South Downs Way
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Meadows & hills
Difficulty is measured on many factors such as distance, ascent/descent, terrain, weather and more. There's no magic formula, but from our experience we use yellow for easy, orange for medium and red for hard. Challenger holidays require a high level of fitness and stamina.
The South Downs Way provides a challenging route of 100 miles between Winchester, the Saxon capital of England and Eastbourne, the Edwardian leisure resort. It follows the crest of the South Downs escarpment reaching the high point at Bunster Hill and culminating in the exhilarating switchback of the Seven Sisters leading to Beachy Head and Eastbourne. Sections have been trading routes as far back at the Bronze Age. There is much of interest along the way.
Nestled at the foot of the South Downs, Abingworth Hall is ideally located for a short break or a longer holiday. A peaceful ambiance and excellent facilities make it a relaxing place to stay.
Our classic bedrooms offer comfortable accommodation and an en-suite bathroom with bath or shower. They also have TV, hairdryer, and tea and coffee making facilities. Single rooms are available at no extra charge.
You can enjoy extra space or exceptional views plus additional facilities including a towelling robe and complimentary slippers when you upgrade to a premium bedroom. Premium rooms are available at just £10 extra per person per night.
If you are travelling with your family, we have a selection of 3 and 4-bedded family bedrooms. These have all the facilities of our classic rooms plus full sized twin or double beds for adults and bunk beds or occasional beds for children.
All our Country Houses are tailored to the needs of walkers and outdoor enthusiasts and have excellent boot and drying rooms.
Abingworth Hall has three comfortable lounges, the largest of which opens onto the attractive conservatory and bar. The large ballroom can be used for dancing, evening talks or as a games room with table tennis. There is also a pleasant dining room. Free Wifi is available in some public rooms. There is also a range of board games and books.
Abingworth Hall is surrounded by eight acres of gardens. Outside there is a putting green and croquet lawn. The heated outdoor swimming pool is popular with our guests in the summer (May – September).
All holidays at our Country Houses are Full Board with all meals included, from dinner on arrival to breakfast on the day of your departure.
Start your day with our extensive breakfast. Choose from a wide selection on the cold buffet and/or a full cooked breakfast. Maybe enjoy a lighter option of fruit and yoghurt followed by scrambled egg, go for porridge followed by a full English breakfast, or select something in between.
Choose from our famous self-select picnic lunches - everything you need to keep you going on a day outdoors. Your own choice of sandwiches is prepared to order, and you can add crisps and snacks, fruit, nuts, chocolate bars, sweets and biscuits as you wish.
Our house-based Leisure Activities include an in-house lunch (generally soup, sandwiches etc).
The relaxed dinner is a highlight of any stay at our Country Houses. With tables seating up to 10 and no seating plan, it offers a great opportunity to get to know your fellow guests. There is always a choice of dishes for every course, featuring good British cooking and often local specialities. A vegetarian option is always available.
All our Country Houses have a well-stocked bar serving local beers, wine and spirits.
Guided Walking: enjoy a glass of wine or local beer in the bar before a talk about the next day's walks. After dinner there will be an activity or entertainment which you will be welcome to join. These vary from week to week but could include a talk on wildlife from a local speaker or a team quiz. Alternatively if you prefer, feel free to just relax in our lounge or bar.
Leisure Activities: many of our Leisure Activities holidays continue into the evening with programmed sessions. Other holidays will have the evenings free, and you will be welcome to join in other social activities that may be happening in the house.
Self-Guided Walking: there may be evening social activities happening in the house during your holiday, and you will be most welcome to join in. However, not all self-guided holidays will have evening activities available – if these are important to you, please check before booking.
Abingworth Hall is generally accessible to wheelchair users and has a bedroom specifically designed for wheelchair access.
