South Downs Way: Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Cocking Hill

NEAREST LOCATION

Queen Elizabeth Country Park

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

12.7 miles (20.4kms)

ASCENT
991ft (302m)
TIME
4hrs 30min
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Hard
STARTING POINT
SU718185

About the walk

The South Downs Way National Trail passes along the length of the South Downs from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in Sussex (where the route divides into two to include the Seven Sisters Loop tor those who prefer to follow the coast). This part of the route is a bridleway, so expect to meet horses and mountain bikes, though thankfully no motorized vehicles. The start of this walk is served by train and bus from Winchester or Petersfield. The South Downs Way is an undulating route, following the high chalk ridges of the Downs and dipping in and out of valleys and combes. If the weather is kind, the views are magnificent, across mainly unspoilt English countryside, with frequent glimpses of the English Channel. This particular section has delightful woodland sections and fine views both to the north and south.

Walk directions

The Queen Elizabeth Country Park is a convenient place to start walking the South Downs Way, just on the Hampshire side of the county border. An alternative start point is the village of Buriton, served by buses from Petersfield and Portsmouth, and blessed with an old-fashioned pond and a pub. The Queen Elizabeth Country Park is en route for those extending the walk to and from Winchester. A large map on a notice board sends walkers off on the South Downs Way via dense woods until the top of the hill is reached by War Down, the first of many climbs on this route. From there, the path drops down to the south of Buriton following both lanes and track to the east past Coulters Dean Farm.

The next stage of the walk leads to Sunwood Farm, the original official beginning and end of the South Downs Way on the Hampshire—Sussex border. From here the South Downs Way acorn signs point the way along chalk tracks, with some severely muddy stretches in wet weather conditions, towards Harting Downs.

The first village encountered is South Harting, notable for the church’s green copper spire. It was once the home of Alexander Pope and later of Anthony Trollope, who was said to shock the village with his weekend parties. A footpath leads down the hillside to the left, and the village is about 20 minutes by foot. Alternatively, on the south side of the Downs, make a diversion to the National Trust mansion of Uppark, built in the Wren style by William Talman in 1685–90. This gem on the South Downs, rescued after a major fire in 1989, houses an elegant Georgian interior with a famous Grand Tour collection, which includes paintings, furniture and ceramics.

A short way on you emerge by a car park at the top of Harting Downs, to experience the first of many fine views that the South Downs Way offers from here on. To the southwest the views extend uninterrupted across Chichester Harbour to the Isle of Wight. To the southeast, you look out across the city of Chichester itself, with its elegant, mainly Norman cathedral and rather more modern Festival Theatre in the foreground. Here the route follows a fine grassy trail along the top of the Downs, a popular location on fine days, for both hang gliders and model aircraft enthusiasts, who launch their craft over the flat countryside to the north.

The signpost at Cross Dykes is the next landmark, with the South Downs Way signpost giving the option of a stiff climb straight up Beacon Hill (with its ancient Iron Age hillfort, of which virtually nothing remains at the top) or the more popular gentle climb, skirting the hill to the south and east. Although clearly signposted, this is one of the few places along the Way where it is possible to wander off the route, which takes a sharp left turn before a small country estate to the right, named Telegraph House. As an alternative diversion, this track leads to The Royal Oak pub at Hooksway a mile or so on, which is a popular stopping place for walkers.

Additional information

Road; gravel, chalk and grass paths

Farmland, woods and hills affording sweeping vistas

On lead when near livestock or on roads

OS Explorer OL 120

Queen Elizabeth Country Park car park at start

Queen Elizabeth Country Park at start

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