South Downs Ultra Challenge

This is an extremely arduous 100km endurance trek over the rolling hills and high ridges of the scenic South Downs. We walk through day and night, with some steep ups and downs, before coming to the spectacular final stretch over the famous white chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters. We finish on the highest chalk sea cliff in England – the beautiful headland of Beachy Head, near Eastbourne. You’ll be incredibly happy to see it!

Magnificent view at the South Downs Ultra Challenge charity walk

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Charity Walk Course

This is a very tough challenge – you will need to be a very fit, experienced walker and determined to conquer the hilly terrain and the fatigue in order to succeed. Your sense of achievement will last a lifetime!


The itinerary

Day 1 & Night:

We set off early in the morning – essential for completing the distance – from the historic market town of Arundel, featured in the Domesday Book. We follow the River Arun through an area of wetlands, with good views of Arundel’s wonderful castle behind us. Our first steep climb brings us up onto the Downs; we continue along the ridge, buoyed by the amazing views. Most of our day is spent dipping down and climbing back up again! Towards the end of the day, at roughly our half-way point, we climb up to the highest point of the trek – Ditchling Beacon (248m), which is the third-highest point on the South Downs. It will probably be getting dark at this stage. After a brief rest, we continue walking, passing Lewes, an old Roman settlement complete with a Saxon castle, and head southwest, back towards the hills.

There are some steep sections for the next few miles; you’ll be feeling tired and in the dark it’s more challenging, so it’s important to take it steady. We walk along a ridge, descend and climb up steeply again to Beddingham Hill and its twin radio masts. We’ll be able to see the lights of the built-up coastal belt. Our route now contours along to reach Firle Beacon (217m), a great point for another rest before we head downhill via the ancient, well-preserved Long Burgh long barrow; we soon come to the small village of Alfriston, with its authentic half-timbered buildings. We cross and then follow Cuckmere River as it winds its way to the coast – this is our first flat section of any length! Depending on your walking pace, it should also be getting light again around this point, and this, combined with the respite for our leg muscles, should help us feel more refreshed and determined!

Day 2: Alfriston – Seven Sisters – Beachy Head

The way ahead is particularly scenic, which helps to motivate your tired body and tick off the remaining miles. Cuckmere Haven, where the river meets the English Channel, is a common film location: with its backdrop of white chalk cliffs, the beach is often used to depict Dover. Second World War pillboxes and other remains show its role in the country’s defence. From here, we take the South Downs Way over the Seven Sisters, a series of rolling chalk cliffs – the most well-known section of our day, and arguably the most spectacular. Some of the ascents and descents before us are steep and arduous, others more gradual, but with every climb our destination grows nearer and it’s not long before we can see it in the distance. The views over the sea are wonderful on a clear day and will encourage you to keep going! 

Dipping right down to the abandoned National Trust hamlet of Birling Gap, with its nineteenth-century fishermen’s cottages clustered perilously close to the eroding cliffs, we climb again. We pass Belle Tout lighthouse and then make a last uphill effort to the top of Beachy Head. We’ve made it, and have earned a powerful sense of achievement that will never leave us!

We have time to celebrate with our fellow participants and enjoy the views before returning home.

Event Location: , South Downs