Take a country walk around Rewell Woods

A walk around Rewell Woods
A walk around Rewell Woods

Park alongside the A29 at Fairmile Bottom near Arundel Lodge (SU983089) for this 3.6 mile (6kms) walk through the woods and fields around Rewell Woods.

Following the green and white metal sign uphill through the swing gate brings you on to a kilometre stretch of fine downland turf which is maintained nowadays by grazing as it should because it is a highly valuable piece of Sussex flora. Years ago I used to maintain it by mowing with tractor and silage cutter. In summer it swarms with blue and meadow brown butterflies: I would guess that 25 species are recorded here at least.

The bridlepath then enters middle aged and young yew woodland which spread all over downland slopes as the sheep industry contracted a century and more ago. You may notice that the yews grow in ‘family groups’ with younger trees clustered together showing how they survived death from sheep grazing with the shelter provided by prickly juniper bushes which have now all died and disintegrated. If you do find a piece of dead juniper wood it can be identified when broken open by its smell, the scent of cedar wood, as used in pencils.

This gives way to chestnut coppice which was planted to maintain that industry, providing sheep hurdles and farm building material among dozens of other uses. Old beeches were planted here a century and more ago as a crop but also a landscape attraction. This is a fine woodland for high canopy birds such as woodpeckers and nuthatches. Something else now for the archaeologist as the south-westerly path turns a few points left to SSW.

On this down-slope our Bronze Age ancestors constructed enormous ramparts with triple ditch and bank enclosures. These do not appear to similar to Iron Age hilltop forts. In West Stubbs Copse there are even deeper declivities and small cliffs as though quarrying has occurred. Bikers use this as place to test their skills.

At the bridle cross roads I turned sharp left, and walked on SE through Rough Copse to Gobblestubs Copse and came close to the A27.

This woodland is a well- known place to see high forest, summer butterfly species such as purple emperor and white admiral, while the pearl bordered fritillary butterflies are said to be present too with their cousin the silver-washed fritillary. My grandfather hunted these woods and fields in 1889 for partridges and woodcock, keeping a diary which I have now of what he shot. To my amazement and a little horror I read that he bagged six corncrakes in September as this (now) rare species migrated south out of the country back to Africa. The bird is very rare now not because of grandfather, more because of global climate change and over intensive agriculture for which we are all now culpable.

After 400 yards you reach the footpath called Long Lane going north through the fields where it meets the bridlepath and another left turn back westward to Rewell Woods and its damp hollows where toads have hibernated.