RICHARD WILIAMSON: Country walk: Iping and Trotton Commons

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I walked these two miles (3.2kms) through the heather last week hoping to see a woodlark, a Dartford warbler and a cuckoo among the many birds that breed on the nature reserve.

I started from the big gravel car-park just south of the A272 west of Midhurst, and a little way down the Elsted road at SU853219. A display board told of the way this lowland heath is managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

My path was left, south-west out of the car-park and second left along the Heathland Trail. This gave me a fine view ahead to Harting Downs. Close by I found both European and lesser gorse, the latter much smaller, and with flowers much later, in the autumn.

Gorse clumps are the habitat of the Dartford warbler but I was out of luck this time with that rarity. See if you can find one.

However I did spot a pair of woodlarks flying about; like skylarks, but with short tails. No cuckoo was heard; I guess I was a bit late. These usually breed on Iping using meadow pipits as hosts. Some scattered scots pines have been ring-barked, to provide song-posts and dead timber for woodpeckers and beetles. I passed two small Bronze Age tumuli.

The path brought me to a rushy pond from which sprang a beautiful drake mallard with bottle-green head and blue scapulars. This is the place to see dragonflies later. I turned right, then under the trees, left along the Serpent Trail, and left again by some fire-beaters.

Far to my left were three enormous tumuli. I found here a flint tool that once belonged to that clan. Under scots pines I came to a cross-ways, and turned right then left, along a white sand track which is unsigned. To the left in the hollow there will be another pond in wet weather, but now it was dry.

I found cross-leaved heath (Erica tetralix) in flower there. Just past more fire-beaters I turned right, up the hill, on blue arrow, finding compact rush (Juncus conglomeratus) growing alongside the track together with oval sedge (Carex ovalis). At the top of this hill I turned left and left again, on blue arrows, now going north-west alongside the woods of Goldring Warren.

After 400 yards I turned sharp right, east, past an old wood post, downhill and back into the open sandy heath. Masses of golden tormentil flowers were in bloom on the ground, as well as white carpets of heath bedstraw. Silver birch trees towered to each side.

I stayed east all the way back to the car-park on this vector, it being the route of the 1970s gas pipe-line. This climbs over The Mound, a prominent hill hereabouts. Here I came to the trig. point, and a seat from which one may enjoy a view of the South Downs.

This is the centre of the area where I shall be listening out for nightjars that breed here, and which give their mysterious calls at dusk, until about mid July.

On the way back I also crossed the route of the Roman road. This seems to have descended north down a steep gully, as you cross over a bridleway.