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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Nature walks throughout the year
Green Man
Saturday 27th February 2010
Bepton - Westdean Woods - Bepton
8 miles
Start point: SU855 182
OS map: 197 Chichester & the South Downs.

Once upon a time, in a bike workshop far, far away, a group of hairy greboes with a scientific interest in loud noises, filled a paper bag with a mixture of oxygen and acetylene from the welding gas tanks and then put a fag to it (we were bored ok). Years later, in an attempt to illustrate the binding strength of triple bonds between carbon atoms, the dean of our school at Sussex University performed the same important scientific experiment. In both cases the release of energy in the form of sound was extensive enough to overload the lughole sensors completely and convince us that instead of hearing a noise so loud it could wake the dead and get them complaining to the council, we'd actually gone completely deaf instead. The same strange audible effect happened to us today in Bepton, which (after some fool had turned his huge motorbike off) became so silent that we thought we'd gone utterly Mutt 'n' Jeff.
Leaving our bike's security in the capable hands (hands?) of some farmyard hens, we squelched up the incredibly muddy track up onto Bepton Down. On the way we came across a barbaric sight on the footpath; the decapitated head of a deer. We've got no idea why it would have ended up being left there like that unless it was by poachers. Anyway, we reached the crest, crossed the motorway (South Downs Way) and dropped down into the sprawling woods of the West Dean Estate. The woods are highly managed by the estate and consist of conifer plantations, hazel coppices, ancient broadleaf forest and large sections of yew/ash woods. These mixed habitats, combined with superb surrounding countryside, supports a large, healthy population of animals and birds. As well as all this to look out for there was also the remote chance of seeing a specialised and secretive bird that has been seen in the area and has so far evaded us, the Hawfinch.
As of writing this... Hawfinches have still evaded us completely despite an extensive search for them. Never mind, the chase is so often better than the catch, as people who never catch anything are prone to keep saying.

Gill gives the security its final instructions.

The Snowdrops and Tudor houses of the mighty metropolis of Bepton give way to the sights and sounds of the countryside...

... ?

Quite a steep climb on very slippery terrain up to Bepton Down.

An excellent place for tea, etc.

Huge chalk boulders such as this one are used as markers in the woods...

... with this one apparently succumbing to freeze-thaw weathering this winter.

Jelly ear fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae)

A view southwest across the forest to Goodwood and The Trundle.

Gill explores the charcoal burning site and looks for a bit to sketch with.

Coppicing in action.

Back to Bepton church and a final cuppa just before sunset.

The owner of the farm where we parked our bike (Louie, aged 4) told us all about the ghosts, mystery lights and the scary animals that appear there in the night time.
Luckily, he and his sister were able to wave us off goodbye before it got dark.