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. It offers great viewing for short or long strolls in the beautiful surrounding meadows.
Choose your room
• Comfortable accommodation
• En-suite bathroom with bath or shower
• Tea and coffee making facilities
• Single rooms available at no extra charge
• Enjoy extra space or exceptional views
• Toweling robe, complimentary slippers
• Same facilities as our classic rooms
• Available from an extra £10 per person per night
• 3 or 4 beds
• Same facilities as our classic rooms
• Full sized twin or double beds for adults and bunk or occasional beds for children
|• Excellent boot and drying rooms
• Three comfortable lounges, the largest of which opens onto the attractive conservatory and bar
• Large ballroom
• Dining room
• Free WiFi avaliable in some public rooms
|• Range of board games and books
• Surrounded by eight acres of gardens
• Putting green and croquet lawn
• Heated outdoor swimming pool (open May to September)
|All holidays at our Country Houses are full board with breakfast, picnic lunch and evening meal. All of our Country Houses have a well-stocked bar serving local beers, wine and spirits.
√ Start your day with our extensive breakfast.
All of our bars are stocked with locally sourced drinks so you can really soak up your surroundings.
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