Arrival & car parking facilities
- There is ample (gravel) car parking available at the rear of the House
- Disabled parking is available closer to the front door
- The driveway from the main B2139 is tarmac up to the front door
- It is possible to load and unload cars directly at the front door
- Assistance can be provided with luggage
Main entrance & reception
- There is a small step (6cm high) into the porch at the front door of the house
- The front door can open double to 151cm wide
- The step into the main reception hallway is 12cm high with double doors opening up to 162cm wide
- A hatch immediately inside the front doorway opens to reveal a check-in desk
- The reception hallway gives access to the drawing room, large lounge with conservatory, dining room, reception / office, powder room and gents
- A well-lit corridor leads off to the ballroom and bedrooms 1 - 8
- There is no lift. The main stairway (112cm wide) leads up to rooms 9 – 25
Public areas - hall, stairs, landing, corridors etc
- All public areas are carpeted
- The corridor leading to rooms 1 - 8. Minimum width is 99cm
- The main stairway leading up to rooms 9 - 25 is 112cm wide
Public areas - sitting room, lounges, lobbies etc
- Door is 86cm wide
- A carpeted, wood panelled lounge with relaxed seating for 12
- Door is 86cm wide. Impressive lounge with a baby grand piano and a large mirror. Carpeted with comfortable seating for 26. Leads into the conservatory
Conservatory & bar
- Carpeted with relaxed rattan furniture. Bar in the corner (bar height 117cm)
- Accessed though the large lounge, doorway is 117cm wide and a step down 17cm high or alternatively accessed from the reception hallway, down the corridor which is ramped. The door from the corridor is 79cm wide
- Entrance through double doors (total width 150cm)
- A large room, 7m by 11m with windows on two walls. Carpeted around a wooden dance floor, which measures 5m by 9m
- Chairs are movable, armless and stackable
- Ground level from the reception hallway, carpeted, door 79cm wide
- Two cubicles, doors 59cm wide, with standard toilets of 42cm high
- One basin with hot and cold taps
- A vanity unit with good lighting and a large mirror with two upright padded chairs
- Tiled floor (door width 81cm)
- One cubicle with standard toilet of 44cm high
- Four self-flushing urinals, 67cm high
- One basin with hot and cold taps
- Good lighting and mirrors
- From the reception hallway, three steps up into the main stairway (154cm wide with handrail) is the entrance to the dining room. Further two steps up (120cm wide with hand rail)
- The dining room is L-shaped, carpeted throughout
- Tables are rectangular, six legged and 72cm high, each seating five to eight diners
- Seats are without arms, 48cm high, padded seats with 40cm wooden backs
- A portable stainless steel mobility ramp is available
Bedrooms & sleeping areas
- Bedrooms 1 - 8 are on ground floor, down a well lit corridor from the reception hall
- Bedrooms 9 - 14 are up a main L-shaped stairway, 16 steps to the first floor landing
- Bedrooms 15 and 16 are through a door and further 7 steps up from the first floor landing
- Bedrooms 17 - 23 are through another door from the first floor landing, up a second flight of stairs, 16 steps up through a landing door onto the second floor
- Bedroom 24 is situated above room 16, up a curved narrow stairway of 15 steps
- Bedroom doors are 72cm - 87cm wide
- Beds are 55cm high. Rooms are single, twin or double bedded
- Usually made up with hollow fibre duvets and pillows, blankets and feather pillows available on request
- All rooms are carpeted and well lit
- All furniture, including beds are movable
- Most rooms have baths, although some have only a walk-in shower
- Rooms with baths have mostly mixer taps with a shower attachment
- Most rooms have vinyl or tiled floor, rooms 9 / 10 / 11 and 24 have carpet
- Room 6 has been specially adapted for wheelchair users
- A low level shower tray, 62cm by 105cm, with the step-in of 7cm
- An adjustable free standing mobility shower seat is available
- The shower is thermostatically controlled to give even water pressure with an adjustable shower head
- The toilet is 47cm high with left side static hand rail and adjustable right side rail
- The basin has level mixer taps and is wall-mounted for wheelchair access
- Tiled floor
Grounds and gardens
- There are around eight acres of grounds. Most of the pathways are gravel and therefore uneven
