was unable to fund the refurbishment of the largest structure on the site of the visitors centre, the Pump Barn, a magnificent 18th century building.

Seven Sister Pump Barn
Photo by Ian Lancaster

Friends of the South Downs Trustees agreed at the end of 2022 to provide £60,000 to refurbish the Pump Barn. The centre has up to 750,000 visitors each year who visit the Seven Sisters Country Park and walk the South Downs Way. The Pump Barn is structurally sound, has facilities for local businesses, meetings, presentations and other activities. These are the facilities that we are funding, and will include a section dedicated to the Friends of the South Downs.

Trevor Beattie, Chief Executive of the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “Seven Sisters Country Park offers some of the most stunning views in the world but it could be so much more.

“We would like to make it a national centre for biodiversity, conservation and climate change, telling the story of this extraordinary landscape to a wide audience and using it to test out new approaches to the national challenge of climate change.”

Friends of the South Downs dedicated the newly refurbished Pump Barn on Monday 25 September 2023 with Alistair Appleton, who held an inspirational talk at the facility.

Generous legacies have enabled the Society over the years to provide financial support to projects it feels worthwhile. To the National Trust for Harting Downs and Devils Dyke, as well as to helping provide a bunkhouse at Gumber Farm, Slindon. Supporting East Sussex County Council towards converting the barn at Foxhole Farm to a Bunkhouse and improving the car park at High and Over, with Disabled access to the nearest viewing point. Small donations have also been made to projects such as the Jack and Jill Mills at Clayton, St Mary’s Church, Stoughton, the Sussex Rights of Way Group and others.

If you would like to consider remembering us in your Will, please see our Legacy Giving page.

Pump Barn photos by Graham Stockley
Posted on

Conversions of Barns and Other Rural Buildings

We are deeply concerned to learn of the Government’s plans to rip up the planning protections that keep our national parks beautiful by allowing permitted development rights for conversions of barns and other rural buildings. The Campaign for National Parks has now sent a letter, signed by FSD as well as other NP Societies, to Michael Gove expressing this concern. Read that letter here:

conversions of barns and other rural buildings

SIR – We are deeply concerned to learn of the Government’s plans to rip up the planning protections that keep our national parks beautiful by allowing permitted development rights for conversions of barns and other rural buildings.

National parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty are our finest landscapes, and even small changes can have a disproportionate impact in these places. If these proposals go ahead, they will lead to a free-for-all on the development of isolated residential units in unsustainable locations without the supporting infrastructure, and could add significant pressures in terms of water pollution and traffic.

Where once there was a field barn standing isolated in a hay meadow, there will be a pocket of suburbia, and this will be repeated throughout the landscape, creating sprawl and spoiling everyone’s enjoyment of nature, open space and tranquillity.

We recognise the need to provide more affordable housing across the country, but residential barn conversions in remote places like the Yorkshire Dales National Park would do nothing to help and would instead cause irreparable damage to our fragile countryside.

National parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty are living landscapes that must adapt over time, and the current approach to planning does a difficult job well in balancing progress with protection. The Government should shut the barn door on these disastrous proposals before the horse bolts.

What the Friends of the South Downs Do

We have a Planning and Conservation Committee whose primary objective is to influence the decisions made so that the beauty, amenity and tranquillity of the South Downs is either conserved or sustainably enhanced for public benefit.

To achieve this, our role is to consider planning applications that are made either within or close to the National Park boundary. This is done through a team of Volunteer District Officers, each covering a specific ‘District’ within the Park. Each Officer inspects new planning applications that have been made in their District to assess the likely impact. If considered necessary, a response to an application is submitted to either the National Park Planning Authority or the Local Planning Authority to whom planning decisions have been delegated. A response may set out our concerns including an objection, provide constructive comments and observations or we may present written support for an application on the basis that the Society considers that it will meet National Park purposes.

Would you like to join us as a member to support our work or volunteer with us? Get in touch today!

Posted on

Permitted Development Rights (PDR)

We were deeply disappointed to learn of the Government’s plans to extend the Permitted Development Rights (PDR) for any agricultural or rural building to Protected Landscapes (National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs)). There is a long-established practice of not applying certain permitted development rights in these areas in line with national planning policy which emphasises the importance of protecting these areas from inappropriate development.

