Are there any organised horse riding packages?
At the moment there are no companies that offer any packages for horse riders, with or without their own horse.
Any safety tips?
Take and drink plenty of water – there are not many places to get more water on top of the downs. In winter, be prepared for it to be a lot colder and winder at the top of the Downs than it is at the bottom. Stay away from the crumbly cliff edge at Seven Sisters. Take care on road crossings. Common sense stuff.
How easy is it to follow the Trail?
The Trail is well marked on the ground – just follow the acorn signs. On the whole the South Downs Way follows an obvious route along the crest of the Downs, especially in Sussex. We do recommend you take a map, however, in case you miss a sign and to find your way to and from the Trail.
One word of warning – there are several places where the South Downs Way turns off sharply at a junction. If you’re not paying attention it is easy to walk past the turning and just carry straight on. Look over your route for the day on a map before you set off so you know where to look out for turn-offs.
I can’t read a map!
See the "Scared of maps?" section in the publications/downloads section. Maps aren’t that daunting really once you’re used to them.
There is a printed South Downs Way trail guide written by Paul Millmore, pub. Aurum Press/The Countryside Commission last revised April 2004, (£12.99). ISBN 1854109669. It has detailed route descriptions and 1;25000 map extracts. If you need detailed instructions for reassurance, you need the Trail Guide. See Publications
Which maps should I use?
The UK Ordnance Survey publishes excellent maps, including a 1;25,000 "Explorer" series, and a 1;50;000 Landranger series that is probably better for cycling. The South Downs Way would be on OS Explorer 132, 120, 121, 122, 123, or Landranger 185, 197, 198, 199. The maps cost around £7 each. Also available is a waterproof 1;40,000 strip map by Harveys (01786 841202 / www.harveymaps.co.uk) that is excellent for cyclists.
Should I start in Winchester or Eastbourne?
You can do either, and of course you don’t have to do the whole Trail in one go anyway. The Trail Officer’s personal recommendation is to start in the west and head east, ending at Eastbourne. There are two reasons for this; one is that the wind will be behind you rather than in your face. More importantly the Hampshire countryside is very attractive but the white chalk cliffs at Beachy Head are spectacular. Starting in the west the views just keep getting better whereas if you start at the very best part the rest of the trip is bound to be an anticlimax. The Trail Guide isnt't written this way but it is easy enough to follow "in reverse".
Who has right of way, cyclists, horse riders, or walkers?
By law cyclists must give way to other bridleway users, but generally people are quite happy to stand aside to let bikes pass if asked nicely. Cyclists, please shout “hello” when coming up from behind, especially if approaching horses which might bolt otherwise. On the whole all the different non motorised users get along very well, and add interest to the Trail.
If you are an otherwise fit person but with mobility problems the South Downs Way can be a great adventure.
The Trail as a whole is not suitable for people who are frail, however – it is not specially surfaced for wheelchairs and so can be rough and/or steep in places. You’ll need a suitable electric cross-country buggy such as a Tramper. You, or a companion, must be able to walk short distances to open and close gates. You are strongly advised not to go alone if you have mobility problems (two or more Trampers together would be OK). Contact the Trail Officer for detailed information about the path surfaces, slopes, and useful contacts
Are there any organised cycling packages?
Meon Valley Cycle Hire, Mill Lane, Titchfield, Hampshire PO15 5RB. Tel. 01329 843679 and 07778 410532. Email: www.meonvalley-cyclehire.co.uk.
Offers cycling packages on the western end of the South Downs Way as well as simple bike hire. See the Services section for details of companies offering package deals for cyclists.
Walk & Cycle Britain, 123 The Causway, Petersfield, Hampshire, GU31 4LN. Tel. 0844 870 8648. Email: www.walkandcycleholidays.co.uk/cycling
Based in the South Downs National Park, Walk & Cycle organises cycling holidays for groups of all sizes and abilities. Their cafefully designed trails are flexible and can be adapted to include on and off-road cycling that are suitable for the local conditions and your fitness levels. Your bags are transported between hotels and inns and thier cycle rescue service provide support shouild you need it.
What are the exact start/finish points?
At Winchester the terminus is the City Mill. This is a National Trust building, open to the public, perched over the River Itchen at the boundary of the old city. However for most purposes the statue of King Alfred makes a better landmark and photo opportunity. It's about 100m further west at the bottom of Broadway. If you need to ask for directions, everyone who lives in Winchester will know where the statue is. Broadway is the eastern and downhill end of Winchester's main street, and is also where the Tourist Information Centre and bus station are located. At Eastbourne the footpath and bridleway terminus is now at the end of the promenade road, where the footpath to Beachy Head leaves the tarmac. The promenade (seafront) road is called "King Edwards Parade" (the B2103) - it becomes Dukes Drive at the sharp bend where the SDW leaves the road. There is a seasonal cafe and very small (usually full) car park at the start/end point of the Trail. To get there from the town centre (bus and railways station etc) just head to the seafront, turn right (west) and keep walking along the road. The SDW starts after about a mile.