- Grass meadows and lawns are also uneven. Steep, uneven steps lead to the meadows
- There is a stone terrace along the front of the house. The surface is uneven. The terrace is accessible either via the front door or through the conservatory doors with 2 / 3 steps down to the terrace. The conservatory door width is 113cm
- The outdoor swimming pool is situated between the main house and the car park
- The pool is heated May - September
- Due to the secluded location of the pool, guests are advised not to swim alone. Pool emergency alarm at the side of the pool, attached to changing room
- Fire procedure is displayed in each room and explained to guests on arrival. Guests requiring assistance at an evacuation are identified at this time and door hanger cards are issued
- Mobile phone reception is generally good from the main building
- Assistance dogs accompanying visually or hearing impaired guests are welcome; dogs must be kept on a lead or harness at all times
- Information can be provided in large print
- Staff have received disability awareness training
- Special diets can be catered for. Specialist food can be obtained with prior notice
- Fridge for medication can be supplied
Winchester to Exton
We commence our journey at the Mill House, the official starting point of the SDW in Winchester, initially following the River Itchen before leaving the city and crossing fields to Chilcomb village. Sadly, there is insufficient time to explore Winchester. Leaving Chilcomb, we ascend our first summit, Telegraph Hill, from where there are good views to Winchester and over the natural amphitheatre below Cheesefoot Head. As the views begin to open up to the south, we meander across rolling countryside of mixed woodlands and arable lands passing Mill Barrows and the lost medieval village of Lomer. Nearing Beacon Hill, we gain a view over the Meon valley, before descending to the village of Exton and refreshment at the Shoe Inn.12.5miles (20.5km) with 1,180ft (360m) of ascent and 1,100ft (330m) of descent.
Exton to Queen Elizabeth Forest
From the village of Exton, we cross the River Meon and continue east to ascend Old Winchester Hill, a national nature reserve topped by an Iron Age fort and a Bronze Age cemetery. The strategic importance of this site is self-evident and the views are inspiring. We descend over open rolling downland with superb views, then on to Wether Down. From here the Downs begin as a ridge, stretching to the coast at Eastbourne and pierced by river valleys and roads. We now begin to experience the chalk ridge landscape of the Downs as we approach Butser Hill (883ft: 270m), the highest point on the SDW and formerly the starting point of the SDW. It is well-regarded for its butterfly populations, including the Chalkhill Blue. Having admired the views, we descend to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park for refreshment. 10.5miles (17.0km) with 1,360ft (420m) of ascent and 1,120ft (340m) of descent.
Queen Elizabeth Forest to Cocking
Continuing eastwards, we see more forested landscape on the gentler southern slopes of the Downs. At Hundred Acres we cross over the county border from Hampshire into Sussex and continue along Forty Acre Lane to Harting Downs. Our next ascent takes us around (our second) Beacon Hill, the site of an Iron Age fort, and onto Pen Hill. We soon pass the Devil’s Jumps, a curious group of large tumuli. Some pleasant downland ridge walking rounds off our day as we traverse Cocking Down to our pickup point on the A286. 13.0miles (21.0km) with 1,820ft (560m) of ascent and 1,940ft (590m) of descent.
Cocking to Amberley
At the start of the day we ascend back onto the ridge and passing Heyshott Down archaeological site, a group of Bronze Age burial mounds, we enter the woodlands of Charlton Forest. We continue to Graffham Down before passing to the north of the highest point of the Sussex Downs, Crown Tegleaze (830ft: 253m), covered by woodland. Further east, having crossed the A285, we ascend Bignor Hill (736ft: 225m). The nearby Roman Villa, a large excavated Roman house with extensive, coloured mosaics and Roman road (Stane Street) are evidence of Roman occupation. The road was constructed in 50 AD to connect London to the port at Chichester (Naviomagus) whose cathedral can be seen to the south-west. We now descend from the Downs to the floodplain of the tidal River Arun which we cross to reach Amberley and refreshment. 11.5miles (18.5km) with 1,240ft (380m) of ascent and 1,580ft (480m) of descent.