We were deeply disappointed to learn of the Government’s plans to extend the Permitted Development Rights (PDR)

Our Trustees are alarmed and disappointed, as, we are sure will be our members, to see the PDR proposals in relation to our National Parks.  We are strongly opposed to them.

Our Response to this Consultation

1.  The Friends of the South Downs (FSD) have over 1,500 members and their focus is the conservation and enhancement of the landscape of the South Downs National Park and its quiet enjoyment by everyone. To this end we support and uphold the statutory purposes and special qualities of the National Park. We support the work of the South Downs National Park Authority: we warmly applaud the Authority’s successful and effective Local Plan and the Authority’s work to enhance the natural infrastructure that the Park represents, to increase nature recovery and measures in relation to climate change. We have a close and beneficial relationship with the Authority.

2.  Our Trustees are alarmed and disappointed, as, we are sure will be our members, to see the PDR proposals in relation to our National Parks.  We are strongly opposed to them.

3.   We should not need to remind you that the statutory purposes of the South Downs National Park and indeed all our national parks – section 61(1) Environment Act 1995 – do not include scope for watering-down or compromise. They form the key statutory imperative that should guide all decisions where our national parks are concerned.

4.  We are very supportive of the work of Julian Glover and the important findings in his report, Landscapes Review. On page 64, he wrote:

 ‘The current Permitted Development Rights (PDR) system should also be reviewed and, if necessary, further PDRs should be added to the list of those currently withdrawn within national landscapes to ensure that the full application process applies before determining planning approval.

For example, forestry and agricultural changes allowed under permitted development can have significant impacts on landscape quality, and the South East and East Protected Landscapes forum has made a convincing case that these should be reviewed.’

5.   The Government’s response to Glover acknowledged in relation to Planning Reform that: ‘A strong and effective system must sustainably balance protections with supporting local communities and economies. The balancing exercise must be carried out differently in protected landscapes, to ensure their statutory purposes and special qualities are meaningfully protected. This involves giving greater weight to their special qualities in planning policies, procedures, and decisions.’

On the following page, under the heading ‘Permitted development’, the response went on:

‘The review also highlighted that certain Permitted Development Rights (PDR) may impact landscape quality, and proposal 6 suggested a review of existing rights.

We recognise that permitted development rights can play an important role in delivering new homes, particularly in rural areas. This benefits householders and businesses. We will continue to monitor the use of permitted development rights in protected landscapes and identify future opportunities to review their use.’

6.  Now comes this consultation. Still nothing has happened about implementing Glover beyond a response admitting that ‘this balancing exercise must be carried out differently in protected landscapes’. These proposals though offer no meaningful protection. In fact, they represent the very opposite; one of the biggest threats to the national parks in a generation. We are concerned that the proposals do not include detailed justification for the changes proposed, nor is there any environmental impact appraisal. Our view is that the existing regime works well and it complies properly with the statutory responsibility

7.  We are concerned about the conversion of barns. However, there is a planning process in place. It does work. We have seen barn conversions granted, but they have all had to go through a rigorous process to ensure there was no damage to the landscape and environment. What we are more concerned about here in the South Downs is the proposal relating to equestrian use. Over the years the SDNPA has dealt with numerous applications for stables. Of late, there has been a trickle of applications to convert those stables. For the most part those have been for tourism rather than as separate residences because of planning policies. However, If these proposals were enacted, it has to be anticipated there would be a wave of conversions. We would end up with unsuitable buildings in unsuitable locations, with domestic paraphernalia and little pockets of suburbia across the Downs, with increased vehicle movements. There would be little benefit in terms of housing numbers and to communities in the Park. The main beneficiaries in the South Downs would be horse owners, not farmers. The fragile landscape and tranquillity of the South Downs National Park are far too precious to risk being compromised in this manner. Even seemingly small or very small developments can compromise out of all proportion.     

8.  The FSD includes an expert planning committee, who review every planning application and decision within or near the Park. The committee sees no need to adjust the current exemptions and emphasise that any bona fide case for conversion or increase is easily put forward in a planning application which will be expertly assessed by the Authority’s professional staff. Any farmer or property owner will not be deterred from a worthwhile conversion scheme by the need to make a planning application; indeed, the pre-app process often brings forward helpful advice and suggestions. In short, the application process is not burdensome or unhelpful or contrary to the public interest.    

