Outdoor activities on the South Downs include a wonderful range of fun and adventurous things to do for all the family. From mountain-biking to hang-gliding, gliding to hot air ballooning or horse-riding to simply rambling over the South Downs ... every possible outdoor activity is here, just waiting to be tried. For the Sussex South Downs Guide book shop, which stocks maps and books on East and West Sussex please
From a young age our kids have taken their bikes up onto the South Downs. There is one particular spot of the Downs that they used to love to visit ... but it's a secret - only for the lucky ones who come across it by chance!
If you saw BBC TV series, 'A Very English Village', you will have seen gang of local kids having a fantastic time on their bikes up on the South Downs a few summers ago.
This whole area is perfect for a very popular outdoor activity - horse riding. Take a gentle ride through the woody lanes at the foot of the Downs, or a more bracing gallop along the South Downs Way.
There are some excellent stables and riding schools throughout this part of the Sussex South Downs, and the villages of Ditchling and Hassocks both have shops selling riding equipment and clothing.
Walking, hiking and rambling on the Sussex South Downs
Clearly, the most obvious outdoor activity in this area (and also the cheapest) is walking. There are many wonderful walks here, some more challenging both in terms of length and incline, than others. Some follow well worn footpaths, often used for centuries by farmers, trades-people and locals, to get from one hamlet or village to another. Others, are those routes that are only known by the few, local inhabitants who've discovered them by chance.
As this Sussex South Downs website currently takes the area around the ancient village of Ditchling, as its starting point, circular walks out from the village provide the opportunity for visitors to the area to combine a walk with their enjoyment of the amenities offered in Ditchling.
From Ditchling village, it is a half hour or so hike to reach the highest point on the Sussex South Downs, Ditchling Beacon, a wonderful viewing point on the South Downs Way, and a great place to fly kites!
Outdoor activities in the Sussex South Downs have changed dramatically over recent years. I often wonder, driving over the Downs to Brighton, what my gran would have made of the giant bat-like creatures that hang in the air just above the cars as they approach Ditchling Beacon, the highest point along this section of the South Downs.
Hang-gliding over this part of Sussex is absolutely stunning. For most of us the experience will probably remain a dream, however, each sunny day, as the daylight hours get longer and we see more and more hang-gliders floating over the Downs, the temptation to try it just once, becomes unbearably strong!
Gliding is an extremely popular outdoor activity in this area. We see gliders throughout the year, but especially in the spring and summer when the warm currents rising close to the Downs provide the perfect lift for hang-gliders, gliders and birds.
Photo: Rod Walker
South Downs Gliding Club
The South Downs are great for dog walking. Just remember that there are a lot of sheep so be sure to keep your dog on a lead until you're confident that you're not in an area where sheep are grazing.
Part greyhound, our dog, Beau, runs like the wind for hour after hour. In warm weather, he sometimes lies down in puddles and shallow pools, just to cool down.
The Sussex South Downs seem to be his natural habitat.
This is not something that I've ever had the nerve to try, but it does look absolutely stunning when, on a warm Spring or Summer evening the tell-tale muffled roar of the burner catches your attention and you look up from the gardening to see a magnificent balloon floating just overhead. Occasionally, you can even hear the murmur of voices. The countryside around Ditchling and the other Downland villages is so stunning that it must look spectacular from a balloon basket. I am not able to recommend one particular balloon company but here are a few links to some of the balloons that are a familiar sight in this part of the Sussex South Downs. Meeting places are Hickstead (by A/M23), Borde Hill Gardens (near Haywards Heath) and one company uses a launch site close to Brighton.
Plumpton Racecourse is one of the most successful smaller jump racecourses in the country, staging sixteen National Hunt meetings from September to May.
Check out the BBC films on this beautiful part of southern England
If you can't visit the Sussex South Downs just yet, or come to this very English village in person, why not have a look at the section about the acclaimed series of films set in and around Ditchling and made by resident film-maker, Luke Holland? You can also purchase the full series or just a couple of the films from this part of the site.
To purchase a copy of Harvey's waterproof map of the South Downs Way, please click on the link below: