3-Night Explore Nature on the South Downs

Duration: 3 nights
Interests: Explore Nature

Discover the rich diversity of wildlife which thrives in the South Downs National Park on visits to some key wildlife sites. Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site at Arundel protect areas of wetland and woodland which provide the perfect habitat for a range of bird species. In autumn, their numbers are swollen as migrating geese and wading birds arrive to over-winter. The Kingley Vale Nature Reserve near Chichester provides the spectacle of ancient, gnarled yew trees while the Knepp Estate provides an insight into how the landscape should look if left to nature. Under the guidance of our expert leader the wonders of wildlife of all kinds will be revealed from birds and mammals to plants and fungi.

Holiday Highlights

  • Spend your days with fellow nature enthusiasts
  • Discover the best local flora and fauna
  • Understand more about the world around you
  • Explore the area with your expert HF Holidays Leader

What’s included

  • High-quality Full Board en-suite accommodation and excellent food in our country house
  • Guidance from a knowledgeable HF Holidays Leader, to ensure you get the most from your holiday
  • If applicable, all essential transport on a comfortable, good-quality mini-coach or another mode of transport, e.g. boat
  • If applicable, all entrance fees to venues included as part of your holiday’s itinerary

Trip Notes

Trip notes are detailed, downloadable PDF’s for each holiday, please click the button below to find the right trip notes for your departure date.

You're welcome to check in from 4pm onwards.

Enjoy a complimentary Afternoon Tea on arrival.

We’ll start the day travelling by coach to Kingley Vale Nature Reserve near Chichester. The reserve is most noted for its grove of ancient yew trees which are thought to be amongst the oldest living things in Britain. Some are 2,000 years old! Their twisted trunks make for interesting photographs. We’ll be on the lookout for the aptly named brain fungus which live on dead wood and might catch sight of a roe deer or two. The Nature Reserve is also home to an area of chalk grassland and Bronze Age burial mounds.

After lunch our coach will take us back east to Arundel’s Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve. This area of lakes, woods and reed beds is home to a variety of woodland and wetland birds whose numbers swell in the autumn as migratory visitors arrive to over-winter here. The site has several bird hides all connected by easy paths and sections of boardwalk. As well as a wide range of duck and geese species we will be on the lookout for water rail, snipe, marsh harrier and kingfisher. The area is also home to otter; these shy creatures can be hard to spot but we might just be lucky!

Walks: 5 miles at Kingley Vale Nature Reserve with 700 feet of ascent

This morning we’ll travel the short distance to Pulborough Brooks RSPB Reserve by coach. This area of lowland wet grassland and woods sits in the Arun Valley with beautiful views across the South Downs. The reserve’s grassland, ditches, pools and scrapes attract a wide range of wildfowl in the autumn months which can be observed from various hides. Wigeon and lapwing and particularly fond of the area with large flocks gathering. The reserve is also home to teal, pintail, godwit, snipe, redshank, greenshank, ruff, peregrine falcon and barn owl.

After lunch our coach will transfer us to the Knepp Estate. Formerly an area of arable farm, in 2002 the landowners decided to transform the land by allowing it to return to its natural state. This pioneering rewilding project has seen the landscape transform and the number of species increase dramatically, including some rarities. The land is managed with a very light hand so that nature can get on with following its own course. In the autumn you are likely to spot some or all of the estate’s deer species – red, fallow and roe. Birds that might be seen include redpoll, blackcap, redwing, lesser spotted woodpecker and winter thrushes. You might also spot some of the tamworth pigs and longhorn cattle which graze here as part of the rewilding project; hoofs dig holes which allow plants to colonise new areas and fur coats and/or dung transport seeds around the area. The estate’s famous white storks won’t be in residence as they will have migrated for the winter, but you may be able to see their large, messy nests.

Walks: 3 miles at the Knepp Estate; minimal ascent

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before making your way home.

