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Lake Wood, Uckfield – early summer visit
I am still a few months short of visiting Lake Wood across all seasons. My first visit was on 19 October. I wonder if I was making a visit after a busy summer season before a clean up, or after a warm summer weekend as I couldn’t help but note then, as I did today, on the discarded coffee cups (Costa), beer bottles (Budweiser), vodka battles (Stolichnaya), crisp and sweet bags. Since that trip I have been prepared to collect some litter so long as it doesn’t require gloves or anything larger than a large poo bag … I have filled a shopping bag on one occasion, and then again a bin liner.
Solutions to such problems of litter, graffiti, a few fires and frequent abandoned deposits of dog waste are welcome. I rather think it starts with trips to the site with local primary school children on litter picking and other trips so that in the decades to come they want to take care of the place.
But please don’t let me put you off – the litter and graffiti is low-key. I’d like to say it is idyllic, and visually it is indeed a treat for the eyes to enjoy a late 18th century early 19th century landscaped garden in the style of Capability Brown. Idyllic for me, however, requires minimal interfering noise from traffic hurtling along the Uckfield Bypass, or negotiating at speed the chicances – despite poor visibility around Rock Road, which takes up two sides of a triangle – so 2/3rds or more of the perimeter of the wood.
Parking, and especially departing the lay-by here requires nerve as from both directions, both hidden corners, vehicles can emerge at speed and they are never sympathetic to find you pulling out.
Something needs to be done about noise pollution and behaviours which I struggle to deem ‘anti-social’ so much as ‘lazy’, ‘thoughtless’ and ‘unsympathetic’ – people who can’t be bothered to take their litter home with them having walked in with an energy drink, MacDonald’s milkshake or Wild Bean Coffee. Certainly the take away outlets need to do more to advise and educate their customers – indeed, I think local councils should demand that such outlets as a condition of their licence have clearly visible and well communicated posters regarding litter and the environment.
The current signage that relies on a collection of icons that misunderstood or ignored is not the answer. Or use emojis … at least apply a language that is in common use. Actually, I have come to understand that a lot of signage attracts its own problems by providing confusing, multiple messages. Just two would do: take your litter and dog’s shit home. Digital might help.
This is what I made of Lake Wood in March 2022 > https://bit.ly/3xG3v5S
Lake Wood and The Woodland Trust Mission
Whenever I visit a Woodland Trust wood I go to the Woodland Trust website, read up on it (no matter how many times I have already done this) and download the Management Plan which, as the name suggests, is a dry, practical description of the space, its opportunities and problems and the plans for the immediate 5 years and then 50 years hence. Few of us visit these woods unless as children are likely to care – another good reason to develop interest and love for the woods at the youngest age. I’m thinking age 4 and up – though I can’t see a local nursery, even a primary school, visiting given the health and safety risks of a deep, boggy lake and rocky outcrops, let alone fallen trees and decaying trunks. (Which to my mind age ten sounds like bliss).
I would like an illustrated map. The above is what I produce on AllTrails.
Nothing overly revealing if the ancient trees and some habitats need to be protected, rather than advertised to the world, but a map matters for habitats and paths. And here, as in many woods these days, people treat a track/path or ride as a guide or point of reference and eagerly venture off into the woods whatever the time of year, emerging and blossoming plants.
The Woodland Trust Mission
All management plans open with this statement:
To realise all the environmental, social and economic benefits woods and trees bring to society, we:
- Create Woodland – championing the need to hugely increase the UK’s native woodland and trees.
- Protect Woodland – fighting to defend native woodland, especially irreplaceable ancient woodland and veteran trees; there should be no loss of ancient woodland
- Restore Woodland – ensuring the sensitive restoration of all damaged ancient woodland and the re-creation of native wooded landscapes.
I’m learning as an elected town councillor for the Green Party (any surprises here?) – that wishing for everything even where there is a conflict of interests, that delivering a generous management plan such as they requires wider collaboration, positive communication and engagement with the very group that is always the issue when it comes to the environment – us! People!
Lake Wood, Uckfield
From the Woodland Trust Management plant I read that this is a “3 acre spring-fed lake created from an earth dam”. It includes ‘aramatic outcrops of Cretaceous Ardingly sandstone covered in mosses, lichens and ferns’ – indeed it does, though in places every inch of the stone has been carved into with a knife or chisel so that Gary can declare his love Courtney.
This is ‘a semi-natural woodland’ – ‘although much of it was extensively modified in the late 18th and early-19th centuries in the style of Capability Brown by the enlargement of the lake and the planting of exotic trees and shrubs’. Indeed. Though Capability Brown couldn’t see 250 years ahead to the space coming into public ownership and the burgeoning time engulfing the garden with the modern essentials the residential dwelling: easy access to the countryside and roads that allow you to drive at the greatest speed possible for that road.
We learn that “Trees planted at the time included beech, lime, horse chestnut, sycamore, coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) and Monterey pine (Pinus radiata)”. I am too early in my woodland journey to be able to identify some of these readily. I have learnt that both mid-winter and mid-summer offer valuable indicators. I am starting to visit woods with a mind to picking out just one tree at a time until I know it.
Some of the trees sit like giant bonsai on the tops of the stone outcrops overlooking the lake. This, the huge specimen trees, some touching 60 or 70ft I am sure, the twisting hornbeam and the views onto the lake, as well as discovering its steps, tunnel and boat house dug into the stone are all fun.
We learn that the October 1987 hurricane took down a lot of trees here. Many have been left in situ have well and truly bedded down. Many have produced an abundance of new shoots, or support ‘companion’ trees and shrubs – others will rot down over 100 years or more.
We learn that ‘the northern part of the site is largely overstood mixed coppice of hazel, hornbeam and sweet chestnut with semi-mature birch with oak standards’ – which is also where, if I recall, there is the densest carpet of wood anemones I have seen anywhere.
Over the next 50+ years
“Many of the existing over-mature trees will have died or been windblown but another cohort of mature trees will have been recruited as potential veteran trees across the site”.
Areas with a light tree canopy tend to have a ground flora dominated by coarse species such as bracken and bramble.
There is a Woodland Trust to ‘connect people’ with woods.
However, I would like to see parts of the woods close to trampling feet, dog mess and littering. I cannot see how any space on the edge of a rapidly growing urban area can otherwise protect its intrinsic value. Volunteers are already involved, so if there isn’t a ‘Friends of Lake Wood’ there needs to be one.
The site has a WT access category A: high usage site, regularly used at all times of year with more than 20 people using one entrance every day. There are 2 pedestrian access points from Rocks Road although parking is very limited.
There is ‘anti-social behaviour including litter, fires, camping, swimming, boating and vandalism. I’ve never seen boating, swimming or boating, though the odd fire is lit – the constant problem is litter. Today’s haul included the usual sinners from takeaway outlets McDonalds, Costa and Subway as well as bottles of drink (beer, Coke, water, milkshakes, a yoghurt) and sundry bits of sweet paper wrapper. Last September or October I filled an entire shopping bag with the remains of a large alcohol and energy drink fuelled picnic.
There’s lasting damage to the trunk of a 230 year birch which now features a large wrap around penis and balls. I think an arborist is required here. Soap and water? Careful picking away the affected bark? A strong detergent or a power hose would surely risk killing the tree?
The sound of aeroplanes coming into London disturbs the peace frequently enough, though nothing is shocking as the first time (and last time) you sit outside at the The Hurlingham Club and have a 747 jet land on your head … every 7 minutes.
The management plan says that the 19th century sandstone wall will be replaced by a wire fence when it fails. This unfortunately has been done and what is left is a large gap which filters the noise of traffic on the busy raised Rock Road. The ‘Slow’ signs here are ignored – with people stopping in pop-up lay-bys left and right of the road the speed limit ought to be dropped to 30pm and traffic calming measures put in place.
As for the Uckfield-by-pass …
Why should any through traffic be allowed to blight the lives of the local residents? Speeds should be reduced with signage to explain why and better noise screening put in place.
