South Downs: England’s Mountains Green

  • BBC
  • 2017
  • 1 hour

South Downs: England’s Mountains Green

  • BBC
  • 2017
  • 1 hour

South Downs: England’s Mountains Green

With Peter Owen- Jones

From the Seven Sisters cliffs to Winchester, Peter Owen-Jones takes us on a breathtaking journey. He explores the landscapes, wildlife and people of Britain’s newest National Park – the South Downs.

“When I first saw the hills, the light and the sea, I knew I’d found home. Nothing compares to the beauty of the South Downs.” – Peter Owen-Jones

Made with the support of the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA)

Full film available to watch here.


Peter Owen-Jones first arrived in the South Downs to take up a new post as a parish priest. It was then, his whole world changed.

“When I saw the gently rolling hills, the light and the sea, it was love at first sight. I’ve travelled the world, but nothing compares to this. The only way I’ll leave is if I’m carried out in a box!”


South Downs History

Following the South Downs Way along the spine of the park, from the iconic Seven Sisters cliffs to Winchester – the ancient capital of England, Peter unravels a land steeped in history. From some of the largest Neolithic forts in the British Isles, to the flint mines that formed one of the first industrial landscape in Britain. And from King Alfred and the dawn of the English nation, right to the present day. Peter explores how our relationship with the Downs has changed and as a result,  created one of the richest and most diverse landscapes in Britain.


Peter meets today’s custodians of the land as the seasons unravel. He discovers exquisite local wines during a visit to Peter Hall, one of the founders of the UK’s wine-making industry. He also takes a walk through ancient yews with Katherine Birch, a young wildlife ranger who looks after a haunting 2000 year-old forest at Kingly Vale. Peter then helps a good friend, sheep farmer Andrew Barr, who practices traditional grazing and therefore helps keep the rare chalk grasslands intact.


Within its ancient landscapes are natural treasures that can be found nowhere else on Earth. From rare heathlands that are home to every one of the UK’s reptiles and amphibians, to a wood that has more kinds of bats living in it than anywhere else in the UK, and rare chalk grasslands are home to a profusion of butterflies and orchids.


The Seven Sisters and the Downs beyond, became an iconic symbol for the British Isles during the Battle of Britain and today they are recognised around the world. Now at last protected as an area of outstanding natural beauty, the story of the South Downs National Park can finally be told.

A magical portrait of what was described by William Blake as “England’s mountains green”.

South Downs Short Films

HEATHLANDS celebrates some of the South Downs rarest habitats. Stretching from Storrington to Petersfield only 1% of the National Park is heathland. Heathland is incredibly fragile. As a result, 95% of the world’s heathland has been lost. 20% of that is left is in the UK. Fragmented by development and forest encroachment, the wildlife in the small islands remaining is highly vulnerable.

CHALK GRASSLANDS of the South Downs hold some of the rarest habitats in the UK. The result of forest clearing since Neolithic and Bronze age times. Grazed by sheep for centuries, they are home to a huge variety of plants and creatures. Look closely and you may find 30 to 40 species in one square metre.

We also had a lot of fun filming our first 360 Virtual Reality film to celebrate the SDNPA’s award of a Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR). Undoubtedly, Our star-studded skies are as valuable as our beautiful rolling landscapes. With properly dark skies in the South East of England under threat, our film celebrates why our dark skies are worth protecting. This film was shown in SDNPA’s ‘Dark Skies’ Festivals.

All our South Downs short films are available to watch online. WATCH NOW


- Pick of the day in all the national newspapers with profile pieces on Breakfast TV, regional news BBC South & BBC South East and various radio stations.
By far the best program I have watched in ages @BBCFOUR #EnglandsMountainsGreen Truly heartfelt&inspiring @nature_nick VeryProud #meongirl - @MegalRural
  • Presenter:
    Peter Owen-Jones
  • Producer & Director:
    Nick Stringer
  • Photography:
    James Blake