South Downs

South Downs

Geobox|Protected Area
name = South Downs
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category_local = Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
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image_size = 250
image_caption = The South Downs
country = England
region = South East
district =
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city_type = Settlements
city = Eastbourne
city1 = Brighton
location = south-east England
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geology = chalk downland
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area = 260
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length = 112
length_orientation = W-E
width = 11.2
width_orientation = N-S
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highest_location = Butser Hill,
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website = [ South Downs website]

The South Downs is one of the four areas of chalk downland in southern England [ The others being the North Downs of Kent and Surrey; the Chilterns to the north-west of London; and the Wessex Downs of Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire and Berkshire] . They extend from the eastern side of Hampshire; thence through West Sussex, Brighton and Hove and East Sussex, culminating in the cliffs at Beachy Head. Two areas of the Downs have been designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB); there are many Sites of Special Scientific Interest; and it has been proposed that much of the South Downs become a national park.

The area is relatively unpopulated, although along its southern periphery there is an almost uninterrupted ribbon of seaside towns: it is extremely popular with walkers, having one principal long distance footpath and many interconnecting ones. There are three principal gaps in the upland through which rivers flow; and there are also many dry valleys along its length.

The South Downs have a long history; there are archaeological remains from Neolithic times. Until the middle of the 20th century sheep-rearing was the main occupation of those living on the Downs. [ [ British Limestone Grasslands ‘’Wikibook‘’] ]


Downs is from Old English "dun" meaning hill.


The South Downs are the southern remnant of the Wealden dome which itself was laid down sixty million years ago as a shallow sea: the rock is composed of the microscopic skeletons of plankton which lived in the sea: hence its colour. The rock produces many fossils; bands of flint occur throughout the formation. [ [ Chalk formation fossils] ] Erosion has removed the central part of the dome, leaving the South Downs as the outer southern uplands, the North Downs being its counterpart, as shown on the diagram. The harder rock, and the highest remaining part of the dome, is the Weald.

The chalk, being porous, allows water to soak through; as a result there are many winterbournes along the northern edge.


The South Downs extend about 70 miles (112km) from west to east, and seven miles (11.2km) wide, north to south. Both the North and South Downs come together at the Wessex Downs, just inside the Hampshire border at the River Meon valley. The eastern end, where it reaches the coast between Seaford and Beachy Head, produces the spectacular scenery of the Seven Sisters, the undulating cliffs which are the remnants of dry valleys being eroded by the sea.

There are four river valleys which cut through the Downs: from west to east they are the Rivers Arun, Adur, Ouse and Cuckmere. Chalk acquifers and winterbourbne streams supply much of the water required by the surrounding settlements. Dew ponds are a characteristic feature on the hillside: artificial ponds for watering livestock.

The highest point on the South Downs is Butser Hill, just south of Petersfield, Hampshire. At 270 m (886 ft) high, it qualifies as one of England's Marilyns. A list of those points on the South Downs above 700ft (213m) follows, in an west to east direction:




Archaeological evidence has revealed that the Downs have been inhabited and utilised for thousands of years. Neolithic flint mines and settlements; Bronze Age burial mounds; and Iron Age forts are all in evidence. [ [ English Heritage: ‘’South Downs’’] ] .

It has been estimated that the tree cover of the downs was cleared some 2500 years ago, and the present closely-grazed turf is the result of continual grazing by sheep.

pecial Areas

Two areas of the Downs are designated AONB: East Hampshire and Sussex Downs AONBs.

The proposal to set up the South Downs National Park first received governmental support in 1999. After a public enquiry between 2003-2005, and various legal objections, the enquiry re-opened in February 2008.

Among the National Nature Reserves (NNR) is Kingley Vale NNR, near Chichester.

Tourism, leisure and sport

In 1923 the Society of Sussex Downsmen (now the South Downs Society) was formed with the aim of protecting the area's unique landscape.

The South Downs is a popular area for ramblers with a network of over 2000 miles of well-managed, well-signed and easily accessible trails. The principal bridleway, and longest of them, is the South Downs Way. [ [ South Downs Way: description of the route] ] . The Monarch’s Way, having originated at Worcester, crosses the South Downs and ends at Shoreham-by-Sea. [ [ Ramblers Association] ]

Sports undertaken on the Downs include paragliding, mountain-biking, horse riding and walking. [ [ Walking in the South Downs] accessed 01/01/08]


Two of the landmarks on the Downs are the Long Man of Wilmington, a chalk carved figure, and Clayton Windmills. There is also the Chattri war memorial, dedicated to Indian soldiers who died in the Brighton area, having been brought there for treatment after being injured fighting on the Western Front in the First World War.

uggested Reading

Roundabout to Canterbury Charles S. Brooks 1926 copyright



External links

* [ Useful website for those visiting or living in the South Downs.]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • South Downs — the South Downs a range of hills in the south of England, mostly in Sussex, where there are many sheep farms …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • South Downs — (spr. ßauth dauns), s. Downs …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • South Downs —   [ saʊθ daʊnz], Höhenzug (Schichtstufe) der Downs, England.   …   Universal-Lexikon

  • South Downs — see DOWNS the …   English World dictionary

  • South Downs — South′ Downs′ n. pl. geg a range of low hills, from Hampshire to East Sussex, in S England …   From formal English to slang

  • South Downs — 50°55′N 0°30′W / 50.917, 0.5 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • South Downs — Landschaft in den South Downs Die South Downs (von Altenglisch dun, Hügel) sind eine hügelige Kreidelandschaft im Süden Englands, in den Grafschaften East Sussex, West Sussex und Hampshire, der zur südenglischen Kreideformation gehört. Die South… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • South Downs — Sp Pietų žemãkalniai Ap South Downs L Jungtinėje Karalystėje (Anglijoje) …   Pasaulio vietovardžiai. Internetinė duomenų bazė

  • South Downs —    Hills in Eriador south of Bree.        The downlands of central Eriador.    A range of hills that ran through the central regions of Eriador …   J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth glossary

  • South Downs — geographical name hills S England chiefly in Sussex …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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