Markstakes Common : June 2022
I came to Markstakes Common today looking for a noted ‘ancient’ ash which according to the map is hidden away in the north-west corner of the Common close to Furzeley Farm. It took me quite a bit of meandering around as you can see from my AllTrails to find it, not least because there are several other Ash in various stages of growth or decrepitude, with one or many stems in the same area. All no doubt from the original tree?
This 3-stemmed ash had a girth of 302cm in 2010, which to my reckoning makes it around 160 years old.
I turned to the Observer’s Book of Trees (written in 1937, revised in the 1960s and reprinted – my copy, in 1972). The language is redolent of Wilfred Ewart who was writing before the First World War I and used references to the Classics. Here we read that the ash is the ‘Venus of the Woods’ for its ‘grace and strength of a goddess’. I don’t see this myself, not hemmed in my brambles, bracken and nettles and unable to view the tree from the cut lawn a few metres away over the boundary.
I have taken to giving the trees I visit regularly names based on their approximate year of germination. Growing since around 1850, and traditionally female, I was thinking I’d call this Ash ‘Victoria’ (the Queen rather than Beckham) – although Victoria covers a reign of several decades) or perhaps ‘Crystal’ as the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace opened in 1851. For now ‘Crystal Ash’ it is.
The Observer reminds the reader that a tree’s character is very much down to its context, that hemmed in by a forest a tree is significantly different to one growing in an open meadow or hedgerow. Weather has an impact too, through its history, notably the significant storm of October 1987 and the more recent storm of some impact in February 2022 – a tree may lose a branch, be tipped off centre or be felled. We now have climate change to content with too: with hotter dry summers in southern England, and storms that are potentially more powerful with greater rainfall. Trees that were pollarded will have many stems if they have since been left. A tree has an impact on everything around it too, potentially starving out plants of light and nutrients or providing support to a bank with very deep roots.
Ash, according to the Observer ‘was used where iron and steel have long since supplanted it’ (p.95)
As I am still at the start of my journey of recognising and understanding a multitude of trees I take note of its ‘leaflets’, which I read are ‘late to arrive and early to leave’. Initially I thought the ash tree leaves were distinct, only to find there are other quite different trees which might have fewer or more so called ‘leaflets’. This is when the winter tree with is black leaf-buds is so handy. It also explains I’m sure why the Markstakes survey was done in January 2010, not in spring, summer or early autumn.
I am yet to see any of these trees in summer, having started my visits in autumn. I know I need to look out for distinct flowers and in the case of the Ash, the seeds or ‘keys’ with their singed ‘spinners’.
I learned from the Observer that the Ash only produces seeds that germinate in its second year, matures at 40+ years, and has a natural span of 200 years. And a bit of history – they were coppiced to make oars, axes and hammer shafts.
Moat Wood, East Hoathly through the seasons
I took up visits to woods in general and Woodland Trust woods in particular to give that part of my day no longer occupied with e-learning at GBMET a focus. This has seen me travel back and forth across East Sussex, with some trips into West Sussex and over the border into Kent (just). I may say that in time my current tramping ground is the South Downs.
The Woodland Trust provides the detail on the history and management of the wood I visit, along with guidance on the flora and fauna to expect. I rarely get the parking right and can differ up and down local lanes several times before I get it right.
As petrol prices have gone through the roof my trips have spiralled ever closer to home, within 5 miles of Lewes, and on foot on local walks in every direction from the Winterbourne to Juggs Lane, Egrets Way and the Railway Land Trust, Malling and Southerham Nature Reserves, Malling Field along the Ouse to Offham and of course Landport Bottom and the Old Racecourse.
I had already completed six or more visits to Sussex Woodland Trust woods before I took a punt on Moat Wood, East Hoathly. We know the village from ‘outlier’ bonfire events – always a nighttime November trip, so hardly an opportunity to take in the countryside.
