Walking on the Ashdown Forest – 11th Sept 2012

Steve and I caught a 29 bus for Tunbridge Wells and alighted at Poundgate near Crowborough, where the Open Access land meets the A26.  It was a quick way onto the sandy heathland that is the Ashdown Forest.

Ashdown Forest soon after leaving the A26

We walked down the track on the right, to the valley floor and then up the track towards and past the communications mast on the horizon (left).  A mile beyond that we got to the Sussex Wildlife Trust Old Lodge Nature Reserve, where we had come to seek dragonflies, and perhaps get a view of medieval linear rabbit warrens, marked on the map as ‘pillow mounds’.

A male Southern Hawker flies past rushes at the edge of a pond

Dragonflies move quickly, so I consider myself lucky to have this slightly blurred picture of a male Southern Hawker.  Its male because of the blue marking at the posterior end of its body – they are green on the female.  And we were extra lucky to have a visit from a female Southern Hawker at the third pond we visited.  She arrived to lay eggs in the soft mud beside the water – not really close enough to the water, I thought, but I’m not a dragonfly so what do I know.

Southern Hawker laying eggs in the pondside mud

She must have spent over 5 minutes concentrating on finding the right kind of softness with the tip of her body, and depositing eggs into the mud, arching her long body to do it.

We also saw a lot of Common Darters – there’s a clue in the name I think.  Many, like this one, had found a nice warm piece of earth to press themselves close to.

A basking Common Darter on the bare earth of our path.

We struggled to make our way to the north west corner of the reserve where we did manage to see one end of a substantial pillow mound about 180m away, but decided not to climb the fence to get nearer, the signs put us off:

Interestingly there were signs facing away from us, on the other side of the fence, saying ‘No troops beyond this fence’ – well that’s a relief.

We finished the circular walk of the reserve and left it by an interesting gate – the two steel halves can be pushed apart so you can step through, as demonstrated by Steve here:

Steve demonstrates a new style of gate.

and they fall back together when left.  A simple steel hoop swings over to hold the two halves together – foiling even the brightest sheep.

We decided to walk four miles down the Weald Way – a long distance path crossing the High Weald.  And here is a view along the way to the highest point – Camp Hill Copse. 

Looking south along the Weald Way to Camp Hill Copse on the horizon.

Whilst the area is designated ‘Open Access’ and you are free to walk anywhere over it, the thick six feet high thorny gorse interspersed with open areas of sphagnum moss and cotton grass marsh make staying on the paths a good option.

Soon we left the high heathland and entered an area of small fields, steep sided woods and expensive real estate.  But this house was amongst the least expensive we spotted.

Not so much a tree house as a place to shoot deer from?

Climbing up and out of Furnace Wood – there were lots of reminders of the old Iron Industry  – we found this, the biggest outcrop of fine grained sandstone of the day. 

Sandstone outcrop totally covered with mosses and lichens – the surface is spongy to the touch!

By 5pm we reached the Pig and Butcher, a Harveys house beside a bus stop, with time to sample the Best Bitter and a seasonal beer – South Down Harvest, before catching the 6.05pm bus for Brighton.

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