Abingworth Hall

Tucked away in the village of Thakeham at the foot of the South Downs, Abingworth Hall has stood in one form another since the 13th century. Gutted by fire, it was rebuilt in 1910 in its current distinctive style. As well as 27 en-suite rooms the house has all the ingredients you need for the perfect country house stay: three comfortable lounges with squishy sofas to kick back in, the largest of which opens onto an attractive conservatory and bar in which to dally, great food and super-comfy rooms to retire to. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to walking here; go for a lazy amble around the wildlife rich chalk Downlands to discover a colourful tapestry of historic villages, thatched cottages, pastoral landscapes and vibrant market towns. Highlights of your stay might include the Seven Sisters, the Glorious Goodwood estate, the Devil’s Dyke and Chanctonbury Ring, as well as Arundel and the National Trust property at Petworth. Take your pick.



Tea & coffee-making facilities, TV, Hairdryer, Toiletries, Wi-Fi

Stay in one of the Hall’s smartly presented rooms, which make use of every nook-and-cranny in the interesting architecture of this characterful house. With 27 bedrooms, Abingworth Hall has plenty of space and there’s a range of Classic and Premium Rooms to choose from. Clean and bright, with accent colours to offset the simple palette, the rooms are airy and light. Premium Rooms might have a feature wall or strong print wallpaper as well as pretty tiles in the ensuite bathroom.

All ‘Classic' rooms are ensuite and furnished to a high standard. There are also several ‘Premium' Rooms that are either larger or have a desirable view, a more luxurious mattress and larger television – upgrade your stay for just an extra £15-25 per person per night. You can choose a specific room for an extra £30 per room, subject to availability. Upgrade supplements still apply.


Free Wi-Fi, boot room and drying room, extensive garden, outdoor swimming pool, multi-purpose activity room, three lounges, library and board games to borrow

After a day strolling on the South Downs, come back to the house and its specially tailored walkers’ facilities. Relax in the large gardens and sit by the pretty pond, turn your hand to croquet or practice on the putting green. Ease through a couple of lengths of the heated outdoor pool if you’ve still got energy to burn. Hole up in the light-filled conservatory with pretty views of the gardens or retire to the Drawing Room with its wood-panelled walls, log burner, library of books to browse and comfy seats to sink in to; there’s a telescope for you to scour the night sky too. In the evening, take your seat in the bar or join fellow guests in the large ballroom for the evening activity.

Food & Drink

As at all our country houses, holidays are full board, from afternoon tea served as a welcome treat through that evening’s meal to a hearty breakfast on the day of departure. Food at Abingworth Hall is varied with a strong emphasis on the use of seasonal British produce. Our experienced chefs create each dish using only the freshest ingredients and, when in season, use home grown herbs and vegetables taken from our own gardens to give a true taste of the local area.


For accessibility and assistance information, please contact our expert team on 020 3974 8865 or view the accessibility information online for Abingworth Hall


Getting to Abingworth Hall

Find out more about this location including travel details and room types.

More Information

Essential Information

On Explore Nature holidays, you will be outdoors for the full day, so be sure to bring outdoor clothing appropriate to the season, including waterproofs. You will also need strong and comfortable footwear with good tread. If there's warm weather, a sun hat, suncream and sunglasses may be useful.

Please also bring binoculars to ensure you get the most from your Explore Nature holiday.

You may also wish to bring a telescope, camera, water bottle or a thermos flask.

Phil Apchin

Philippe’s enthusiasm for the natural world developed when working as a scuba-diving instructor and underwater naturalist all over the world.

Originally from France, he fell in love with the UK in 2004 and started exploring the country mountain biking, fell running, birdwatching and hill walking.

Now a full-time Mountain Leader, Philippe is leading walking holidays in the UK and in France and bespoke birdwatching tours in Provence. At home in Bath, he regularly guides country walks as a volunteer Cotswold Warden

Philippe is a generalist leader with a passion to share his wide range of interests in birdwatching, wildlife, wildflowers, geography and geology developed through his experience in the field and attending online university courses.

Guest Reviews

3 nights
Explore Nature

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