The South Downs are among the best loved landscapes in southern England. The beauty of their rolling chalk hills and steep escarpments, open river valleys, dramatic sea cliffs, sandy wealden ridges and woodlands, and colourful wildlife, has been an inspiration to writers and artists for centuries. The beauty is enjoyed daily by the 120,000 residents of local towns and villages, and the area attracts nearly 40 million visits a year, a total which is more than for any National Park. The Downs are, nevertheless, essentially working countryside, landscapes that have changed and are still changing in response to farming and forestry practice.
This book describes in a readable way the local, national and international value of the Downs, the problems arising form their multiple use, and the steps that have been, and can be taken to conserve them. It is published at a critical time, for the long-term health of the area is at last under formal scrutiny by central and local government and is openly debated, with the designation of a South Downs National Park in mind. The area the Park may cover encompasses the familiar chalk escarpments that stretch from Winchester in the west to the coast at Eastbourne in the east, and also includes the greensand areas to the north near Alresford and Alton, over to Blackdown south of Haslemere, and then on to Petworth, Steyning and to the country north of Lewes.