South Downs National Park Authority
The new South Downs National Park came into being at midnight on March 31, 2010. Covering an area of more than 1600 square kilometres, the park, which is centred in West Sussex is the tenth National Park to be designated in England, offering an area of protected countryside that everyone can visit and enjoy.
The famous South Downs Way, loved by walkers, cyclists and horse riders, stretches the entire 160 km length of the park from Winchester in Hampshire to the white chalk cliffs of Beachy Head, near Eastbourne in East Sussex.
The iconic landscape is best known for its ancient chalk downland. This man-made environment comes about by constant livestock grazing the chalk hills over thousands of years. The grazing checks the hardy scrub plants and this, combined with the poor soil, gives fragile native plants a chance to thrive. As the flora is so diverse, a vast array of creatures can live in this habitat, including rare butterflies and grasshoppers.
To the north of the chalk hills, heathland forms a warm, open habitat which is home to rare birds, snakes and lizards.
The UK has 20% of the entire world’s heathland, but it’s vanishing at a startling rate as it is generally not looked after properly.
Unlike other ‘wild’ National Park landscapes, around 85% of the South Downs is farmland, with a high proportion of arable cropping.
For more information see www.southdowns.gov.uk or call 01243 558700