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The highest point in the South Downs National Park
Black Down in West Sussex is a landscape of wavy hair grass, purple heather and pine trees, where you can still get a true sense of 'wild'.
The views have inspired many for years and none so renowned as Tennyson himself: ‘You came and looked and loved the view, long known and loved by me, Green Sussex fading into blue with one grey glimpse of sea.’
As you amble down some of the ancient sunken lanes and drove ways, you can feel a sense of timelessness. Traders, shepherds and chert quarrymen have been using these tracks for thousands of years.
The flanks of Black Down have old flower-rich meadows, ancient woodland and copses. The meadows are cut for hay, which is used to feed the cows over the winter. Today, we look after Black Down for its internationally important heathland. You might come across one of our cows - they help us control the scrub, which encourages the heather to flourish.
Cycling & walking at Black Down
Black Down offers level terrain so stroll past peaty bogs, wander through woodland or find a bench and enjoy the views. Cyclists will find easy-going bridleways or challenging terrain for the bold.
Wonderful wildlife & habitats
Black Down is a great place to discover habitats and wildlife. From glorious purple heathland laced with the coconut smell of gorse to boggy pools and woodland, there's always something new to see.
A bevy of birds on the wing
At dusk listen for the 'churring' of nightjars in flight. Hobbies dash around in flight hunting for large insects, whilst linnets sing melodiously as they fly in large chattering flocks.
Black Down plants with a story to tell
Bilberry harvests were used by Gaelic people to indicate how the rest of their crops would fare, whilst rowan trees have a history in folklore as protectors against witchcraft and enchantment.
Dramatic darters & hawkers
There are many boggy pools scattered across the heathland which are amazing for dragonflies and damselflies. This is also the best spot in Sussex to find the largest number of rare black darters.
A very special woodland
Vale wood is a beautiful mixed woodland with large stands of mature chestnut, yew and oak trees. The grassland is full of orchids and the ponds and streams offer a tranquil spot to enjoy the peace.
One of Britain’s rarest butterflies, the Silver-studded Blue, is being reintroduced on land at Black Down, West Sussex, in a bid to help safeguard its future. Black Down was identified as a suitable habitat for the Silver-studded Blue following a heathland restoration project by our rangers and volunteers, which took 12 years to complete.
50 things to do at Black Down
There're plenty of family fun for everyone here at Black Down. Why not come and try one of our fantastic 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ activities? If you can't decide which one to do first, here are our top five favourite things to do:
- Climb a tree
- Fly a kite
- Go on a really long bike ride
- Find a geocache
- Catch a falling leaf
Walk to the Temple of the Winds
At the Temple of the Winds you can find one of the best views of the South Downs National Park. This little-known spot, named after a Bronze Age circular bank, has a secret feel and a charming curved stone seat to rest on.