England’s South Downs National Park attracts millions of visitors each year due to its natural beauty, camping, and hiking opportunities. It’s the newest national park in the nation as it was established in 2010. The total size of it is approximately 630 square miles. The land is filled with beautiful rolling hills, grasslands, oak trees, and open heath which runs parallel the picturesque southeast coast of the country.
Once you reach the sea, you’ll come across quite a dramatic coastline which features the famous Beachy Head and Seven Sisters cliffs. The park itself is only about an hour away from historic London, and even though it’s new, it’s estimated that close to 40 million visitors explored the park in its first two years, making it Britain’s most popular national park.
[Photo By 33037982@N04]
The foundation of much of the land consists of chalk limestone. This soft rock was formed about 100 million years ago by fossilized skeletons of ancient sea creatures which lived in the nearby Atlantic Ocean. In certain areas of the park you’ll be able to see the remains of sponges, sea urchins, ammonites, and other historic creatures in the chalk.
The white rocks are certainly the most visible when you reach the coastline at the cliffs of the Seven Sisters. These are located between Birling Gap and Cuckmere Haven. Scientists say that the cliffs erode at a rate of about 10 inches per year as the ocean waves crash upon them. If you visit when the tide happens to be out you can reach a rock platform below the cliffs that has been formed by the water.
From here you’ll be able to peer up at the towering white cliffs and see some of the fossils of the various ancient creatures. Also, there is plenty of living marine life in the water and you could come across mussels, limpets, whelks, shrimp, and sea anemones. Seaweed, kelp forests, and sea algae are also present when the tides are low.
The grasslands are also home to some interesting life forms. There are over three dozen different plants present in a square meter in some area of the park. These flowers and plants actually serve a good purpose since they help to sustain the local animal ecosystem which includes rare butterflies, insects, snails, birds, and hares.
One of the best areas of the park to see the diversity is the Yew Forest Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve. This region is home to some of the best yew woods in Europe. Many of the trees here have been present for over 500 years, making them among the nation’s oldest. Some of them are as big as 16 feet in diameter. Some of the rare birds you’ll be able to spot in the woods include red kites and green woodpeckers.
Human life has been present in the South Downs park area for many centuries. To get a glimpse of this, you can head to an Iron Age hill fort known as Chanctonbury Ring. This spot offers some fantastic views of the local surroundings. When the Romans inhabited the site, they built two shrines on it.
Getting to the park is easily done from London as you can drive or take a train to the south-coast city of Brighton. Buses connect the smaller towns and there’s a ferry which runs from Newhaven to the French port of Dieppe. There’s always something to do at South Downs National Park. With camping and hiking, you’ll find many art festivals, farmers markets, and other events.
One of the most popular trails is the South Downs Way, which is ideal for hikers, cyclists, and horseback riding. It’s about 100 miles long and runs between Winchester and Beachy Head. The trail winds through some charming market towns such as Lewes and Petersfield where you can stop for refreshment at the local pubs. If you’d like to get a look at the magnificent South Downs National Park from above you can try your hand at paragliding as it’s extremely popular there.