I’ve now been back to East Hoathly at least ten times in nine months, most times varying the visit a little, either parking up on South Street in the layby or by the Church. I’ve also wondered well beyond the woods into the surrounding fields. The temptation has even developed to move here, with a few properties coming up which have looked interesting (if not always affordable). Anything away from Lewes, its connectability, schools and ‘quality of life’ and resources becomes more affordable if you want a detached house, a patch of garden and somewhere to park a car.
The Mission of The Woodland trust is to ‘improve woodland biodiversity and increase peoples’ understanding and enjoyment of woodland’. I can get behind that, and apply the same thinking to Chalk Downs and hedging and coppiced fringes into woodland and suburban back gardens. I apply this to the shambolic ‘rewilding’ of my own urban garden which has had ten years of ‘nomoever’ and a lot of mulching.
Moat Wood is an easy, short circuit on the flat. The rides can be muddy and on some paths are best tackled in wellies or sturdy boots. There is one bench on the corner of one walk and some hefty downed trunks that afford a good bench and picnic spot south of the spartan remains of a mediaeval moated farm. It was designated a Scheduled Monument by English Heritage in 2000, which gives the site additional protection against unauthorised change. This might not be enough to prevent the site being closely fringed by busy roads and housing development.
There are two recommended spots to park, either by the Church in the village car park or by the side of the road, or on South Street where there is a layby with space for several vehicles. I’ve always been able to park, often being the only vehicle in the lay-by.
Location of East Hoathly in East Sussex, southern England (cc OpenStreetMap)
I’ve not tried the entrance closer to the A22 because there is nowhere to park and I’ve learnt to stay away from the often busy and noisy A22.
The entrance to Moat Wood off South Street, East Hoathly.
I may try some early morning trips here when the traffic should be lighter. I’m afraid that traffic noise and overhead planes are impossible to avoid anywhere in Sussex as we’re criss-crossed with commuter routes and underneath some of the busiest skies on the planet for planes with Gatwick and Heathrow close, let along Luton and Stansted beyond and local airfields sending up small craft.
My knowledge of the trees is limited but growing: I can identify a handful of trees though generally will need a leaf to go by, rather than figuring it out from a trunk or twig. I’m getting there. You also need to see the trees at different stages of growth from sapling, to mature and ancient trees.
Oak over the moat and April, June and January
Moat Wood offers all the stages through to mature trees of maybe 150 years old. For truly ancient trees of 200-300 years old you need to look further afield … of come back in a century. I know my oak:
I love to find woods through The Woodland Trust ‘Find a Wood’, read up the introductory blurb on the website and then download the Management Plan.
The three strategic aims of The Woodland Trust that I’ve picked out are to:
- Protect native woods, trees and their wildlife for the future
- Work with others to create more native woodlands and places rich in trees
- Inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees
This is a fine balance which opens the woods up to access to the most invasive of all species: us, our dogs and behaviours while working with local councils, and land owners, which might include a property developer or farmer, or a wealthy individual with a philanthropic turn. Woods in Sussex are largely unconnected and isolated; either a patchwork of often visited spaces close to urban sprawl, or a wet or deeply incised space which couldn’t be commercially turned over to farming (or a commercial shoot) as well as apparently random spaces that few people ever visit which might offer the best sanctuary of all. We don’t take kindly to being kept out of a wood and protect our rights of way and footpaths stoically.
It required significant donations from local people in East Hoathly and the East Hoathly and Halland Parish Council to purchase Moat Wood Moat for the Woodland Trust in 1999.
The Woodland Trust Management Plan for Moat Wood tells us that:
The majority of the canopy of Moat Wood is dominated by mature oak, grown as high forest, with a mixed species understorey.
This canopy was drastically opened up by the storm of 1987 and subsequent clearing operations. These cleared areas are now dominated by a mixture of natural regeneration and coppice re-growth, particularly of hornbeam, along with a few surviving planted oaks.
My multiple visits to Moat Wood are shared on All Trails and a selection of my photographs shared to Google Maps. My photographs, trails and even these notes are essentially a personal aide memoire. I’ll revisit what I have written and build on what I know over the years.
