The South Downs are a range of chalk hills that extends across the south-eastern coastal counties of England from the Itchen Valley of Hampshire in the west to Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, East Sussex, in the east.
However the South Downs National Park forms a much larger area than the chalk range of the South Downs and includes large parts of the Weald to the north.
These hills are prefixed ‘south’ to distinguish them from another chalk escarpment, the North Downs, which runs roughly parallel to them about 30 miles (48 km) away on the northern edge of the Weald.
It came into full operation on 1 April 2011, to protect and restore the Downs. It is bordered by the Hampshire Downs, the Wealden Greensand, the Low Weald and the Pevensey Levels to the north and the South Hampshire Lowlands and South Coast Plain to the south.
The downland is a highly popular recreational destination, particularly for walkers, horseriders and mountain bikers. A long distance footpath and bridleway, the South Downs Way, follows the entire length of the chalk ridge from Winchester to Eastbourne, complemented by many interconnecting public footpaths and bridleways.