One mile in the South Downs

The South Downs is a stunning range of chalk hills stretching from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in East Sussex. It borders the Surrey Hills National Landscape to the north and is close to Chichester Harbour National Landscape in the south.

The South Downs is my nearest National Park which I see on an almost daily basis. Looking south from the third highest point in East Sussex often they are obscured by fog, but some days they are bathed in sunshine and look very inviting.

With rolling hills, ancient woodlands, iconic white cliffs, amazing far-reaching views, picturesque towns and villages and expansive farmlands it is easy to see why this part of England is a draw for walkers. Not least – the Downs are within reach of London day trippers and have large populations including Brighton, Chichester, Eastbourne, Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester close by.

There is so much for walkers to enjoy. For the long distance walkers the South Downs Way National Trail, traverses 100 miles from Winchester to Eastbourne. And there are so many shorter walks to choose from, here are some Walking Pace walks of varying lengths across the National Park.

Midhurst – accessible walking route

It is in the South Downs National Park that I have developed my thinking on accessible walks and route cards. Following the pioneering work with YHA Walks here is a development of this approach – providing walks with additional information.

Cowdray

This one mile walk is around Midhurst, a charming West Sussex town in the Heart of the South Downs National Park. With castle ruins, historic buildings and waterways, a local museum, the South Downs visitor centre and lovely shops and places to eat and drink, this walk is a great way to explore the town.

Midhurst South Pond map only 2

Click here to see the full route card which provides detailed turn by turn instructions and includes the availability of toilets, food and drink, gates, steps, seats and the condition of the paths.

This walk is part of a series of one-mile walking routes in development. These walks are not stepping stones to longer walks. They are not truncated parts of longer walks. They are not ‘short’ or ‘easy’ walks (although they may be described as such in order to fit the four broad categories of difficulty used by many platforms.) These are walks that are a mile or under with clear information about facilities and underfoot conditions so that potential walkers, perhaps with limited walking knowledge, can identify a route that best suits their available time, needs and abilities.

Such is the nature of walking that routes cross other paths and it is not always possible to visit all the attractions in one mile. Available alternative paths that reduce the distance are identified but they are not described as ‘shortcuts’ – language matters! Options to explore other areas may be identified, which may extend the distance. This is to help people plan their day, not to suggest that they should take the extended route – or that they are missing out if they do not. Each of the one mile routes are decent routes in their own right. 

Since creating these routes I have received many positive comments from people – especially those who welcome the additional information to give them confidence to get outside. Others have noted that they or their parents enjoy walking but need to sit down regularly, so knowing the ‘maximum distance between seats’ and where they are located is essential. This information may enable people to explore new paths – rather than be restricted to what they know – with confidence. 

It is hoped that through these walks many people will feel confident and safe to go walking.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this approach and to see your examples of similar. 

Happy walking

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