How long will it take to walk the South Downs Way?
Most people take 8 or 9 days to walk the whole 100 miles (~160km) at 12 – 15 miles (~25km) a day. Remember to allow for the walk to and from your accommodation. Often the villages are at the foot of the hill so you’ll have to walk down in the evening and up in the morning in addition to the on Trail distance.
How long will it take to cycle the South Downs Way?
Assuming you are used to off road cycling then 2 or 3 days will be about right. It is possible to do it in a day but that’s an extreme challenge! There’s about 10,000ft (3000m) of climb as well as the 100 miles (160km) of distance.
What about riding the South Downs Way on a horse?
For experienced riders the South Downs Way is a very enjoyable challenge, and offers the chance to do an extended journey on horseback. You, and your horse, do need to be used to crossing busy roads. Take a folding bucket so you can water your horse from a tap as well as a trough. The accommodation guide lists places where horse and rider can stay. A list of horse box parking and water points is available on this site under publications/downloads or you can get a printed version from the Trail Officer.
Can I complete the South Downs Way if I have mobility problems or I am disabled?
The South Downs Way doesn’t have any stiles, at least on the bridleway route, but it is not engineered as a fully accessible route. Parts are steep and much of it is also used by farm vehicles. If you are not frail, then you could consider using a “Tramper” type cross country disabled buggy. Contact the Trail officer for more information and contact details for disabled people who’ve already enjoyed completing the Trail.
Can motor vehicles legally use the Trail?
National Trails are not intended for motor vehicles (4x4s and motorbikes). There are some Byway sections of the Trail where recreational vehicles do have a right of way, however there are also several Traffic Regulation Orders banning vehicles from sections they could otherwise use. Vehicle drivers should check with the relevant County Council for details. Walkers, cyclists, and horse riders should note that much of the South Downs Way runs on farm tracks so you may well meet agricultural vehicles almost anywhere. Please keep out of their way – they are at work, you’re not.
How hard is the South Downs Way to complete?
Anyone who is reasonably fit can walk the South Downs Way – if you can comfortably walk say 12 miles (20km) in a day you shouldn’t have a problem. You’ll enjoy it more if you do a few long day walks beforehand to get fitter, however. You may also want to allow some time for sightseeing en route. On the other hand those seeking a challenge can simply walk the trail in fewer days (the Gurkhas do 100km of the Trail in under 10 hours!).
You should be used to off road cycling before you commit yourself to the South Downs Way – doing it in anything less than 3 days will require quite a high degree of fitness. You should definitely get fit first!
The South Downs Way is much more of a challenge for horse riders because of the road crossings. The extended nature of the trip makes it harder going for disabled people using buggies too. Well worth it, though!
Can I camp along the South Downs Way?
You can walk or cycle the South Downs Way staying in campsites, apart from the Hampshire section where campsites are harder to come by. We are actively working to increase the provision of low cost accommodation such as camping barns, but for the moment it is difficult to cover the whole route by backpacking.
Please note that the South Downs Way runs through cultivated land, unlike some other National Trails, so wild camping can be problematic. You’re unlikely to be able to find anywhere discrete to camp along the Hampshire section – in Sussex the landscape offer more possibilities but you should still seek the landowner’s permission wherever possible. Please do not try to wild camp on National Trust land as you will be breaking the byelaws.
Is it safe to go alone?
Usually this question is asked by single women who are afraid of encountering unpleasant characters. The South Downs Way is as safe as anywhere and much safer than any city – you need have no security concerns about going alone. If you’re worried about injury rather than crime, then it is of course always possible that you’ll turn an ankle or some such. Risk is part of the adventure! Seriously though, you’re seldom so far from civilisation that you couldn’t hobble to help. No part of the Trail is that isolated.
Is there any luggage movement service?
Footprints of Sussex offer both accommodation and luggage packages and luggage movement alone. Luggage movement alone costs £175 for the whole Trail, shorter options possible.
South Downs Baggage Transfers provide a reliable and secure daily baggage transfer service for walkers, cyclists and riders along the entire length of the South Downs Way.
South Downs Baggage Transfers, 123 The Causeway, Petersfield, Hampshire, GU31 4LN. Tel.: 07540 984534 or 07968 817575. Email: www.southdownsbaggagetransfers.com
Pear Tree Cottage, Jarvis Lane, Steyning, West Sussex BN44 3GL
Tel.: 01903 813381
If you are B+B-ing you can get away with quite a small backpack with fresh underwear and one set of evening clothes. Alternatively you can post fresh clothes to you B+B mid way to await your arrival; post your dirty clothes back to yourself in the same package. Add a new book, maps, or whatever to taste!
Are there any organised walking holidays?
See the Services page for details of companies offering package deals of transport, accommodation, and if desired luggage movement.