South Downs Railway and Canal Walks Holiday

Duration: 4 nights
Type: Walks with a theme
Walking Grade: 2
from £575pp £545pp

Enjoy walks on level ground of up to 10 miles plus a canal boat trip to explore the beautiful South Coast and Wealden countryside. There’s also the opportunity to delve a little into the history of the railways and canals which were once the lifeblood of the local economy. The routes have now become havens for wildlife from where picturesque views of ancient woodland, agricultural land and the coast can be enjoyed. There is huge variety in the landscapes visited but no hills! The wildlife and history behind the areas visited will be brought to life by the Walking Leader and there’s the chance to visit a country pub or two as well!

Holiday Highlights

  • Enjoy a boat trip on a restored section of canal and see some of the work needed to bring other parts of the canal system back to life
  • Walk the historic railway line to Hayling Island, which brought hundreds of thousands of holiday makers each year to this delightful seaside location
  • Revel in the tranquility of canalside walks and spot the wildlife which has made its home here
  • Walk on level terrain throughout - no hills to climb!

Trip Notes

Trip notes are detailed, downloadable PDFs for each holiday.

Download Trip Notes

You're welcome to check-in to your room from 2:30 p.m. onwards (upgraded rooms from 1 p.m.) Please join us for afternoon tea.

The Chichester Canal was opened in 1822 and was used to carry bulky, heavy loads between the south coast and London – a journey of some 116 miles which took four days. Goods carried included everything from manure and coal to gold bullion which was transported from the Royal Navy dockyards in Portsmouth. The last commercial cargo was carried in 1906. Since then the canal has become a haven for wildlife and a great place for people to get out into the countryside.

Our day starts in the historic county town of Chichester where we join a boat trip along the restored stretch of the canal. After lunch, we will walk along the towpath passing both restored and unrestored sections of the canal, walking from the Chichester Basin westwards to Salterns Sea Lock where the canal meets the Chichester Channel which feeds into Chichester Harbour. The route also takes in a short section of the Manhood and Selsey Tramway. The walk ends at the seaward end of the canal overlooking the Chichester Channel, where there is a café. From here, we will be taken back to Abingworth Hall. Distance: 5 miles (8km)

Today’s walk follows the route of the old Hayling Billy Line – a stretch of railway which once connected Hayling Island to the mainland. The steam trains using the line were locally known as ‘Puffing Billies’, hence the name. In the mid-19th century this line was vital for bringing heavy goods on to the island (the road bridge being too weak) and for taking produce such as milk and oysters off the island to market. It was later used for bringing holiday makers to Hayling Island and was used to bring in troop supplies during WW2.

The walk starts off at Havant Station following a section of the Shipwright’s Way through Langstone Village and across the busy road bridge to Hayling Island. After two miles the route joins the peaceful Hayling Billy Line coastal path which heads southwards to finish at the beach with its many colourful beach huts. Along the way there are a few remaining clues to the old railway including the site of its bridge, a restored signal and the place where the North Hayling Halt request stop station used to be.

There are lovely views across Langstone Harbour towards Portsmouth and its Spinnaker Tower. Langstone Harbour is an important sanctuary for several species of sea bird including the rare Little Tern and the path passes an area where both Mediterranean Gulls and Common Terns breed in some numbers. After stopping for lunch to enjoy the views across the English Channel, we retrace our steps along the Hayling Billy Line path back to Langstone Village. Distance: 10 miles (16km).

Starting from the village of Loxwood, we’ll walk along the towpath of a restored section of the Wey & Arun Canal. The canal banks are a haven for wildlife with butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies flitting amongst the wildflowers which thrive here. The canal once formed a vital trading link between London and the south coast. Its 23 miles linked the Wey navigation near Guildford to Pallingham in Sussex via the Arun Navigation, allowing goods to be transported to supply the dockyards in Portsmouth. The walk takes us past two sets of locks and on to the modern Drungewick Aqueduct. Here, we leave the canal and walk across farmland and through stretches of ancient woodland before re-joining the towpath which takes us back to Loxwood. The route passes both unrestored and restored sections of the canal. The canal side pub marks the end of this themed walking break with a difference. Distance: 9 ½ miles (15km).

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 ensuite 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 Chantonbury Ring, as well as Arundel and the National Trust property at Petworth. Take your pick.


