South Downs National Park

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The South Downs National Park is England's newest National Park, having become fully operational on 1 April 2011. The park, covering an area of 1,627 square kilometres in southern England, stretches for 140 kilometres from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east through the counties of Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex. The national park covers the chalk hills of the South Downs (which on the English Channel coast form the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head) and a substantial part of a separate physiographic region, the western Weald, with its heavily wooded sandstone and clay hills and vales. The South Downs Way spans the entire length of the park and is the only National Trail that lies wholly within a national park.




The South Downs National Park stretches for 140 kilometres across southern England from St Catherine's Hill near Winchester in Hampshire in the west to Beachy Head, near Eastbourne in East Sussex in the east. In its western half, the southern boundary of the park lies up to 10 kilometres inland from the south coast; it thus excludes the major coastal towns and cities of Southampton, Portsmouth, Chichester, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton. Further east, where the park's southern boundary lies much closer to the coast, it has been carefully drawn to exclude the urban areas of Worthing, Brighton and Hove, Newhaven, Seaford and Eastbourne, which had all made substantial encroachments onto the Downs during the 19th and 20th centuries. By contrast, the park includes a number of towns situated in the western Weald, including Petersfield, Liss, Midhurst and Petworth, and the two historic Sussex towns of Arundel and Lewes.

The South Downs National Park's chalk downland is a feature that sets it apart from other national parks in Britain. However, almost a quarter (23%) of the national park consists of a quite different and strongly contrasting physiographic region, the western Weald, whose densely wooded hills and vales are based on an older Wealden geology of resistant sandstones and softer clays. The highest point in the national park, Blackdown, at 280 metres above sea level, is in fact situated in the Weald, on the Greensand Ridge, whereas the highest point on the chalk escarpment of the South Downs, Butser Hill, has an elevation of 271 metres above sea level.


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