Moat Wood from South Street, around the ‘moat’ to the A22 perimeter. You could try and cross this busy dual-carriageway – I haven’t.
The policy for Moat Wood is of ‘minimum silvicultural intervention’ which means there are no operations such as coppicing, thinning or felling.
All I’ve been aware of is the clearing of some of the saplings, bracken and brambles that were choking up the southern environs of the 13th century moat – cleared during a dry spell last autumn they became soggy over winter but at least make it possible to make out the old moat and what would have been a farmstead. It requires a lot of imagination to picture it. The joy though is to see the trees and plants change so much during the seasons, with autumn and spring by far the most colourful, while the contrast between mid-winter and mid-summer couldn’t be greater.
The Management Plan for Moat Wood has more to say on these moated farmsteads:
This type of moated site is likely to have been a prestigious domestic or religious settlement containing timber-framed buildings and been built between 1250 and 1350.
There are around 6000 moated sites known in England, mostly built between 1250 and 1350. They form a significant class of mediaeval monument and are important for the understanding of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside
Some of the mature oak is currently affected by chronic oak decline and ash is affected by ash dieback
There are ‘ancient woodland indicator ground flora species’ such as bluebell, wood anemone and wild garlic. These are glorious as early March, through April to May.
The coppice regrowth around the moat will be re-cut on a short cycle (2-5 years) to maintain open views of the feature.
There is a ‘naturally regenerated understorey of species such as hornbeam, birch, hazel, holly, sycamore and sweet chestnut’.
According to the Management Plan parts of Moat Wood outside of the Trust’s ownership are ‘threatened by unmanaged conifer plantations’ in one area and ‘attempts to remove all vegetation prior to submitting a planning application in another’. It is one of the main principles of the Woodland Trust to protect, maintain and restore this species-rich habitat.
Woodland Visits : When I go down to the woods each day …
I use Waze or Google Maps and check advice from The Woodland Trust ‘Find A Wood‘.
When I visit a wood for the first time I look at the following: parking and signage, nature, variety and age of trees, the varied habitats and undergrowth, a note on birds and animals, as well the amount of human interaction or intervention, from fellow visitors, to historic and current land used. A wood on an urban fringe is used in different ways to an isolated wood or a wood that is popular and frequently visited; being southern England it is difficult to escape noise from air-traffic or roads. I also think about the signage and in some instances proximity to a pub! There are some great woodland walks that have a pub attached, that welcome dogs and don’t mind muddy feet.
I’ll note how easy it was to find in the first and to park. In some cases ‘getting there’ is part of the pleasure as there are some steep banked roads think with woodland plants in spring or with dense, overhanging trees in summer through to autumn.
In some cases it has taken me two or more visits to figure out where best to park, either because the entrance is off a residential street or off a road where there is no immediate parking at all.
I use AllTrails once we set off.
I usually have our dog with us so I check if there is any signage about dogs. And depending on ownership, time of year I check any information board regarding keeping to paths, sheep, working in the forest and other matters. Following UK Gov The Country Code appears to be a good idea all round for me.
Then I’m off, intent on following or finding a circuit with no doubling back.
I try to clock the trees, types and age and the flora and fauna depending on the time of year.
I’m not great with birdsong and find it hard enough to spot them to make the connection.
I take pictures constantly, usually relying on my phone but where I want close ups taking a Sony DSLR with a macro lens.
I take notes in ‘notes’.
The experience includes what goes on underfoot – so the state of the ground and the presence of boardwalks or bridges: Wellies cover all wet weather and sturdy shoes the rest of the time.
I’ve been using PictureThis to identify plants on the move.
And then I try to sum it up, at first just a few sentences and pictures shared in AllTrails. I would hope to write it up later more fully with reference to a Management Plan, where there is one; they are readily available for all Woodland Trust Woods.
I love a gill or stream: hereabouts they are often seasonal, shallow and unchallenged – in ancient woodland allowed to flood and dam. I love patches of water too, from small ponds to lakes and reservoirs. These all add to the woodland experience.
