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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Nature walks throughout the year
Green Man
Sunday 21st March 2010
Fernhurst - Black Down - Marley Common - Fernhurst
7.5 miles

Our mission today was to explore the northwest of West Sussex close to the Surrey border and in particular a hill called Black Down. As we like to make our base camps at a village church, Fernhurst was picked as the perfect spot to act as our start/finish point, particularly as the Red Lion pub there is a Fullers pub.
Black Down is the highest point in the whole of Sussex (280m (918.6')) and second only to nearby Leith Hill (294m (965')) in Surrey for the title of highest place in southeast England. Its very steep western flank is only scaleable by taking on an old drover's track that today was awash with thick mud and running water. Bluebell leaves were beginning to carpet the woods on the way up and this will be a superb place to visit when they're flowering in a few weeks time. The hill is cloaked in thick woods with many sweet chestnuts and yews and the plateau-like summit consists of heathland with widely-spaced, tall pines and birches. The top is very much like Ashdown Forest in appearance and the vista eastwards from the view point (named the 'Temple of the winds') is amazing.
Masses of woodpecker activity in the trees today, both drumming and calling, as well as good views of Treecreeper, Bullfinch, Nuthatch and Goldfinch and as we walked to a suitable quiet spot for some tiffin I spotted a slow worm disappearing into the peat, although it was anything but slow.
Coming back down towards sea level on the Sussex Border Path, before entering the National Trust land of Marley Common, there are some incredibly beautiful houses to see, including the gorgeous Valewood Farmhouse. The Victorian poet laureate Alfred Tennyson made his home here at Aldworth House, which he had built on the northeast slope and which was recently up for sale for 10m.


Fernhurst's church of St. Margaret. We couldn't explore, as when we arrived it was being used.


Loads of luvverly mud!


On the way up we were escorted by several Brimstone Butterflies, which made it feel very summery.


Male Yew 'flowers'. Botanically they aren't flowers at all, just a cluster of stamens.


The view point has excellent seating and is a busy spot on a Sunday morning.


Looking across to Chanctonbury Ring (centre) from the Black Down view point.


Our route down off of Black Down and across to Marley Common was on the SBP.


Coppicing in Reeks Wood.