Walking your dog at Birling Gap

Dog walking on a lead

Responsible dog walkers are very welcome at Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters. It is a great place to walk and for you and your pet to enjoy the countryside. But it is also a sensitive landscape so there are certain things to consider when you are out and about. Keep an eye out for signs at the countryside sites you visit which will help you plan your visit and where to walk.

Dogs love the Downs
A springer spaniel photobombs our grazing cattle

Ashley Dalleywater, National Trust Ranger at Birling Gap, says “as a dog owner, I know there can be lots of questions when deciding on when, where and how I can exercise my dog safely and responsibly.  I love walking my dog across the downs, and they love to run off the lead where they can.  But I know it is always important to consider what might be happening at the places where I am walking that I might need to consider before I let my dogs run off the lead.  This includes sheep that may be about to lamb or ground nesting birds that are raising a brood of chicks.”

How you can help

Dog walking
Dog walking on a lead

Please help us keep the countryside a safe, healthy and enjoyable place for you and your dog, other visitors, wildlife and livestock by remembering the following:

  • Keep your dog in sight and under control - use a lead if requested
  • Don't let your dog chase wildlife or farm animals
  • Watch out for local notices. There may be restrictions at sensitive times of the year - during the lambing season, or between March and the end of July when ground-nesting birds are on eggs or raising their young
  • Please always pick up after your dog. At many of our sites there are dedicated dog bins for you to use

Amazing grazing

Flock of Sheep
Flock of sheep

You will often see sheep or cattle grazing on the downs.  They are an essential part of the management and help reduce the coarse invasive grasses and scrub, keeping the landscape opens for everyone to enjoy. Sheep have grazed the downs for centuries, and are a key part of managing the beautiful flower rich grasslands seen today.  However, they are very vulnerable to disturbance both before and during lambing so it is important that are not put under undue stress at these key times of year – keep an eye for notices on site that will advise of you of where animals are in fields. If in doubt then please keep your dog on a lead.

Life on the wing

Save the skylark
A skylark in heather

Some downland birds such as skylarks nest on the ground and so are vulnerable to disturbance by dogs.  March to July is a critical nesting time for birds.  If you have a dog that likes to run around, please avoid using sensitive sites or keep dogs on leads.  Keep to main paths and tracks and don’t let dogs run off the paths chasing sticks and balls.

Find out more

Enjoy a walk with your dog across the Seven Sisters
A cartoon image of teo dogs in front of the Seven Sisters

The National Trust are very pleased to be working in partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority to promote dog walking in this beautiful landscape.  Find out more about dogs in the countryside with these light hearted animated films.