Warning: out-of-date content!

This page, in its original form, dates back to 2010. Some things have changed since then, notably the creation of the South Downs National Park, which came into full operation on 1 April 2011. The sections on 'Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty' and 'National Character Areas' need updating, and the links in these sections need to be repaired.

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Region covered by Walking South

This site covers that part of England that lies to the south of London - Kent, Surrey, East Sussex, West Sussex and the eastern part of Hampshire, but also including London itself south of the Thames. Roughly speaking, it includes everything east of the M3 and south of the Thames, excluding the Isle of Wight.

The boundaries of this region are slightly arbitrary, but have a certain geographical coherence. On this page I've made some notes in support of the choice of boundaries for this region.

Principal rivers

With the exception of the Stour, the region's rivers either drain northwards into the Thames and its estuary, or southwards into the English Channel. The Stour drains westwards into the Straight of Dover. The eastern boundary of the region follows the watershed between the Test (16) and the Itchen (15), and the watershed between the Wey (2) and the tributaries of the Thames (1) further to the west.

Principal Rivers

Key: 1 = Thames, 2 = Wey, 3 = Mole, 4 = Wandle, 5 = Darent, 6 = Medway, 7 = Stour, 8 = Rother, 9 = Cuckmere, 10 = Ouse, 11 = Adur, 12 = Arun, 13 = Meon, 14 = Hamble, 15 = Itchen, 16 = Test


Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

South of London as a region includes six closely linked Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty:

The Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty page of the Natural England website includes a map showing these areas, with links to pages giving further information about them.

I had initially not included East Hampshire AONB within the scope of these pages, but, as the Natural England website puts it:

In the south and west [of the East Hampshire AONB], the rolling chalk downland characterised by dry valleys and dotted woodland is a natural extension of the Sussex Downs. In contrast, a series of steep, heavily wooded scarp slopes form the northern and eastern third of the AONB, meeting the Surrey and Sussex borders in heaths and woodland.


National Character Areas

England has been divided into areas with similar landscape character, which are called National Character Areas (NCAs); previously known as Joint Character Areas (JCAs).

In 1996 the former Countryside Commission and English Nature, with support from English Heritage, produced 'The Character of England Map'. This map combined English Nature's Natural Areas and the former Countryside Commission's Countryside Character Areas into a map of 159 Joint Character Areas (JCAs) for the whole of England.

The 1996 map was updated in 2005 to produce 'The Character of England Landscape, Wildlife and Cultural Features Map'. This map subdivides England into 159 National Character Areas (NCAs). It provides a picture of the differences in landscape character at the national scale.

The features that define the landscape of each area are recorded in individual descriptions which explain what makes one area different from another and shows how that character has arisen and how it is changing.

South of London as a region covers 11 National Character Areas:

The South East and London National Character Area map on the Natural England website shows these areas, with links to pages giving further information about them.


Region 42: South-East England and the Isle of Wight

Alan Dawson, in his book The Relative Hills of Britain, set out to answer a number of questions about hills:

How many hills are there in Britain? Has anyone climbed them all? Where is there for hill walkers to go in the South of England? What is a hill anyway?

The book dispensed with the common assumption that a hill must be 2000 feet high to be worth climbing. Instead it concentrated on listing all the hills that are relatively high, compared to the surrounding land, rather than compared to sea level. He gave the name Marilyns to these 'relative hills', and listed them by dividing Britain into 42 regions. These regions seem to have become fairly widely accepted, and their use has been perpetuated by other creators of hill lists - for example, in Simon Edwardes' website for hill walkers and summit-baggers, Hill Bagging.

Alan Dawson's Region 42 is defined as:

Reading; River Thames to London; coast to the Dorset border; county boundaries to the Kennet & Avon Canal near Hungerford; Kennet & Avon Canal to Reading. This area includes the counties of Hampshire, Surrey, Kent, West Sussex, East Sussex, and the Isle of Wight, together with those parts of Berkshire south of the Kennet & Avon Canal and River Thames, and London south of the River Thames.

I don't think Alan Dawson was particularly interested in Southern England, and the boundaries of his Region 42 don't make complete topographical sense. I have therefore adapted them for the purposes of this website.

The Isle of Wight is big enough, and has enough hills, to be given a region of its own (Region 43?), following the precedent set for the Isle of Man (Region 29).

The only Marilyn in Region 42, outside the Isle of Wight, excluded from the region I have defined as 'South of London' is Walbury Hill, in the North Wessex Downs; the region also excludes one other significant hill, Ashley Hill (a HuMP), in Berkshire, just west of Maidenhead. Both these hills should probably be included in Region 39, Central and Eastern England, which also includes the Chilterns, to which these hills are linked or related.