The chalkland nature reserve at Heyshott Down
All along the northern side of the Downs there are lung-busting climbs with great views and a sense of achievement at the top.
One of the best climbs is the ascent of Heyshott Down. The walk from the village of Heyshott up to the top of the hill (233 metres) gives you a climb of over 500 feet in no time at all with the steepest part as you approach the summit.
This climb has the added bonus of taking you through a small chalkland nature reserve and some of the strangest looking landscape in the West Sussex.
The higher slopes of Heyshott Down were once quarried for chalk. The disused chalk pits have long since been recolonised by downland grass and the resulting hillocks look pretty unusual. This recolonisation is largely thanks to the great work of the Murray Downland Trust, which was set up to help conserve the distinctive downland habitats that once thrived in West Sussex. Although the site is owned by the Cowdray Estate, the Murray Trust leases the land.
Protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) Heyshott Down is now populated by a plethora of plant species such as the Bee Orchid, Round-headed Rampion and Horseshoe Vetch that form such an attractive feature of traditional Sussex grassland - a managed landscape that needs a helping hand from man to maintain a balance between the various competing plants.
The increase in the diversity of the plant life is helping to bring back butterflies which once thrived on the South Downs - beauties like the Marbled White and Chalkhill Blue.
When you get to the top the reward for all your huffing and puffing is more than ample - fabulous views across Sussex towards Surrey.
Tips for walkers on Heyshott DownAlthough the lower northside slopes of Heyshott Down are fairly steep they aren't too bad, although they can get a bit wet and slippery. You will need good shoes.
Further up the hill the way becomes spectacularly steep and if you aren't physically fit, then it's best to avoid this ascent. If you suffer from severe vertigo you may find part of the upper slopes a bit distressing as in places the is very narrow indeed.
A less steep way to enjoy the Heyshott Down experience is to walk up through Charlton Forest from the south and then follow the footpath across the field at the top of the Down, near the trig point.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE MURRAY DOWNLAND TRUST
- Bognor Regis
- Burgess Hill
- East Grinstead
- Haywards Heath
- Lavington Common
- East Dean
- Levin Down Nature Reserve