Top five Boxing Day walks in the South Downs for families
Top five Boxing Day walks in the South Downs for families
Boxing Day wouldn’t be Boxing Day without a family walk to revive the senses after one too many mince pies and mini-chocolates.
And what could be better than the breathtaking views of rolling green landscape, clean fresh air and a glorious crimson sunset over the South Downs National Park?
So here are our five top family walks in the South Downs this Christmas – guaranteed to give every member of your clan a gentle workout and promote winter wellness. Expect lots of “oohs and aahs” too, with an uplifting view at every turn!
Several of these walks have been specifically tailored for families and people with limited mobility as part of the Miles Without Stile initiative. Funded by Gatwick Airport, there are new accessible routes which have had stiles removed, gates replaced and brand-new surfacing to make your walk as easy as leftover turkey pie!
Allison Thorpe, who leads access and recreation for the South Downs National Park, said: “A family walk is the perfect way to blow away the Christmas cobwebs. The beauty of the South Downs is that it’s mostly gently rolling lowland landscape – so you’re not going to need expensive hiking gear to get out and enjoy it.
“The National Park is great for all ages and fitness levels and is so accessible, with 2.2m people living within 10km. Although the days are short, Christmas can be a wonderful time to see the South Downs. It really does transform into a winter wonderland, with frost-covered fields, magical mists, the odd snow-capped brow and the most amazing sunsets.
“All of our Miles Without Stiles walks are great for families with buggies and are also perfect for those using mobility scooters.”
Melanie Wrightson, Community Engagement Manager at Gatwick Airport said: “Gatwick is delighted to fund Miles Without Stiles to make the National Park more accessible. The beauty of the South Downs is truly awe-inspiring and it is only right that it is available to all.
“We hope everyone enjoys their festive walks this Christmas time!”
Allison’s five family-friendly walks:
Seaford Head, East Sussex
Offering spectacular views over Cuckmere Haven and the Seven Sisters, there are three short routes for walkers to choose from, varying from 0.2 miles to 1.4 miles.
Plenty of viewing points all the way round to capture those Christmas selfies and benches too, so you can crack open the flask of hot chocolate!
START POINT: South Hill Barn car park, Seaford Head, East Sussex BN25 4AR. Alternatively take the Brighton & Hove bus number 12, which travels from Brighton to Eastbourne along the coast and stops in Seaford. Alight at Chyngton Lane bus stop on the A259, turn down Chyngton Lane and follow the path to South Hill Barn (0.8 miles).
Bramber, West Sussex
The historic village of Bramber with its medieval castle is the starting point for this glorious riverside route.
Wheelchair users, motorised buggies and families with pushchairs will find this wide, newly laid surface easy to negotiate.
Where the path joins the South Downs Way you can either turn around or for those who want to continue on take a circular route turning right on to the Downs Link (bridleway) and follow the path back to the riverside under the bridge at the A283. Keep a lookout for herons and kingfishers
on the river!
START POINT: Car park on The Street, Bramber, West Sussex, BN4 3WE.
Ditchling Beacon, near Brighton
These two Miles Without Stiles circular routes are set in a beautiful area of the South Downs National Park and are suitable for off-road class 3 all-terrain mobility scooters.
Enjoy stunning 360 degree views from Ditchling Beacon, the highest point on the chalk in East Sussex, visit the historic Jack and Jill windmills or pay your respects at the peaceful Chattri war memorial.
Following these trails also takes you along a section of the famous South Downs Way National Trail – a 100-mile route that has been used for around 8,000 years and runs the entire length of the South Downs National Park, from Winchester to Eastbourne.
Two slightly more challenging walks at 4.5 miles or 5.7 miles, but well worth it for the scenery!
START POINT: Jack and Jill windmills free car park, BN6 9PG. Alternatively take the 79 Breeze bus from Brighton to Ditchling Beacon.
Meon Valley Trail, West Meon, Hampshire
Discover a trail that leads you through English history. Once a railway line running from Fareham to Alton transporting local livestock and agricultural produce, the trail now spans 11 miles through picturesque countryside, from West Meon in the north to Wickham in the south.
This wonderful trail showcases the internationally-important chalk stream, the Meon.
The walk is well-suited for families with push chairs and mobility scooters, thanks to improvement works carried out by Hampshire County Council and the South Downs National Park Authority.
Walk as much, or as little of the trail, as you like! It’s also a great spot for trying out any new bikes that Santa may have delivered!
START POINT: Car park off Station Road, West Meon, GU32 1JJ or Car park at Mill Lane, Wickham.
Swanbourne Lake, Arundel, West Sussex
Nestled beside the regal town of Arundel is the beautiful Swanbourne Lake.
The lake started life as a millpond, with records going back to the Doomsday survey in the 11th century. The lake is fed mainly by groundwater springs known as the ‘Blue Springs’ due to the colour of the water as it emerges from the ground.
This important wildlife site is now renowned for its outstanding natural beauty, and at just over a mile, is the perfect family stroll to walk off a meal.
Swanbourne Lodge tea room is handily located at the entrance to the lake (thank Queen Victoria – it was built in the 19th century for a special visit by her).
As part of the Miles Without Stiles initiative, the circular path around the lake has been given a makeover, making it suitable for mobility scooters and push chairs.
START POINT: Entrance to Swanbourne Lake, Mill Road, Arundel. There is limited parking here but if steps are not a problem, there is parking at Mill Road car park opposite Arundel Castle, BN18 9PA
Over the next two years, Gatwick Airport’s sponsorship will allow more routes to be made accessible for all and ensure everyone can enjoy the beauty of the South Downs. For more information on the Miles Without Stiles initiative, visit www.southdowns.gov.uk/enjoy/walking/miles-without-stiles/
You can discover these and more routes in the South Downs on the ViewRanger App, which is available for download on Android and iPhone. To plan your bus journey visit Traveline southeast www.travelinesoutheast.org.uk, which provides accurate timetables and journey plans for any service on Boxing Day and other days over the Christmas period.