I’m Jennifer, Mum to Harry (3) and Mia (1). We live in West Sussex, England and I blog about parenting, arts and crafts and days out with the family at Jennifer’s Little World (http://www.jenniferslittleworld.com).
We are lucky enough to live just outside the border of England’s newest National Park – The South Downs National Park. (http://www.southdowns.gov.uk/ The National Park stretches for 140km across Southern England. From the west, near Winchester, the boundary lies north of the coastal towns and cities, but to the east it stretches all the way down to the coast, finishing at Beachy Head near Eastbourne. The South Downs Way (http://www.southdownsway.co.uk/) is a well-maintained National Trail that runs for 160km across the South Downs, and can be picked up at various points for a short or longer walk with some beautiful views.
Our children are still very small, so the places that we enjoy visiting tend to be close to car parks and don’t involve too much walking. Here are some of our favourite spots:
Highdown Hill (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highdown_Hill) is a beautiful and historic spot to enjoy some spectacular views across Worthing and the Downs. On a clear day you can even see as far as the Isle of Wight and Beachy Head. If you park at the top then the grassy footpath is mostly level. There is a hotel with a tearoom near the car park, and also the lovely Highdown Gardens which are free to visit. The gardens are vast, with secluded areas, ponds with enormous fish and open grassy areas for children to run around. Just remember, as you watch your children tear down the hill in a carefree fashion, it’s a steep walk back up to the car park!
We also live very close to Cissbury Ring (http://www.findon.info/cissbury/cissbury.htm), an Iron Age hill fort near Findon. The main car park is at the base of the hill with a short but steep climb, but we aim to find a space in the small car park at the top, just a short walk from the ring. Once there it’s a great place for children to run around, with lots of hills and slopes and of course some lovely views. Chanctonbury Ring (http://www.findon.info/chanctonbury/chanctonbury.htm) is another nearby hill fort, this one marked out by a large ring of trees. There are two car parks in Washington, each with a short walk up to the top of the hill. Chanctonbury Ring is presumed to be an early Iron Age fort, but is famous for the beech trees which were planted in 1760. Despite extensive damage during the storms of 1987 it still dominates the landscape as the replanted trees continue to grow.
A little further from us along the coast, the Seven Sisters (http://www.sevensisters.org.uk/) are formed by seven chalk cliffs, with an eighth currently being created by coastal erosion. There is a pay and display car park at the Visitors Centre near Seaford, and an easy access trail (4km return and suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs) which takes you down to Cuckmere Haven on the coast, with some beautiful views of the cliffs.
Birling Gap (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/birling-gap-and-the-seven-sisters/) is a coastal hamlet situated to the east of the last of the Seven Sisters, and not far from Beachy Head. A row of coastguard cottages is slowly falling into the sea due to coastal erosion, and it is a fascinating although rather sad sight. There is a staircase down to a pebble beach with rockpools to explore, and you can also take a short grassy walk up the hill to the top of the cliff. It is likely that the rest of the cottages at Birling Gap won’t be around for much longer, as they will be demolished before they fall into the sea. The car park and cafe are now owned by the National Trust, and you can find some information there, as well as photographs of how it used to look.
At the far end of the South Downs National Park lies the last of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head, (http://www.beachyhead.org/index.html), the highest chalk sea cliff in the UK. It’s a windy headland, with a pay and display carpark at the top and a short walk up to the cliff edge for wonderful views and a glimpse of the famous lighthouse below. There is also a pub serving food. You need to watch children very closely here as there are no fences, and it’s a long sheer drop to the sea below.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into our corner of the world. Can you recommend anywhere that I’ve missed?