Amberley to Botolphs
Starting with a relatively steep ascent back onto the ridge of the Downs, we reach the summit of Rackham Hill with views over the flood plain of Amberley Wild Brooks, site of an RSPB reserve. Beyond here we experience undulating, ridge-top walking with fine views. Necessarily descending to bypass Washington village and cross the A24 (London to Worthing), we ascend back to the ridge to reach Chanctonbury Ring, a site famous for both the Iron Age fort and its clump of beech trees. The site offers a panoramic view, including to Cissbury Ring, just a few miles to the south. We progress over a mixed landscape of arable and pasture lands with wooded slopes below. The tops of the Downs themselves are on the whole bare and give a feeling of isolation. Passing Steyning Bowl and, for a short distance joining the Monarch’s Way, we make our way to the River Adur and our pick up just south of Upper Beeding. 13.5miles (22.0km) with 1,400ft (430m) of ascent and 1,400ft (430m) of descent.
Botolphs to Ditchling Beacon
We first have a gradual ascent to reach the ridge top near Truleigh Hill (706ft: 216m) and continue to the spectacular, and popular, landmark of Devil's Dyke, a Victorian leisure centre. Through a mixed arable landscape, we descend to cross another busy route through the Downs (A23 London to Brighton) to reach Pyecombe church with its unusual Tapsell gate. Ascending back on to the ridge through Pyecombe golf course, we can make a short detour to reach the Clayton Windmills (Jack & Jill), before heading on to another famous landmark, Ditchling Beacon (811ft: 248m): the third highest point on the South Downs. 10.0miles (16.5km) with 1,860ft (570m) of ascent and 1,140ft (350m) of descent.
A day without any scheduled walks, providing the opportunity to relax and recuperate, perhaps exploring the local area independently or enjoying Abingworth Hall’s facilities: swimming pool, putting green and croquet lawn.
Ditchling Beacon to Southease
We continue along the ridge of the Downs until, just before the summit of Blackcap, our route turns south across open downland and descending to cross the A27 Lewes road.
A gradual ascent, partly along Juggs Road (an ancient route), takes us back on to the Downs. At White Way, another old route into Lewes, we pass from the western to the eastern hemisphere as we cross the Greenwich Meridian. Descending into the Ouse valley, we pass through the village of Southease. Rodmell, once the home of Virginia Woolf, is just up the valley. Much of this area became famous having been frequented by the artists and writers of the unconventional bohemian ‘Bloomsbury Group’ in the early part of the last century. After crossing the River Ouse, we reach our pick up spot, hopefully whilst the YHA café is still open. 12.0miles (19.5km) with 1,020ft (310m) of ascent and 1,760ft (530m) of descent.
Southease to Exceat
Starting from the Ouse valley, we ascend Itford Hill, but the effort is rewarded by several miles of open ridge-top walking with accompanying views. Firle Beacon (710ft: 217m) provides one of the finest panoramic views from the Downs. We next follow a chalk track that used to be a sheep drove road, and descend into Alfriston. The Old Clergy House is one of the first buildings to have been owned by the National Trust. After crossing the River Cuckmere, we turn south, following the valley seawards, meandering past Litlington and West Dean to reach Exceat and its tea rooms for refreshment. 10.0miles (16.0km) with 1,320ft (400m) of ascent and 1,300ft (390m) of descent.
Exceat to Eastbourne
From Exceat, we gradually ascend the Downs beside the classic meanders of the River Cuckmere to reach the first of the Seven Sisters. Our cliff top route takes us along the switchback of the ‘bottoms’ and ‘brows’ of this popular section of the SDW to reach Birling Gap – the site of continuous and dramatic coastal erosion, and the NT café.
Continuing along the cliff top path, we pass the old lighthouse at Belle Tout to reach Beachy Head. The cliffs here are 530ft (160m) high and tower over the famous ‘candy stick’ Beachy Head lighthouse on the rocks below.
A gentle descent takes us to the outskirts of Eastbourne and the end of our journey. Following our promenade to the pier, we can deservedly reward ourselves with suitable refreshment. 9.0miles (14.5km) with 1,540ft (470m) of ascent and 1,560ft (470m) of descent.
Discover Sussex and the South Downs
Abingworth Hall is situated amidst gentle rolling farmland at the foot of the South Downs.
The nearest facilities are in the village of Storrington, about two miles away. Here you’ll find a small supermarket, post office, newsagent, pubs and a bank.
