RICHARD WILLIAMSON Country Walk...Wildhams Wood

This is almost the perfect walk with masses of wild flowers, firm paths, no stiles, a climb to start and a gentle slope back, accompanied by forest murmurs from young beech trees.

The Forestry Commission made Wildhams in 1950 and provided a large car park shown on my map, but you can park in the large gateway at Coldcroft Copse roadside SU809133 too. Distance 2.3 miles (3.5kms).

Keep on wide, main, forest ride which wanders up northeast to the top, a climb of 250 feet. There is a great spotted woodpecker drumming at the gate here, and another at the top with a green woodpecker yaffling in between.

Lots of blackcap warblers singing until August, also chiffchaff and willow warblers, robins, blackbirds, chaffinches, great tits, nuthatches...the total list would be about 40 species.

The wood is on chalk, once downland, so towards the top you will see old yew trees bulldozed or cut and left as skeletons as FC cleared the site 60 years back.

I saw a white hart (fallow buck) among a herd here, and they graze meadows of wild flowers in the glades.

Fly orchids grow here, also spotted and greater butterfly orchids. Bluebells and ramsons are in flower now, each making vast colonies under the trees.

The beeches look like Lowrie figures and some seem to be standing on their heads with legs wide apart, making a curious spectacle indeed. These are trees which lost their leaders in the ‘76 drought.

At the top the ride curves eastward near Hillbarn and on your right among the trees is a curious hollow which might be the site of an ancient dewpond.

A stockdove was calling on my visit, nesting in one of the hollow trees. It is all a very rich ecosystem.

Then I came to the return path which runs to the right, southward, down the centre of a valley.

There is a hot spot at this point, a micro-climate of warmth where you will generally see woodland butterflies.

Last week I recorded speckled woods, orange tips, peacock, red admiral, brimstone and small white, and I daresay later on there will be silver-washed fritillaries too.

As you descend, note the old badger sett to the right tunnelled into a clay sink-hole formed during last Ice Age.

They have sharpened their claws on young sycamores. An exclosure on left for beech regeneration has whitethroats warblers and dunnocks.

Halfway down the valley water seeps briefly from the ground, giving habitat for clumps of soft rush.

At the bottom near the road, five old Douglas firs have a buzzard nesting in one of them.

The way back to my old shooting brake was either along the road or just inside the wood on a parallel track.

Both were very quiet except for a cuckoo calling.

** See the May 10 issue of the Observer to view a map of this walk.