9.  The crux of this is that a bona fide scheme for conversion or enlargement within the South Down National Park can easily be assessed by planning application and no deserving farmer or owner will be deterred: a sound outcome is achieved and the provisions of the Environment Act are upheld.

10.  We have noted below the consultation question numbers that concern this response.

Posted on

South Downs Way Annual Walk

Archaeology tells us that the route along the South Downs Way (SDW) has been used by humans for thousands of years. It was favoured as a relatively safe way of traveling across West and East Sussex, avoiding the dangers of thick woodland and the large areas of lowland marshes that were then common across southern Britian. So, I decided to join the South Downs Way Annual Walk in 2023. The mostly high, dry chalk and flint route along the top of the Downs was clearly an important part of Bronze Age life in this part of the country, providing a trading network that brought gold, silver, and jet from other parts of Britain into mainland Europe.

South Downs Way Annual Walk 2023
Photo by Tony Linturn

It was last year while on the Friends of the South Downs marketing stand at White Ways Bury Hill that I decided to join the Annual Walk this year. Speaking to many of the walkers who were doing the walk for the first time and others who had walked it many times in both directions, it was clearly an interesting and challenging experience for them.

Footprints of Sussex

Footprints of Sussex have been running the annual SDW walk for over 30 years. Together with their fabulous team ’Red Shirts’, they guided and supported us over the nine days from Eastbourne to Winchester, a total of 106 miles.   

I’ve walked long distances in my younger days but nothing like 106 miles across rolling hills and lush landscapes from sea level at places like Cuckmere Haven and Eastbourne to viewpoints like the chalk cliffs at Seven Sister and Beachy Head, Butser Hill (271m), Winchester Hill, Ditchling Beacon, Devils Dyke and Firle Beacon (217m) that provide amazing 360⁰ views across the Downs.

South Downs Way Annual Walk Tony Linturn
Tony above Pyecombe

So, in preparation for this challenge, I joined the regular Friends of the South Downs Walks and Strolls programme last September to be able to walk an average of 11.5 miles each day.

South Downs Way History

I found the SDW was steeped in history capturing numerous landscape features dating back to Neolithic times (around 3,000 to 2500 BC) including protective enclosures, ancient settlements, long barrows (communal graves) over 60 metres long and many hundreds of smaller round barrows for single or family burials which are marked on the OS maps as ‘tumuli ’on high ground along the SDW. There are many hill forts spread across the Downs dating back to 300 – 200 BC which are believed to have been trading places and seats of power for tribal chieftains as well as providing safety during periods of tribal rivalry and conflict.

The South Downs Way Annual Walk is also a very beautiful way to see the South Downs, trekking along narrow footpaths at the side of steeped valleys, across dried up river beds, wide open farm tracks through field of wheat, corn and other agricultural crops as well as through wild meadows filled with wild flowers such as Field Poppys, Fragrant Orchids, Round Headed Rampions as well as wild herbs and spices like Thyme, Garlick, Mint, Marjoram, Sage and ancient health remedies like Lady’s Mantle, Elderflowers, Lavender, Feverfew and Mignonette which were used by the Romans and Anglo Saxons to treat migraine, bruises and other everyday ailments.       

South Downs Way Annual Walk Wildlife

We also saw a myriad of wildlife including many different species of butterflies, bees, beetles, grasshoppers, and unusual looking snails. Rooks nesting in Beech trees, Jackdaws, Seagulls and Fulmars sweeping and souring along the Beachy Head cliffs, small birds such as Skylarks fluttering over the fields, Whinchats, Stonechats and Corn Buntings feeding and nesting, and larger birds like Red Kites, Buzzards and Kestrels hovering above looking for mice and other small creatures to feed on. Forget going to the zoos, this really is wild Britian in all its splendour.

We also saw many very old churches and other building dating back to Anglo Saxon and Norman times in and around thatched roofed villages that have stood in an unchanging landscape for hundreds of years.

