I have been coming to Kingley Vale for well over 15 years now, and it never let me down. If you just want to pop out for a short stroll in your lunch-break or are intending to spend a whole day of walking, jogging or mountain-biking this is a good place to be!
The two main attractions are the impressive collection of ancient yew trees and the tumuli at the top of the hill; both are worth the visit - however, the way up the hill might be a bit strenuous for some people, so take your time and pace yourself if you haven't used your walking boots for some years...
Besides the trees and tumuli there is plenty of unspoilt nature with a very mixed vegetation. It's a paradise for anyone with an interest in plants, insects or birds, at any season of the year. At the same time it's a good place to introduce kids to the outside world, as there are all sorts of activities available. Keen photographers will get beautiful shots - especially of the yew trees - during a sunny winter day, when the sun stands low and everything throws impressive shadows.
Kingley Vale is nested at the foot of the south downs, and if you have a little more time (and energy) you can - and should! - venture beyond its boundaries and explore the vast network of footpaths and bridleways that extend for miles & miles. Even on a sunny, busy weekend you can get away from the noise of other people fairly quickly, and if you are adventurous and don't follow the herd you will find yourself (almost) alone in midst of thick woods or lush fields. On some days I have been walking all day around Kingley Vale without seeing a single person. However, civilisation is never far away: There are two lovely pubs in Stoughton and Walderton, both worth the climb down (and up) the hill!
If you only have an hour or two to get a taster of Kingley Vale, I'd recommend to leave your car at West Stoke car park, walk up to the entrance to Kingley Vale, turn left and walk along the west side to the top of the hill. Admire the view, eat your picnic, stretch your legs... Walk down the hill on the east side until you are at the height of the pond (which might be waterless during the winter months), go there and take the nature trail through the amazing yew tree woods. This will take you back to the entrance of the Vale.
However, if you intend to spend a bit longer or a planning to come more often, I'd strongly recommend you get the OS Explorer Map (1:25000) of this region. After all the years I've been walking here I still haven't seen all of it. Kingley Vale itself might not be the most amazing thing you've ever experienced and it's size can be a bit too small on a bank holiday weekend, but it is a gem on a mid-week morning or as a starting point of a long and unspoiled walk along the south downs!
Parking can be a bit of a problem on a busy, sunny weekend: The West Stoke car park has only a limited capacity and parking on the road is not really an option. Alternatively, you can leave your car in Stoughton or at the car park in the woods, one mile east of Stoughton, and visit the Nature Reserve via "the other side". A word of warning, thou: I have heard reports of - very rare! - cases of theft at the West Stoke car park, so do the sensible thing and don't leave valuables on show in your car. But that's just common sense, or..?
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