South Downs

South Downs

Hampshire's South Downs - around Chawton where Jane Austen lived - has quite a different feel from the rest of the South Downs National Park.

With its steep wooded hills and hidden valleys of watercress farms, lavender fields, vineyards, hop gardens and trout-filled streams, its picture-perfect villages and peaceful market towns, this is one of the loveliest parts of rural England.

Hidden away between the cathedral cities of Winchester and Chichester, this is great walking, cycling and riding country. Invigorating long-distance trails and circular routes dip and rise through ancient woodlands, and out onto the tops of the Downs.

The poet Edward Thomas loved these wooded chalk hills. So did Britain’s first naturalist - the great Gilbert White. When, in the 18th century, he described his lovely Selborne as a ‘rural, sheltered, unobserved retreat’, he could have been writing about the area today.

There’s a rich cultural life here, with contemporary arts and crafts thriving in small studios and galleries, live performances at Bedales, festivals and events in the market towns and villages.

And – only 40 miles from London – it’s got a cosmopolitan feel when it comes to places to eat and stay. So there are chic green B&Bs, wonderful foodie pubs with open fires, classy restaurants with rooms - all serving delicious food, beers and wine from this fertile, fruitful land.