This is one of the best places in Sussex to hear nightingales, which will be singing only until mid June.
Wet underfoot in the woods but masses of woodland flowers and birds. Park at Holy Trinity church in the woods at SU975278, three miles north of Petworth.
Churchyard is rich in flowers, while the church is a pleasant Victorian fairly simple building with ornate east window and a list of biographies about each soldier killed in the wars.
Walk southeast past NNR sign into old woodland then left on to Furnace Meadow through bridlegate. Then eastward from the woods across the grassland slopes which have been managed to provide warbler habitats with scrub islands.
Path dips down slope to stream past a convenient seat where you can sit and hear the nightingales singing in the oak wood opposite.
Cross by the footbridge. There are few if any waymarkers but keep to path to left through another gate into another meadow. I heard two pairs of great spotted woodpeckers here, and two pairs of buzzards as well as three more nightingales, in the wood opposite.
Diagonally up the southward, noting flowers of stitchwort and cuckoo flower. This path will find eventually another gate back into the wood.
Turn sharp left into a very muddy track into magnificent oak and beech forest. Note clumps of butchers broom. More woodpeckers here, also bats, dormice, carpets of wild flowers. Can be very wet underfoot.
Stay on this course southeastward until you come to Butcherland Farm which will be on your left having crossed a cattle grid and passed a sign saying Ebernoe Common Heritage Trail. Pass the farm onwards down slope into a wide green ride that curves left and north-eastward. This leads you on to a quiet country lane which takes you back for 1.5 miles to the starting point.
I heard three more nightingales along this road, singing in the bushes.
You pass Hoe Bridge which may be flooded but which has a raised walkway. Again masses of wild flowers to left and right including purple orchids, bluebells, white dead nettles, yellow archangels, and red campion. Can’t get more colourful than that.
When you turn left off this road back towards Ebernoe you will pass Pond Bay where yet another nightingale was singing.
At a house called Woodsmoke I bought half a dozen hens’ eggs roadside, with cowslips in flower nearby. Can’t get more olde worlde English than that. Thank goodness some of it is left.
An olde worlde car for me after a cup of tea and then a look around Petworth on the way home. What a day. All thanks to the Sussex Wildlife Trust for managing Ebernoe nature reserve so well.
* See the May 31 issue of the Observer to view a map of this walk.