You can start the Way the green way, by taking the train
to the start of the trail in Winchester, or download this handy transport guide and map
to see all other options. But basically the South Downs Way sweeps West to East (better to walk it this direction to cope with prevailing winds), and is inter-cut by various train lines along the way, allowing you to just take on a section of the trail and still start and finish your expedition by train. Stations such as Petersfield, Amberley, Hassocks and Lewes are all served by various rail services, as detailed in the transport guide or on the superb website Traveline
. So, none of those worries about where to leave the car when taking on a linear stretch of the South Downs Way allowing you to leave the roads clear, the car keys at home and the Park in peace.
You can choose your section of the trail by ordering one of the wide array of maps here
. Once you have chosen your walking route, or series of routes, the best value train ticket is the Downlander
ticket offered by Southern Trains. This is an all-day pass to hop on and hop off all Southern Trains in the South Downs, as long as they are during off peak hours. It also enables you to use various bus services in the region, so you really won't get lost. Starting from £14 (£2.50 for children) the Downlander pass is great value but note that it is only a one day pass, and also you have to buy it online. You have to spend a few minutes registering for the service, and also order it minimum two days in advance of travel. It does give you freedom to come and go, however, and so if you are too impatient to see the sea, just cut short your walk, hop on the nearest train to get you there before the clouds come in.
There are also many other walking routes available, all clearly detailed in the South Downs detailed Walk and Rides leaflets
. Such as the 8km circular walk from Plumpton, taking in woodland, marshes and streams of the area, all accessible by train to and from Plumpton, as detailed in the leaflet. Or an 11.5km walk around the South Downs villages of Steyning, Chanctonbury and Washington, all accessible on the 2A bus from Brighton.
If woodland walking is more your thing, then it is the West Weald area of the South Downs that will appeal, with a series of walks through ancient woodland, intercut with traditional old pasture land, and archaeological surprises tucked away like ancient holy wells, ruins, bridges and forges. For details of magical walks in this ancient landscape, see the West Weald's downloadable leaflet which also includes information on how to access them by public transport.