The UK’s newest National Park will be three years old on Monday 1 April and the National Park Society – the South Downs Society – is celebrating with special walks throughout the region.
Robert Self, a Society spokesperson, said “For over sixty years, campaigners worked for the South Downs to be recognized as a National Park. Its outstanding landscape and network of historic pathways finally received the protection they deserved in 2010 and we will be celebrating this 3rd anniversary by enjoying the stunning spring scenery on three superb walks”.
Robert Self will be leading the celebration in Hampshire in conjunction with Owen Plunkett from the Ramblers: a 6 mile circular walk from the Sustainability Centre, East Meon. Meeting at 10 a.m. on Sunday 31st March, for a brief presentation on the work of the Centre and departing at 10.30 to walk along the South Downs Way (bring a picnic lunch) returning via the source of the River Meon around 2.30 p.m. Then follows the opportunity to hear presentations from SDNPA Board Member, Doug Jones and Robert Self. Tea and cakes available for purchase in the café.
Alternatively enjoy the stunning scenery on the West/East Sussex border and gather at Clayton Windmills Car Park (OS Explorer map reference 122/302134) by 9.15 a.m. on Sunday 31st March for a 10 mile circular walk taking in Stanmer Park, Westmeston, Ditchling and Keymer. Bring a picnic lunch or visit a nearby pub at the end which should be around 2 p.m.
Already have plans for the Easter weekend? Then on Sunday 7 April come to Butts Brow Car Park at Willingdon (OS Explorer map reference 123/580017) by 9.45 a.m. for a delight of big open views, neat valleys and forest rides. There are some steep climbs in this 7 mile circular walk and a lunch stop at the Eight Bells in Jevington returning to the car park around 2.30 p.m.
The National Park was created on 1 April 2010, and the National Park Authority took up its full powers as planning and access authority on 1 April 2011. The Society has praised the National Park Authority for its work, by acting decisively to protect and enhance the precious landscape of the South Downs.
“As the critical friend of the National Park Authority, it is our job to support the Authority and to be frank when we feel they’ve got it wrong” said Robert Cheesman, the Chairman of the South Downs Society. “On the whole, we think they are doing an excellent job, with particular highlights being the improvement to grassland close to the South Downs Way as part of the special Nature Improvement Areas in the UK; the Authority’s support for the Mosaic Project, which helps people from black and minority ethnic communities to enjoy the National Park; and the creation of the Sustainable Communities Fund for projects to improve the Downs, which has enabled local communities to achieve so much.”
Everyone is invited to join in on the celebratory walks, all of which are free. Walkers are advised to bring a drink and a bite to eat, a sunhat or waterproof – depending on the Great British weather of the day – and to wear sturdy shoes. More information about any of the walks can be obtained from the South Downs Society on 01798 875073. 25 March 2013