As I get to know ‘my’ woods I then return across the seasons, more often in spring as things change rapidly from February through to the end of May – here on the South Downs, with visits to the Low and High Weald.
Whether or when I write it up follows, starting in a Google Doc, uploading to a WordPress blog then adjusting accordingly with keywords, tags and captioned images.
I visited Markstakes Common May on the 7th, 12th and 17th May 2022.
(I get to places using Waze and one there I use AllTrails for my walks).
My discovery of Markstakes Common came about by accident: I was headed for a return trip to Beechmill Wood but finding roadworks blocking the road to Newick north of Chailey and a diversion too out of my way to bother with I doubled back, checked on The Woodland Trust website ‘Find A Wood’ and found this gem – a wood and common up there with any of the best ancient deciduous woods I’ve discovered around East Sussex over the last nine months. I was a bit late for any wood anemones or bluebells at their very best.
Nonetheless, even if not in their full glory, the common awash with bluebells on 7th May was wonderful to see – as if a blue mist were lifting off the common.
Then I stumbled across a diversion in the path put there to protect an ancient oak – 360 years or more old, I believe.
Then, there are more, many more ancient trees: oak, beech, ash and hornbeam.
Courtesy of Friends of Markstakes Common there are various detailed maps picking out the ancient trees and the different habitats; it is this that has me fall in love with the Common; it has variety.
There are ancient trees (I’m thinking 34 trees with ‘ancient’ status meaning they are over 350 + years old).
Yet there are trees of all ages, open spaces and meadow, pools and ponds and seasonal streams. I can’t get enough of it. This suggests to me a space that will still be thriving in another 200 years time.
I’d gladly live close-by. Each time I have come here I meet and talk to someone: an elderly gent with whom life-stories were shared, a mum with kids two young for school but hurtling around like puppies. Most of us had a dog, And young couples too. Everyone is happy to talk and share their love for this space.
It is messy; trees fall and are left, maybe a few branches cut away to assist people on a walk. There is mud, partially dried up seasonal streams, a pond of sorts …
Parking is easy; it is well-shaded off a quiet road by a sturdy stone walk with a large access gate. Unlike every other wood of its kind I have been to around the county there is not one sign here relating to the Country Code, the need to keep dogs on a lead, footfall because of bluebells or a myriad of other concerns that can cause organisations a flurry of worries, costs and concerns that necessitate information boards and other announcements in various forms that can stand up to the weather (or not), or look dated … but does any of it work? My understanding is that all that works are ‘ambassadors’ on the ground talking to as many people who visit a space as possible and sharing the word.
I even have to wonder if information boards and signage simply encourage footfall and visitors by their very presence and do little to contain behaviours: some people drop little and let their dog(s) shit where they like, others do not. Some people trudge across beds of wood anemones and bluebells in search of a unique shot or photo op while others keep back.
These trees and these woods will, I very much hope, still be here long, long after we have gone. All we have to do is avoid killing them off while we’re around.
Williams Wood, Warninglid
Photographs: CC BY SA 3.0 J F Vernon 2022
Last autumn I took my interest in trees (urban and woodland, ancient and young) a step further by joining The Woodland Trust and taking a close interest in (and supporting) the world of Lewes Urban Arboretum. My journey across Sussex then began, picking out almost every Woodland Trust Wood in East Sussex with the intention of paying a visit to each during each season of the year: another few months and the task will have been completed.
Venturing out across England I’ve visited a few other Woodland Trust woods while I was in the area; I’m unlikely to pay these a second visit. To minimise my journeys and to spread my interest I have also started to visit all the woods in a catchment of around 10-15 miles out from Lewes. This has me visiting The National Trust, Forestry Commission Woods, RSPB Nature Reserves and other private woods and parks. There are some large garden parks such as Sheffield Park (National Trust) and Wakehurst Place which I have not visited recently or included in this journey both because of the cost of admission and because most are planted with excotic and even invasive non-native species such as rhododendron. I will write about Chalk Downland and the likes of Landport Bottom and Malling Down Nature Reserve (Sussex Wildlife) elsewhere – they are not known for many or indeed any trees.