Need to know

Important Covid-19 steps we have taken for guest safety: Please Read

As we slowly reopen in the wake of the Coronavirus lockdown, our country house stays are set to be organised a little differently; extra steps have been taken to keep our guests, house teams and leaders safe while we return to action. We ask all our guests to respect the measures put in place.

Initially the overall capacity of the houses has been reduced. Guests must wear face coverings in public spaces. To adhere to social distancing guidelines, we have taken the necessary steps to space out furniture and seating in public areas. In addition, a one-way system will be in place around the house. Adequate signage will be displayed to support the direction of travel to be followed by guests and house teams.

As a temporary measure, we will not be servicing rooms during a stay. Extra tea, coffee, milk, and toiletries will be made available on request for all guests. It is recommended that guests bring their own toiletries for the duration of their stay. We have removed all non-essential and reusable items from our rooms for the meantime including cushions, hairdryers, bathrobes, bed throws, and printed materials to reduce the number of items that need to be disinfected. Hairdryers will be available on request. Clean towels will be available on request. We will though be increasing the frequency of cleaning in our public areas providing particular attention to frequently touched items including door handles and handrails.

For now, there is no cream tea on arrival day. We have also adapted our food offering to remove all buffets and open food items. Different sittings may be required for breakfast and dinner due to the occupancy and size of the house. Picnic lunches will now be pre-ordered the night before from an order form in the room. The bar in each country house will be open, and we will be offering a table service for drinks. At this time there is no, or only a very limited, evening social programme available. Outdoor swimming pools at those houses that have them will re-open throughout August, except at Freshwater Bay House, where the pool will remain closed for 2020. Indoor swimming pools will remain closed.

For more information and to see all the steps taken, visit our page on how house stays will be adapted.


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 Good and Better Rooms to choose from. Clean and bright, with accent colours to offset the simple palette, the rooms are airy and light. Better Rooms might have a feature wall or strong print wallpaper as well as pretty tiles in the ensuite bathroom.

All ‘Good’ rooms are ensuite and furnished to a high standard. There are also several ‘Better’ 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. Lunch is a chance to stock up on our famous picnic snacks. Food at Abingworth Hall is varied and tasty and has a strong emphasis on ingredients from the area and seasonal produce. Once a week the dining room, which has a giant brick fireplace at its heart, hosts a Local Food Night, when, over a sociable evening, you might try a five-course feast of local Sussex flavours. Look out for the Sussex Churdle, a traditional, meaty ploughboy lunch, local Chiddingly beef cooked with black olives and Sussex smokies, smoked haddock served in a prawn sauce. Cap it all with a Sussex Pond Pudding, a pud that’s part of the honourable tradition of British dishes with names to pique the interest more than the appetite, which is actually bright and zingy, suety and syrupy all at the same time


For accessibility and assistance information, please contact our expert team on 020 3974 8865

10688_0070 - Abingworth Hall - Exterior

Getting to Abingworth Hall

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

More Information

Essential Information

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong type of clothing!” goes the adage. Come prepared for all eventualities and you’ll walk in comfort as well as safety. Britain’s famous for its changeable weather, so here’s our advice on what to wear and bring.


  • Waterproof walking boots providing ankle support and good grip.
  • A waterproof jacket and over-trousers
  • Gloves and a warm hat (it can be chilly at any time of the year)
  • Rucksack
  • Water bottle (at least 1 litre capacity)
  • A small torch (everywhere in winter, year round in mountains)
  • Sun hat and sunscreen
    Denim jeans and waterproof capes are not suitable on any walks.


  • Several layers of clothing, which can be added or removed
  • Specialist walking socks to avoid blisters.
  • A first aid kit inc plasters– your leader’s first aid kit doesn’t contain any medication
  • Sit mat (insulated pad to sit on when you stop for a break)

You might also want

  • Walking poles, particularly useful for descents.
  • Insect repellent
  • Flask for hot drinks
  • Rigid lunch box
  • Gaiters
  • Blister kit (eg Compeed) just in case
  • Waterproof rucksack liner

Guest Reviews

All holidays are subject to availability. Prices are subject to change.
Prices based on two people sharing. Supplements may apply.
Non-member fee: £20 per person.

Holiday Prices

Date (Start - End) Nights Itinerary Price Status Trip Notes Book
26 Apr - 30 Apr
4 Themed Walk £575 £545 Save £30 Per Person Trip Notes Book Now
4 nights
Walks with a theme
Walking Grade:

4 nights from £575pp £545pp

...or call 020 3974 8865

For group bookings of 10+ people click here

Add to wishlist Added to wishlist