15 stunning springtime walks
It's National Walking Month! What better way to celebrate than striking out on one of these lovely lockdown-friendly circular walks taking in the hills, mills, forests, fields and coasts of Sussex.
We’re allowed unlimited exercise so make the most of the spring weather and head out on one of these family-friendly walks. They’re all bursting with opportunities to spot wildflowers, birds and animals as well as a fair few sites of cultural and historical interest, so they’re totally educational to boot.
Shipley Windmill and Knepp Estate, 4km
It may only be 4km but this walk packs in some serious creds. Begin at Kings Mill, Shipley, the youngest and largest mill in Sussex, the fictional home of TV’s Jonathan Creek (remember him?) and the actual home of poet Hillaire Belloc. You’ll also be strolling through nearby Knepp Estate, home to an incredible pioneering rewilding project and the subject of Knepp owner, author and travel writer Isabella Tree’s acclaimed book Wilding. Look out for nesting storks, beavers and the free-roaming Exmoor ponies and longhorn cattle. Route here
St Leonard’s Forest, Horsham, 4km
Enjoy dark coniferous woodland and cute waterfalls on this amble through St Leonard’s Forest, the High Weald beauty spot breaking up the hustle and bustle between Horsham and Crawley. Fun factoid, the forest is so named because 6th century French hermit St Leonard reportedly slayed a dragon on the site! Route, guaranteed fire-breathing free, here
Bluebell Railway Walk, Ardingly, 14.5km
This walk is a good day out – it’ll be a better day out when the charming Bluebell Railway is back in action! But for now, enjoy this amble along Ardingly Reservoir and up into the hills of the High Weald. Pass through pretty villages and admire quaint churches and chocolate-box cottages. Route here
Slindon Estate, 11km
Neatly located between Chichester and Arundel, this West Sussex haven features ancient downland and forests galore. Keep your eyes peeled for local resident Tristan Gooley, aka The Natural Navigator, author of several bestselling books who is currently researching his latest tome and recording his podcast The Pursuit of Outdoor Clues on the South Downs near Slindon. There’s a circular route around the estate here.
Halnaker circular walk, near Chichester, 6.3km
As if the recently restored, Grade II listed Halnaker Windmill perched atop chalky grassland bursting with wildflowers weren’t enough, you can also walk up to it through Mill Lane, a public footpath following the route of Stane Street, the London to Chichester Roman road. Step back in time as you pass through a tunnel of trees, before emerging onto the glorious South Downs.
Littlehampton and Climping, 6.5km
A really unspoilt area of the South East coast, this gentle route takes in Littlehampton and Climping beaches. Enjoy woodlands, arable farmland and of course, miles of shingle beaches. Route here
Angmering Park Estate, 8-11km
Choose from three gorgeous circular walks ranging in distance from around 8km up to about 11km, taking in the copses, parkland, farmland and woodland of Angmering Park Estate on the glorious South Downs. The last of the bluebells are fading but in their place will come leafy canopies of varying shades of green, and in the meadows and verges look for buttercups, ground ivy, speedwell and many more stunning wild flowers. All three walks start from Angmering Village Green. Routes here
Devil’s Dyke Butterfly Walk, 1.6km
A short but stunning circular route atop the magnificent Dyke, taking in butterflies galore and stunning chalkland wild flowers. Not to mention the breathtaking views of the Dyke valley. Suitable for smaller legs, if you want to make it a bigger challenge start at the bottom of the Dyke and work your way up! Route here
Ditchling Beacon, 7km
Enjoy the views from the highest point in East Sussex, once the site of a warning beacon that was lit in times of imminent danger. Look out for the dew ponds, man-made ponds dug into hollows for livestock to drink from. If you want a longer and more challenging route, extend across the Sussex Border Path and past the Jack and Jill Windmills to Devil’s Dyke. Route here
Glynde, Mount Caburn and Lewes, 10km
Take in views of Elizabethan manor house Glynde Place and the Mount Caburn Iron Age hill fort, as well as the usual spectacular South Downs panoramas. Route here
Firle and Firle Beacon circular walk, 6km
Start from the pretty village of Firle and up you go. Firle Beacon is a ‘Marilyn’, a hill with a prominence of more than 150m. There’s a few on the Downs, why not bag the lot? The Beacon’s chalky grassland is home to the rare spider orchid and bursts with butterflies. Take in 15th century Firle Place in this stroll too. Route here
Eastbourne to Beachy Head, 9km
The only way is up! Start at Eastbourne town centre and make your way up to the highest chalk cliffs in England. Once you’ve caught your breath from the hike up to the headland, and taken in the views out to sea, make your way back down via inland footpaths. Look out for cowslips, purple orchids, brimstone butterflies and the swallows arriving for the summer. Route here
Herstmonceaux Castle, 6.5km
Take an easy sort of stroll along quiet country lanes and through meadows, passing the spectacular moated Hersmonceaux Castle en route. Route here
Hastings Circular Walk, 9.5km
Take in coast, woodland and open countryside in this lovely walk to the east of Hastings. It’s steeped in history too, following in parts the footsteps of William the Conquerer on the 1066 Country Walk and also dipping into the Saxon Shore Way, a long-distance footpath that traces the coast of South East England from Roman times. Lead on, my liege! Route here
Great Wood Walk, Sedlescombe, 5km
Explore the Great Wood, a predominantly coniferous forest in the High Weald, with this walk along farm tracks and rides. Look out for deer and badgers, and keep your ears alert for the rare nightjar. You can drop into nearby Battle too, if you like. Route here