We much enjoyed this 2.5-mile (4kms) walk last week across National Trust heathland with fine views south to the Downs.
Parking is easy, off-road, in NT car park SU949187, one mile west of A285. Cross the road south into Lavington Plantation on Serpent Trail.
As the notice says, this is reclamation from dense pine cover returning the heath to heather, sand lizards, nightjars, Dartford warblers and sundew carnivorous plants, all of which are rare and endangered.
Stay ahead southeast by a water trough at path junction, ignoring the path which goes off west, and again the next one west. At that second junction, if you look west into the bracken you will see one of four or five Bronze Age tumuli sticking up. Amazing these sandy cemeteries are still there after 3,500 years.
This was good farming land for those tribes and they cultivated much of Sussex, including those areas we know today as ancient forest on the dip slope of the downs. We need their cattle back here on this heath today to get rid of the bracken, a tremendous conservation challenge for National Trust.
Arrive at cottages and Lower Barn. Note request on sign asking that dogs be controlled in bird-breeding season. Turn right on fingerpost passing ‘Equine Logistics’.
Note two vintage tractors and a fine holly hedge with ivy too – splendid breeding ground for that beautiful little butterfly the holly blue. Note also several green woodpecker holes in oaks.
Now sharp left between black post-and-rails for 350 yards, when, at rue, sharp right on fingerpost, noting the first of several large clumps of pendulous sedge in the woods ahead. Also rookery active, and marsh tits singing.
High stile, on to road, where turn right to follow this road through the hamlet of Upper Norwood, noting model sailing boat in window of first house.
Road sharp bend right and then down the dip where a fine exposure of the three-million-year-old sandstone bedrock to left. Also a large growth of polypody ferns on a bank on left too.
Take the second of two right turns off the road, yours opposite a new metal gate, and follow this damp woodland path downwards to a boggy area. After 500 yards you will come to a crossways of yellow arrows. Keep straight ahead, following the wire fence for 450 yards until you reach the second of two right turns, walking as you turn right between two Douglas firs.
Again hook right on to the long damp white sandy track southeast across the open heath. The track is also a streamway in which rare dragonflies breed, that is why it is not made up. It is OK for walking on though, and you may see the slot marks of muntjac deer as I did last week.
Eventually turn left back to car, noting as you do an oak sapling that has been tapped by a green woodpecker for the sap tannin which helps make its feathers iridescent. Hope it hasn’t tapped a hole in my wooden car.
* See the February 16 issue of the Observer to view a map of this walk.