Downs (Fr. dunes, from Celtic dun, 'a hill'), a term applied, like denes in Norfolk, to hillocks of sand thrown up by the sea or the wind along the sea-coast. It is also a general name for any undulating tract of upland too light for cultivation, and covered with short grass. It is specially applied to two broad ridges of undulating hills south of the Thames, beginning in the middle of Hampshire, and running eastward, the North Downs through the middle of Surrey and Kent to Dover (about 120 miles), and the South Downs through the south-east of Hampshire and near the Sussex coast to Beachy Head (about 80 miles). Between them lies the valley of the Weald. The highest point of the North Downs is Inkpen Beacon (1011 feet); and of the South Downs, Butser Hill (888). These uplands are covered with fine short pasture, which, from its aromatic quality, forms excellent feeding-ground for the famous Southdown sheep.
Downs, The, a roadstead off the east coast of Kent, opposite Ramsgate and Deal, between North and South Foreland, and protected externally by the Goodwin Sands (q.v.). This large natural harbour of refuge is 8 miles by 6, with an anchorage of 4 to 12 fathoms. It is unsafe only in south winds. The obstinate but indecisive sea-fight of the Downs was fought with the Dutch in June 1666.