Exploring the wild and the rare on Levin Down in West Sussex

Tucked away in a quiet corner of Sussex is the pretty village of Charlton.  It is surrounded by the classic Sussex landscape, made up of a patchwork of meadows, woodlands, heaths, agricultural land and the chalk hills of the South Downs.  This is great walking country and the stunning South Downs Way, a famous walking route that runs from Winchester to Eastbourne, passes close by the village.  The whole South Downs Way is over 100 miles long but it can be easily divided into shorter sections, day walks or included in circular trails that start in nearby villages such as Charlton.  A couple of suggestions are included at the end of this blog post.

One particularly interesting spot near Charlton is Levin Down, a small nature reserve that has been restored to traditional downland habitat. It is a picturesque spot that has been largely untouched by man’s hand.  The name means ‘leave-a-lone hill’ because it is a steep and rugged spot that is almost impossibly to farm.  This rugged landscape has a rich and diverse wildlife and the chalk habitat is home to rare butterflies, plants and birds.  The landscape here changes dramatically with the seasons, which makes it a rewarding place to visit and return to throughout the year.  The whole area along the South Downs Way is fascinating; full of history, pretty villages and wonderful village pubs with beautiful gardens and fantastic views.  The Fox Goes Free is one such place.   It is in the village of Charlton and within easy reach of the South Downs Way via Levin Down.

For those who do not want to walk far, The Fox Goes Free has a gorgeous garden with beautiful views over Levin Down.  Otherwise there are numerous walks from the village that pass through ancient woodlands, chalk grasslands and go up to different vantage points which have amazing views over the Cathedral town of Chichester and towards the sea.  From the village you can also walk up to Goodwood Racecourse and the Trundle.  Here is one of the most dramatic prehistoric hill forts on the South Downs and more magnificent views over the surrounding countryside and all the way to the coast.

Photography credits:  images are from the wildlife trust and national trust via google images.

Below is a selection of resources with suggestions for walks around Levin Down, Charlton and along the South Downs Way:

An excellent selection of walks that take in Levin Down and the South Downs can be found the book:  Day Walks on the South Downs by Deirdre Huston.

A selection of online walks in West Sussex and the South Downs can be found here http://www.fancyfreewalks.org/W.Sussex-SurreyBorders/Singleton.pdf  This circular walk starts in the village of Singleton, and takes in parts of the South Downs Way, including Levin Down and Goodwood.

Finally, below is the brief description of a short walk which starts and finishes at The Fox Goes Free in Charlton.  It first appeared in a Telegraph newspaper in 2014 article click here to access full article.

Explorer map 120: OS Grid Reference SU889130

This route follows a path traversing the south face of Levin Down, north-east through Lady Wood and then due north through the heart of Singleton Forest followed by a hearty westward romp along the South Downs Way to Cocking Down. Head back south along the bridleway that runs down the west side of Westdean woods (hazel coppice and oak) before re-emerging on to open downland with views over Goodwood as you complete the circuit.


Fingerpost sign at the top of Levin Down
Fingerpost sign at the top of Levin Down