I have visited William’s Wood, Warninglid at least once a month since October 2021 as I spend Saturday mornings down the road at The Triangle, Burgess Hill and enjoy the contrast from a humid swimming pool teaching swimmers in a busy swimming club to the woods where I only rarely come across a dog-walker, cyclist or the odd rider out on a hack. I have also returned several times with family or friends (and our dog). I last wrote up a visit at the end of March. I had Covid from the end of March that kept me at home for a few weeks right when I most wished to be capturing the winter/summer transition through spring which has distinct stages through the dotted white carpet of wood anemones through to bluebells, and other plants on the woodland floor and by the deeply incised running gills.
I read up on any Woodland Trust wood in advance and enjoy the detail that comes from each wood’s Management Plan. Much can change in a wood over four weeks, in this case,as I hoped, the bluebells were out in modest clumps by tree stumps, and in huge carpets under the still open canopy of the older deciduous trees.
This is the High Weald here, ‘ancient woodland’ (‘an area of land where there had been continual growth since 1600’). Inevitably the woods in the south of England are surrounded closely by farmland and parkland, though William’s Wood benefits from not abutting a major town or residential sprawl which greatly increases the footfall and other consequences politely described as ‘anti-social behaviour’, namely litter and sometimes malicious damage. The A22 is just distant enough not to be heard, though plains and assorted aircraft do leave and come in overhead to Gatwick Airport 12 1/2 miles to the north (20km).
Williams Wood is adjoining another extensive wood and abutting a seasonal shoot (pheasants and ducks) – making it noisy on my Saturday visits from October to February for pheasants and September and to the end of January for ducks.
There is really only parking for one car by the gate along the lane to Bellevue Care Home (formerly Stonewick Lodge) as additional cars can inconvenience residents of Stonewick Lodge on the other side of the lane trying to get into their home; a further two or maybe three cars can park on the grass kerb by the B211 (Warninglid Lane)
A well marked track, claggy with mud after heavy rainfall and for a few weeks in winter therefore, with ‘Keep dogs on lead’ and ‘Private Woods’ signage either side takes you after some 450m to William’s Wood along the left hand fork – turning right takes you on the Sussex Ouse Way along a path that is mostly fenced in between a shoot and other private properties. The ‘keep dogs on lead’ thing is certainly to avoid scaring pheasants.
Having tried an old fashioned map and struggled with Google Maps providing much once off the road I now swear by AllTrails. This is a record of my late April visit, stumbling around a route that might have taken 45 minutes in well over an hour: I was stopping to take photographs and listen to the wildlife.
This also takes you onto the Sussex Ouse Valley Way, which were I to follow it the south east would take me to the English Channel, home in Lewes and then down to Newhaven and the coast. With motorways, urban sprawl, railways and all other kinds of human activity to negotiate, let alone the distance I may give this one a miss. Wellies are recommended after rain, in all but the driest weather sturdy footwear is recommended though trainers might do.
The meadow as you enter William’s Wood was full of primroses.
The first beds of bluebells were a little further on, on banks and in spaces around the gill.
Further on, entering Bishop’s Wood (all part of the same woodland) I hoped to find the largest carpets of bluebells and was suitably pleased by what I found.
Along the way I saw a number of small, bright yellow butterflies (clouded yellow I think), a lesser-spotted woodpecker, black birds, coal tits, a falcon and a few ducks and pheasants that hadn’t been shot or netted during the shooting season.
As well as the sounds of birdlife and a trickling brook, spring smells noticeably different to winter with the scents of flowers and smell of energised greenery. As I suffer from hayfever I don’t quite understand why I am in a wood rather than out at sea or up a mountain in spring – I take antihistamines.
Most visits I record a one minute ‘sound scape’; though I am yet to upload any of these. I’d like to be able to identify more of the birds first.
Woodland Trust Management Plan
Sussex Ouse Way