I also met lots of lovely and interesting people over the nine days including retired doctors, scientists, teachers, nurses and midwives. Mothers and fathers who were taking a break from their busy families and pilgrims and travellers trying to reconnect their lives and make new friends along the way.

I must also take this opportunity to mention the Trustees and walk leaders like David Green, Paul Wilkinson, Janet Goody, Ian Wright, Gaynor Waterman and Ian Lancaster and others who motivated me to get fit and do the walk.  I’d like to say thanks to my trusty walking companion Nigel Watts, who helped me read the map, avoid getting lost and see things I would probably have missed had it not been for him pointing them out, and lastly, to my wife Gill, who made my pack lunches and who I shared the funny times each day. Yes, a very memorable experience indeed.

Tony Linturn

Member and Volunteer

Posted on

Be a Friend

Celebrating our Centenary this year, we have some exciting events planned as well as funding some projects that will make a real difference on the Downs. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our members for their continued support and invite all our new friends to join us today. Be a Friend of the South Downs.

Be a Friend of the South Downs

As a member, you have access to over 200 walks and strolls a year. Your membership helps support our team of District Officers who monitor planning applications throughout the South Downs National Park. Your membership also helps support our extensive educational programmes with schools.

The Friends of the South Downs has agreed a major programme of spending totalling over £100,000 in our Centenary year, to benefit the Downs in the short term and the long term. The Friends can spend this money because they are fortunate to have recently received two substantial legacies. You can help us make these legacies go even farther by supporting us. Be a friend.

Bigger Items of Spending in the Plan

  • £60,000 to the National Park Authority for the refurbishment of the iconic 18th century pump barn building at the Seven Sisters country park, which will be used to showcase the Downs for visitors and provide space for activities.
  • £20,000 for projects to encourage children to learn about and appreciate the South Downs.  We’re running the projects with bodies like the National Park Authority and Youth Hostels Association.  We’re aiming at children for groups who are less likely to visit the Downs.  The plan is to teach them about the landscape and history, and most of all encourage them to appreciate and value the Downs.

Be a Friend and Support our Projects

  • providing attractive wooden benches, converting stiles to gates to improve access and placing information boards at significant locations.
  • helping make a path more accessible for people with limited mobility, planned location Devils Dyke. 
  • Contributing to the cost of staging a play based on Hilaire Belloc’s famous book The Four Men about a walk across the Downs.
  • Financing prizes at Brighton University for academic work relevant to the South Downs.

Upcoming Centenary Events

Be a friend and join today!

Posted on

Our Youngest Downlanders

“It is rather wonderful that some of our youngest downlanders have been able to celebrate the Centenary of the Friends of the South Downs, by marking out ‘100’ on the greensward of the Downs. Bury School, nestling, as it does in the heart of the South Downs, has worked with FSD on two of our schools’ projects and are now taking part in our latest educational project called South Downs for All. Only last month, I accompanied some of the Year 5 and Year 6 children on an eight-mile walk over the downs from Slindon to Bury. A great school with a real commitment to sharing the joy of the South Downs with all their pupils.” Chris Hare, Project Manager

bury school friends of the south downs south downs for all

Our latest educational project, South Downs for All, is a programme aimed at bringing together eight South Down schools and the FSD to enable more children to enjoy the South Downs and learn about the heritage of this wonderful landscape. Chris Hare is also project manager of South Downs Generations, a unique partnership between FSD and four West Sussex Primary schools. That project brings together young and old to explore our common downland heritage.

Year 5 and 6 children at Bury School proved their downland credentials by walking from Slindon to Bury, a distance of some 12 km. The day was perfect – warm but not too warm.

We walked by Slindon Folly on Nore Hill, built for the Countess of Newburgh over 200 years ago, and trod the route Roman soldiers took 2,000 years ago along a surviving stretch of Roman road at Stane Street, that once led all the way from Chichester to London.

There were plenty of stops, including one at Bignor Hill, where the fingerpost points to destinations written in the original Latin.

Finally, we descended Bignor Hill and came across a bubbling stream, fed from a spring in the Downs. On returning to Bury School at just after 3:00pm, all the party – adults, as well as our youngest downlanders, were pleased to rest weary feet and limbs. But all agreed: it had been a great day.

bury school south downs for all our youngest downlanders