Didling and South Harting - South Downs Way

Description: Although I originate from Hampshire, my first walk from the South is just over the border in West Sussex! The walk starts by going through arable farm-land (if you started from Didling) with a couple of livestock fields. The return leg (if you started from Didling) goes up to the South Downs, for some rather more energetic walking! Although the walk directives start at Didling (in the back of beyond!,) you may prefer to start in South Harting. Just pick up the thread at the appropriate part of the narrative for that. I'll drop the hint.

The reason for starting at Didling is two-fold. Firstly, you're guaranteed easy parking there: secondly, you may want some (cold) light refreshment in South Harting before embarking on the South Downs, (half-way round the walk in that case.) That would be welcome if it's a real scorcher.

OS Ref: SU835181 (SU784194)
Length: 11 Miles approx.
Approximate time: 4-5 hours.
Parking: At remote church of St. Andrew's, Didling. If you're starting the walk from South Harting, there is either road-side parking in the Town, or there's a small car parking area just off the B2146, south of the church.
Refreshments: Pubs at South Harting.

The walk

Start by walking back up the lane you've just parked in, if you started the walk from Didling, in a NNE direction. join the road and go straight on. Where the road  bends right, keep ahead following a signpost in the direction of Ingrams Green. Turn left at a footpath signpost to walk in a westerly direction, going to the left of some farm buildings. Cross a stile, follow a signpost to walk across a field, making for its far right corner. Cross another stile to go gently uphill on the right edge of the next field. At the far left corner, turn left for about 15 metres before turning right to cross two stiles in fairly quick succession.

Follow the right edge of the next field then cross another stile to be on the left edge of the next field, going gently downhill. At the far side of this field, go left for 3-4 metres, cross a stile to head steeply downhill after a short while. Go through a kissing gate, cross another stile to head uphill for a short while. When you come to a road, by a cottage, look for a signpost directing you right.

Follow this signpost, walking on the right edge of a field for a short while. Cross a stile at the corner, then turn left to follow the left edge of a field. Cross a couple of boundaries (gates either open or missing at the time of writing!) Go across the middle of the next field, then climb over a gate at the next boundary to follow a signpost in the same direction. Soon, at a crossing of paths, go left at a 4-way signpost. Follow this path to a road.

Do a right-left dogleg at the road to follow a signpost the other side. Keep a few metres to the right of a boundary, coming to a stile at its far side. Keep ahead to cross another stile soon after. Cross a plank bridge directly after the second stile, to keep a short distance from the left edge of a field. Cross a plank bridge on the left, then turn right to cross a smaller plank bridge. The path goes through a wooded area for 40 metres or so. Follow a lone way-marker to go gently uphill in the next field. At the far side, turn left at a signpost, soon going past an outside seating area for a pub. Go right at a way-marker. Turn left just before the corner of the field to walk just inside its edge (else you'll be walking through loads of nettles!) Turn right a a 3 way signpost, then follow the path, eventually going down a steep bank to a road.

Turn right at the road and keep ahead at a crossing to walk down a road with a "no through" sign on it. Walk to the small church at Elsted. Go up some steps to cross a wall to the southwest of the church, following a signpost. Keep to the left side of the churchyard, then cross the wall at its boundary. Keep ahead, through the nettles, to a way-marker. Follow the direction it points to. From here, some of the directions given by the "official" pointers may be a bit ambiguous.  However, go in a NNW direction to the other side of this field. Go through the obvious gap at the opposite  side of the field, then go downhill for a way. When you come to a clearer area after going through some woodland, turn left for a short while to come to a signpost. (The official route would have taken you down a pretty inappropriate and steep route to this point!)

Turn right at this signpost to walk gently downhill, then follow a signpost into a wooded area. Follow a twisting footpath to a bridge. Cross it, then keep a wire fence to your left for a spell. Cross a plank bridge then a stile, to carry on for a short while in a northerly direction. When you come to a signpost, turn sharp left then follow a path to a rather muddy (at the time of writing) corner of this field.

