This is a walk to show you where to go this Saturday, May 19, for the guided walks by Murray Downland Trust around Heyshott Nature Reserves; or this map and directions can be used at any time of the year for a super up-and-down ramble of 5.5kms (3.4 miles).
Parking in Heyshott at The Unicorn or by St James church whose 13th-century remains were upgraded in Victorian times. Note the very fey lion and unicorn painting over the entrance. Heyshott village is famous for its wild flowers around the cottages and across the common meadows.
From church, walk left into the dip, then keeping right to pass Moor Farm and on south towards the very high hills beyond. Straight ahead on rough track into almost a tunnel of hazel and field maple trees.
As track bends right to the west, we go left into the fields soon coming to Heyshott Scarp nature reserve. Somewhere here guided walks will start on Saturday. If any other day, we take track steeply up hill southeast.
Downland flowers to your right on the banks include at this time of year the rare musk orchid. This is one of our smallest and least obvious orchids with its two or three-inch stem (but up to six inches) and dense cluster of greenish yellow flowers smelling of honey.
Also spotted, early purple, and pyramid orchids. Other obvious flowers here include bird’s foot trefoil, marjoram, and lady’s bedstraw. These crops of wild flowers and butterflies are, if you like, ‘farmed’ by the MDT as a valuable heritage resource for us and the future.
Steep climb ahead past venerable beeches with a steep drop left to Gadd’s Bottom. Wild garlic (ramsons) and white heleborines here as well.
Reaching the top, cross the downland meadow and join the South Downs Way left. This excursion eastward for 400 yards is to view the Bronze Age graveyard which consists of eight tumuli erected about 3,500 years ago. MDT are keeping these clear for all to enjoy.
Return westward along SDW for 1,400 yards noting ancient boundary stones along the way. Then right on blue arrow northeast across the meadow to plunge downhill among century-old yew trees to the open slopes of the MDT reserve downland and views across the weald to Blackdown and to Steep’s Shoulder of Mutton hills northwest.
Your path lies now north across the fields to the sunken lane by which you first arrived. Hedgerow flowers of black bryony, crosswort, dewberry, gypsy’s lace and woundwort make a succulent contrast to the downland.
In the sunken lane take either path back to Heyshott. A left then right almost immediately, or right and left almost at once.
If the first, you’ll come out by the Cobden Hall, which celebrates the famous writer and agriculturalist. Both take me back to my favourite old car from one of my favourite nature reserves in Britain.
** See the May 17 issue of the Observer to view a map of this walk.