16 Facts About South Downs


South Downs are a range of chalk hills that extends for about 260 square miles across the south-eastern coastal counties of England from the Itchen valley of Hampshire in the west to Beachy Head, in the Eastbourne Downland Estate, East Sussex, in the east.

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The South Downs are bounded on the northern side by a steep escarpment, from whose crest there are extensive views northwards across the Weald.

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South Downs are characterised by rolling chalk downland with close-cropped turf and dry valleys, and are recognised as one of the most important chalk landscapes in England.

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South Downs are relatively less populated compared to South East England as a whole, although there has been large-scale urban encroachment onto the chalk downland by major seaside resorts, including most notably Brighton and Hove.

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The South Downs have been inhabited since ancient times and at periods the area has supported a large population, particularly during Romano-British times.

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South Downs have been designated as a National Character Area by Natural England.

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South Downs are formed from a thick band of chalk which was deposited during the Cretaceous Period between 100 and 66 million years ago within a shallow sea which extended across much of northwest Europe.

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South Downs are a long chalk escarpment that stretches for over 110 kilometres, rising from the valley of the River Itchen near Winchester, Hampshire, in the west to Beachy Head near Eastbourne, East Sussex, in the east.

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The Western South Downs, lying west of the River Arun, are much more wooded, particularly on the scarp face, than the Eastern South Downs.

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The bare Eastern Downs – the only part of the chalk escarpment to which, until the late 19th century, the term "South Downs" was usually applied – have come to epitomise, in literature and art, the South Downs as a whole and which have been the subject matter of such celebrated writers and artists as Rudyard Kipling and Eric Ravilious.

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Highest point on the South Downs is Butser Hill, whose summit is 270 metres above sea level.

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Archaeological evidence has revealed that the South Downs have been inhabited and utilised for thousands of years.

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Sports undertaken on the South Downs include paragliding, mountain-biking, horse riding and walking.

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Longer events that take in the South Downs Way include a 100-mile running 'ultramarathon' and mountain biking 75 mile night time race from Beachy Head to Queen Elizabeth Country Park.

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Three of the landmarks on the South Downs are the Long Man of Wilmington and the Litlington White Horse being chalk carved hill figures, and Clayton Windmills.

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The South Downs have been home to several writers including Jane Austen who lived at Chawton on the edge of the Downs in Hampshire.

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