Cross a stile, then make for a way-marker by the corner of  the field, to the left. On coming to the way-marker, turn half-right (crossing a plank bridge) to follow the left edge of this field. Keep a wire fence to your left for a while, then cross a stile into a short enclosed area. Go through a gate after this, then turn hard left onto a track. Go southwest along this track. If the weather is particularly hot, there is some welcome shade along the track for a while. At some points along this track, you can see some of the return route of this walk, along some of the South Downs!

On coming to a road, turn right, then bear left onto another road shortly afterwards. Look out for a rather hidden footpath signpost on the right soon. Take this path up a roadside bank, to an enclosed path. Cross a stile by a signpost, then follow a path to cross the middle of two fields, each with their associated stiles! The path becomes enclosed after the second field, by a signpost. Go gently downhill, then cross a stile. Go left at a signpost, still on an enclosed path. Go slightly left at next signpost, then cross a bridge. Cross the middle of the next field, then cross a bridge at the far side.

Go left at a signpost to walk diagonally across the next field. Cross a stile, then turn right to walk gently uphill. Do a left-right dog-leg to follow a way-marker along the right edge of a field, passing to the left of a property just before coming to a road. Go down a bank to the road,  crossing it to walk left along a pavement on the opposite side.

Keep ahead at a more major road to walk in the direction of South Harting Church. 100 metres or so after the Church, keep ahead where the road goes slightly left. People wishing to start the walk from South Harting, pick up the thread from here. Pass a small car park area to the left, continue to the left of a recreation area. At the end of this grassy area, follow a way-marker to start uphill. There are more than one options; I took the path to the right, as this seemed to get some of the climbing done earlier than the left-hand path! Either way, there's a bit of climbing to do for a while. There are way-markers periodically to show the route.

The path eventually joins the road again. Cross the road (B2146) at this point to join the South Downs Way. Keep along the path, which does some more climbing for a while, before coming to another road (B2141). Cross the B2141 to continue just in front of a parking area. Soon some great views to the north start. These views continue for some while, and on a fine day, the views are stunning.

Continue along the Harting Downs, to go downhill after a while. Follow the path into a valley, and continue to a large wooden way-marker set on a stone plinth. The South Downs Way goes right for a while, then left to make the next climb (up the imaginatively named beacon hill) easier. Are we going to take it though?... No - continue uphill, the path getting steeper further up. There are some steps cut into the hillside to aid your footing at the steeper parts.

Near the top, go through a gate and continue along the path. After a short while, there's a trig pillar and a direction pointer side by side. There are some more fine views, this time to the east and south. This is the highest point of our walk, and at 242 metres, I think it's the fourth highest point along the South Downs Way (I stand to be corrected on this.) Butser Hill, at 270 metres being highest point.

Anyway, go down the other side of Beacon Hill, once again on the South Downs Way. Some parts of the descent are pretty steep, and once again there are some steps cut at the steeper points. Continue up Pen Hill, a bit shorter, at 215 metres. Descend on the other side of Pen Hill. This descent isn't quite so demanding as the last. Follow a 3 way signpost soon to go right, then a 4 way signpost soon after to go ahead. Look for a way-marker very shortly to direct you to bear right, to continue along the way.

Follow another way-marker shortly to go straight ahead, into an enclosed part of the path.
Turn left at a 3 way signpost, then very soon after, at another one, turn right. Head gently downhill initially, then uphill a bit more steeply, going through some pleasant woodland. At a 4 way signpost, turn left to continue along the South Downs Way.

Go straight ahead at another signpost, then walk through another wooded area soon afterwards. After 400 metres or so, we leave the wood to be on an open part of the path. In about another 300 metres, turn left at a signpost, to begin our descent from the Downs.

Be sure not to miss a pretty missable way-marker on the right (about 450 metres after we turned off the South Downs Way.) Make this turn, then head very steeply downhill, through some woodland. Cross a stile after a while, to come into an open field. If you started the walk from Didling, you can see your car from here. Follow the path across a couple of open fields to your walk's conclusion. Take some time here to look around the ancient Church of St. Andrew's, before taking to your car.

If you started the walk from South Harting, please go to the beginning of this narrative.

Click here to get an OS map with the route highlighted