During your stay at Abingworth Hall you may enjoy visiting the following places of interest:
The quaint town of Arundel, about 30 minutes' drive away, is dominated by its castle, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk. During your visit you may enjoy a walk in the Castle's extensive grounds, or beside the river Arun. www.arundelcastle.org
Completely restored after an extensive fire, this stately National Trust property has ornate rooms and gardens. Uppark is around 50 minutes' drive from Abingworth. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/uppark
The cosmopolitan seaside city of Brighton is about 40 minutes' drive from Abingworth Hall and has an excellent range of specialist shops, entertainment, and its famous beach. You may also enjoy a visit to the Royal Pavilion, built in the early 19th century by George IV. www.brighton-hove-rpml.org.uk
Amberley Working Museum
Just 15 minutes' drive from Abingworth Hall, this large open-air museum tells the industrial story of the downs, complete with a steam railway, vintage buses and restored quarry machinery. www.amberleymuseum.co.uk
Just 10 to 15 minutes' drive away, Elizabethan Parham House is surrounded by an extensive deer park. www.parhaminsussex.co.uk
The historic cathedral city of Chichester, about 45 minutes' drive away, has plenty of interest. Just a couple of miles away is the fascinating Fishbourne Roman Palace, uncovered in 1960, which has many superb mosaics. www.chichestercathedral.org.uk or www.sussexpast.co.uk/fishbourne
A large late 17th century mansion, now run by the National Trust with extensive grounds that were landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown. Around 30 minutes' drive from Abingworth. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth-house
Weald & Downland Museum
Located on the Downs, near the village of Singleton, this excellent open-air museum contains many restored buildings that bring the history of Sussex to life. These include a working watermill and a re-creation of a typical downland village. The museum is around 45 minutes' drive from Abingworth. www.wealddown.co.uk
One of Britain’s premier steam railways with an impressive collection of 50 locomotives, representing the Southern Railway and its predecessors. The line runs through rolling countryside from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead, about 40 minutes' drive from Abingworth. www.bluebell-railway.co.uk
Uppark House and Petworth House image ©National Trust Images/John Miller
Travel to Abingworth
Our address is: Abingworth Hall, Storrington Road, Thakeham, West Sussex, RH20 3EF
The nearest railway station is at Pulborough. For train times and general rail enquiries visit www.nationalrail.co.uk or call 03457 484950 (from outside the UK call +44 20 7278 5240).
The 6 mile journey from Pulborough railway station takes approximately 15 minutes. Pre-booked taxis cost approx £14. Details of our current recommended taxi company and rates will be sent to you with your booking. The return taxi journey can be arranged on your behalf by the Abingworth Hall Manager.
From the north leave the M25 on either the A24 or the M23 and A264 to Horsham. Continue south on the A24 towards Worthing. About 5 miles south of Horsham turn right onto the A272 signposted to Billingshurst and Petersfield. After 3 miles turn onto the B2139 in the village of Coolham. After 3½ miles pass the turning for Thakeham on your left. Abingworth Hall is on the left after the Thakeham turn.
From the south take the M27 and continue on to the A27 and around Chichester. 4 miles before Arundel at Fontwell Park turn left on to the A29. After approx 4 miles at a roundabout, turn onto the A283 to Storrington. Turn right onto the A283 in Storrington. Continue through Storrington and left at the mini-roundabout at the Anchor Inn onto the B2139 towards Thakeham and Coolham. Go straight across at the next roundabout and then take a left at the Rydon Community College roundabout. Abingworth Hall is on the right, 2 miles north of Storrington.
Travelling from overseas
Abingworth is particularly convenient from London Gatwick Airport, which is served by a large range of long-haul and European flights.
From Gatwick Airport station there are trains every 30 minutes to Pulborough - journey time 40 minutes. See www.nationalrail.co.uk for train times. From Pulborough station complete your journey to Abingworth by taxi (see above)
London Heathrow airport is a little further away, so you'll need to travel via the centre of London. Allow 2½ hours to get to Pulborough.
Leader to be announced
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Dates & Prices
We're sorry, there are no dates available for this holiday at the moment. Please check out our other tours and breaks or call our team on 0345 470 8558 to be notified of new dates as soon as they become available.
Prices are per person
- Premium single room: £15 per night
- Premium twin/double room: £10 per person per night
- Non-member associate fee: £10 per person