RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: West Dean Woods


I am returning once again to West Dean Woods nature reserve for the week’s walk because we are holding another open day (after two year’s absence) to which everyone is welcome.

Here is the map of the area complete with parking. A Land Rover will run a shuttle service from 10am-4pm on Saturday, July 26 from West Dean College car park in West Dean village next to the A286, at SU863126.

There is also limited parking roadside nearer the nature reserve on the Chilgrove to West Dean road, SU 844152.

This map can also be used throughout the year for 
your everyday walks using the dotted lines, but not the dash lines.

It is all within the South Downs National Park. The land is owned by West Dean Estate and is devoted to arable farming and forestry.

Fields are mostly surrounded by dense hedgerows or avenues of trees (mainly beech) in which flocks of small birds such as linnets, yellow hammers, chaffinches and blackcap warblers breed.

There are winter rarities, too, such as bramblings, siskins and redpolls. The wide-open fields are good places to see red kites, buzzards, and occasionally, kestrels.

As for the forests on the left of this map: they are home to goldcrests and firecrests, great spotted woodpeckers and stock doves to name but a few.

There are also 20 species of mammals roaming these forests, from the smallest, the pygmy shrew, to the largest, the fallow deer.

But to return to the actual week’s walk: the dashed lines show where we shall go around on Saturday and you can see this is but a mile at the most.

I shall lead parties throughout the day around this 40-acre reserve.

We shall be looking at how the reserve is managed in the ancient tradition as a coppice-with-standards forest crop in which hazel shrubs and oak trees form the main timber crops. As a very useful addition to this sylvicultural system, vast numbers of flowers, insects and flowering plants enjoy the habitat too. We will try to name as many as we can.

There are, for example, 30 species of butterflies here, 40 species of breeding birds, more than 300 species of flowers, and 300 moths, although most of those are only to be seen at night.

If you want to buy any of my walks or bird books or much older copies of my nature trails books, these will be on sale, too.

The Sussex Wildlife Trust will be hosting the event and the volunteers who manage this reserve on their behalf will be on hand to show how the job is done and help to guide you around and answer your questions.

Although my old Morris Minor will not be there, my even older Alvis will and on display in case you are interested in that as well!