YHA hostels and the South Downs Way

South Downs Way – Hostel accommodation: Can the lack of hostel accommodation on the 65 mile between Winchester and Truleigh Hill be resolved?

a discussion paper

Aim: to encourage people to visit the National Park and experience the beauty of the landscape with the health benefits of being in nature in a sustainable way. To this end, we would like to encourage a greater diversity of people, including children and young people to immerse themselves in England’s open spaces and beautiful landscapes.

We are supported in our aim by the Glover review: Landscapes Review – Julian Glover September 2019. In section 2 of the summary under the heading ‘Landscapes for Everyone’, it quotes John Dower, when he wrote the words of the 1945 report which led to the system of national parks we have today. “There can be few national purposes which, at so modest a cost, offer so large a prospect of health‑giving happiness for the people,” Glover says. “Dower pushed on, arguing that the Britain which would follow the war would be happier and healthier if our finest landscapes were kept safe for everyone and for all time.” Glover also quotes the campaigner John Muir who said “everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

Glover continues, “We want our nation’s most cherished landscapes to fulfil their original mission for people, providing unrivalled opportunities for enjoyment, spiritual refreshment and in turn supporting the nation’s health and wellbeing. … In turn, we want to see our national landscape bodies doing much more to reach out and welcome people in. An important way of getting interest across all of society is of course to inspire our younger generations. This is why we set out a proposal for every child to spend at least one night in a national landscape. We think that seeing and knowing our country is the best way to respect and save it”. He also added, “We also want to see long‑term programmes established to reach out to Black, Asian and minority ethnicity communities”.


There are great benefits to people, and especially young people being able to stay overnight in the national park at a reasonable cost, whilst enjoying healthy exercise and understanding nature. Youth hostels have traditionally provided low-cost accommodation for those participating in outdoor activities. They are also a place where we can slow down and socialise with like-minded people.

Low cost accommodation – YHAs:

In the South Downs, there are three great youth hostels, but sadly they are all at the eastern end of the Park. In fact, the number of youth hostels in or near the Park has reduced over the last few years:

  • Winchester closed in 2005
  • Arundel closed in 2014
  • Alfriston closed in 2015

The 3 existing YHA hostels are all within the eastern third of the South Downs Way:

The 3 hostels are:

  1. Truleigh Hill
  2. South Downs – Southease/Itford
  3. Eastbourne

The distance between YHA Truleigh Hill and Eastbourne is approx. 35 miles.

Between the YHA at Truleigh Hill and Winchester is approx. 65 miles where there are no YHA hostels:

Project to provide low cost hostel accommodation on the western section of the SDW.

Could a project be initiated with the aim to provide at least three new hostel-type sites on the western part of the route between Truleigh Hill and Winchester – some 65 miles?  Perhaps a project team can be put together, including:

  • YHA
  • South Downs National Park Authority
  • South Downs Network
  • YMCA
  • Youth organisations
  • Community groups

and other organisations who are willing to participate.

Kick off

The South Downs Network is initiating a discussion on this matter at a meeting with the National Park on 3 June 2021.

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