Author Lou Bateman
After a dull and soggy start to British Summer Time and a tiring shift at a garden centre in Crowborough today, I decided to cheer myself up with a trip to a Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve. We are spoilt for choice in this beautiful part of the Weald and in better weather conditions I probably would have chosen Old Lodge for its amazing views across the Ashdown Forest heathland but blustery March winds drove me to a more sheltered woodland setting.
The main attraction of Selwyns Wood nature reserve is the ghyll; a steep sided ravine that the little stream has cut through the sandstone, a common feature in this corner of the county. Although the scenery at this time of year has yet to come to its green and leafy best, there was still plenty of beauty and colour in the essentially wintery landscape. The damp environment encourages a profusion of mosses and ferns which soften the appearance of the wood even on a day as grey as this. The narrow pathways and shallow streams make it a perfect natural adventure playground for children and walkers of well-behaved dogs alike. My dog, Stanlie, was definitely impressed albeit a touch disappointed that he wasn't allowed to chase an unsuspecting grey squirrel!
In the wooded parts there was plenty of evidence of the coppicing of hazel and sweet chestnut and I hope to go back in the autumn to collect a few fallen chestnuts for roasting. In glades amongst the trees the bluebells were starting to emerge from their long slumber - in a month there will be carpets of my favourite flowers scenting the forest floor. Wood has also been harvested to construct numerous benches, inviting picnics on warmer days, and roughly made bridges cross the miniature valleys.
One corner of the reserve opens up to a heathland habitat with gorse, broom and heather brightening the vista with warm colours. The ghostly silver birch trees are interspersed with new shoots of honeysuckle, which come midsummer will perfume the air deliciously.