This week in 2010: the South Downs launches as a National Park

South Downs Way walk. Sally Dench, Jo Hughes, Brenda Goodman, Julia Simpson, Jenny Clark. Picture by Steve Cobb
South Downs Way walk. Sally Dench, Jo Hughes, Brenda Goodman, Julia Simpson, Jenny Clark. Picture by Steve Cobb

This week in 2010, the South Downs National Park officially launched.

Here is what one of our reporters wrote in our February 12 edition:

Picture by Steve Cobb

Picture by Steve Cobb

“Britain’s newest national park will officially open its gates to the public on March 31, after half a century of wondering if it was ever going to happen.

Of course there are no gates to open and the public will have just the same right of access to the countryside that they did the day before.

So what exactly is the South Downs National Park all about? Keith McKenna, of Footprints, has been leading and writing about walks throughout the South Downs for over 30 years. More recently he’s been instrumental in the creation of two new long distance trails that pass through the heart of this new ‘park’.

“National park status is all about recognising those precious gems of beautiful countryside we still have left in England,” says Keith, “and affording them as much protection as possible so that our grandchildren will have a chance of enjoying their natural beauty and wildlife in years to come.”

Like many others, Keith believes that the true beauty of the area is best enjoyed on foot and for the past ten years he’s been leading the annual South Downs Way Walk on behalf of West Sussex County Council.

The trail runs right through the centre of the new park – literally from one end to the other – along 100 miles of rolling chalk downland.

Because it never rises above a comfortable 800 feet this long distance path is classified as ‘relatively easy’ and yet, in many places, it gives amazing views of over 30 miles. It has rightly become one of England’s most popular national trails and the spectacular Seven Sisters section has been voted ‘best coastal walk in Britain’.

The nine-day annual walk traditionally takes place in June - this year from the 18th to 26th – chosen for when the wild orchids and the butterflies are at their best.

Coaches are provided to take everyone to and from each day’s linear walk; starting in Winchester and finishing with a celebration party in Eastbourne.

With an experienced team of Footprints ‘Red Shirts’ walking with the group it’s the safest and simplest way of discovering why the South Downs are so special and just why they have become our newest national park.”