POND dipping, guided walks, and storytelling are among the activities that children have enjoyed as part of a new outdoor initiative.

More than 650 children and young people from across Sussex and Hampshire enjoyed a visit to the South Downs National Park for “Explorers of the South Downs”.

Thanks to a donation of £10,000 from Friends of the South Downs, 20 activity days were delivered by Schools Without Walls, an outdoor education organisation, with the support of the South Downs National Park Authority and Forestry England.

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Hampshire Chronicle: Butser Hill looking towards the coast Butser Hill looking towards the coast (Image: James Valente)The participants were all from schools with high levels of pupil premium funding and/or special educational needs.

Caroline Fleming, Manager at Schools Without Walls, said: “We had a fantastic time supporting children and young people to discover and explore the beauty of the South Downs. For the vast majority, it was their first time visiting locations such as Friston Forest, Truleigh Hill, Kingley Vale and the Queen Elizabeth Country Park.

“The generous funding from the Friends of the South Downs enabled valuable opportunities to connect to nature at a time when state schools face significant difficulties in affording transport for trips.

The Friends of the South Downs is the only membership charity dedicated to protecting the South Downs.  The Friends were able to make the donation from a recent legacy.

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Among the locations for the activities were Truleigh Hill, Tide Mills Beach, Stanmer Park, Friston Forest, Seven Sisters Country Park, Kingley Vale, and Queen Elizabeth Country Park.

One of the key activities was an introduction to the South Downs National Park, the National Parks movement and the importance of protected landscapes.

Andrew Lovett, a trustee of the Friends of the South Downs, said: “We were delighted to be able to help more than 600 children learn about the South Downs.  They are the people who will safeguard the Downs in the future.”