England’s rivers each have a personality of their own, from chalk streams to huge, looping waterways, no two are the same. Thanks to an extensive network of footpaths – some dating back thousands of years – it’s often perfectly possible to accompany a river from source to sea. In this wonderful Collection, that’s exactly what you can do.
At 42 miles long (68 km), Sussex’s River Ouse is a brilliant river to follow as it meanders south from its source at Lower Beeding to the English Channel near Newhaven. The river is fed by a vast network of streams and larger tributaries and first lazily works its way east through the south-western part of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) before turning south and flowing through the undulating Low Weald and, finally, through the glorious South Downs National Park. You follow every meander on foot, basking in this stunning, historic landscape.
On this hike, you’ll pass through quintessential English landscapes. Green, rolling hills are punctuated by church spires, fields of quietly munching sheep and villages dating back many centuries. Thanks to the life-giving water, animals, birds and insects thrive along the valley. The common crane, fieldfare, sparrowhawk and kingfisher are amongst the feathered friends you might find. In the water, otters have made a comeback to the area, whilst butterflies and dragonflies are easy to spot in the warmer months.
The natural landscape of the Ouse is undoubtedly beautiful but the human history of this hike is fascinating too. Tumuli — ancient burial mounds — are dotted around the hillsides; Saxon churches still stand under the watchful gaze of ancient yews; motte & bailey castle earthworks reveal past fortifications and heritage rail services invite you to step back in time.
I’ve split this hike into four stages making it an ideal long weekend. You could also easily reverse the route – starting at the sea and heading north; or walk the stages individually as day hikes. Each stage begins and ends in a town or village where you can find food and accommodation, although I recommend booking ahead for overnight stays, particularly in the first three stages, which are more rural.
The South of England has a mild climate so you can hike the route throughout the year. Spring brings birdsong, vivid green leaves and fresh breezes; summer brings glorious flowers, fledgling birds and long daylight hours; autumn brings berries, stunning mist and peacefulness; winter provides frost-covered webs, low golden sunshine and a firmer appreciation for the coffee flask. I recommend hiking the route in between late spring and early autumn, to give yourself the most sunshine, warmth and long days.
To reach the start, you can catch a train to Horsham and take a bus service to Lower Beeding. The number 17 bus is the easiest, although there are other routes which involve changing buses. At the end, Seaford has a train station with links to Brighton, London and further afield.
The first stage of this deliciously meandering route takes you through the very edge of the High Weald landscape. Rolling hills, historical villages and ancient field systems combine to form a charming route. Along the way, you can stop off at a grand garden, visit a peaceful churchyard and marvel at an iconic viaduct.
Begin in Lower Beeding, a sweet …
This gently undulating stage sees beautiful woodlands as well as human history embedded into the landscape. The Way is varied, with plenty of field footpaths, farm tracks, charming villages and the growing river. There are two options for pub lunches on this hike and you pass through the village of Lindfield, which has coffee shops and a small supermarket.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
This hike is almost entirely flat and acquaints you properly with the River Ouse, now a powerful waterway fed by innumerable streams. The walking is peaceful, with plenty of opportunities to spot kingfishers and other river creatures, as well as fascinating historic sights, such as the site of a motte & bailey castle and the course of a former Roman …
This final stage of the Sussex Ouse Valley Way has two small hills and is otherwise completely flat. There are several wonderful viewpoints of the surrounding, rolling landscapes and plenty of blissful, riverside walking with levels peeling out either side. You finish up on the beach at Seaford, looking out across the English Channel as the Ouse merges with the …