Willand Wood and The Warren

, 19 December 2021
Willand Wood and The Warren
© Mark Monk-Terry

By Mark Monk-Terry

Reserve Manager

One of our most important nature reserves, Ebernoe Common, has been owned and managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust since an appeal for purchase back in 1980. This wonderfully diverse reserve is recognised as a National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. In 2000, we were also able to purchase Butcherlands; 200 acres of recent arable, meadows, woodlands and droveways all adjacent to Ebernoe Common.

Now in 2021, thanks to some incredibly generous legacies, a successful appeal and some very good timing, we have been able to buy even more woodlands and have expanded the reserve even further. Both of these woodlands, Willand Wood and The Warren at Streels Lane, are linked physically and historically to the main reserve at Ebernoe Common and will add even more variation to the existing woodland system.

Willand Wood © Mark Monk-Terry
Willand Wood © Mark Monk-Terry

Willand Wood, to the west of Ebernoe Common and Furnace Pond, would have had more continuous tree cover, probably coppice, for hundreds of years and as such, the grazing animals of the wood pasture would have been kept out by hedges on top of wood banks. Recorded as Willeslond in 1348, this would have been attached to Willand Farm - the farmhouse long gone from this landscape. Willand Wood has seen much more management over the years with large scale coppicing in the early 1900s and the planting of conifers in the 1950s. Some of those conifers have been removed recently and we plan to fell more, opening up old rides and letting some light back into the woodland.

South of Furnace Pond at Ebernoe Common is the beautifully meandering stream called Grigs Brook surrounded by Marsh, Willow and Alder carr. Here the trees collapse into each other and the brook is naturally dammed by the bloated winter waters pushing their way into the woods and Furnace Pond. There are many ancient woodland indicator species to be seen here including ferns, sedges and rushes. In the dappled sunlight of this valley bottom, many invertebrate species can also be found. One of my favourites, fairly common here, is the Beautiful Demoiselle with those stunning, iridescent blue green wings,  always beautiful to see.

The Warren is a small woodland, just north of Ebernoe Church. The woodland still contains many great Oak and Beech veterans that have survived storms, droughts and timber needs over the years. These magnificent trees are now hidden amongst a younger woodland of Birch, Ash and Holly but are still of considerable importance to lichens, invertebrates and bird species. They are also used by many of the rare bat species seen at Ebernoe including Bechsteins and Barbastelles.

These wonderful tree specimens would have stood within open grasslands, rich in flowers and invertebrates, grazed by commoners, cattle, geese and occasional pigs. In fact the Lord of the Manor in 1900 would have been able to see all the way from the manor house, through this woodland to see the time on the church clock. Unfortunately with the demise of grazing after the Second World War, most of these grasslands have been lost to a mix of secondary woodland, Bracken and Bramble and are now fairly species-poor. With new management efforts, we will hope to see Betony, Milkwort, Burnet-saxifrage and Eyebright again.

Many thanks to Frances Abraham for all her knowledge and research into these new woodlands.

Betony © Arthur Hoare
Betony © Arthur Hoare

Legacy Officer Gemma Pratt said,

‘In addition to the fantastic response from our Woodland Appeal, Willand Wood was purchased thanks to a legacy from Alf and Iris Simpson.. As well as being long-term members of the Trust, Alf and Iris dedicated their lives to wildlife conservation. Alf had been a Trustee, Conservation Committee member and was Volunteer Reserve Manager for Ebernoe Common Nature Reserve; looking after the reserve and leading volunteer tasks for over 30 years. Alf and Iris’ legacy gift was to be used for the purchase of woodland, and it was an incredibly touching coincidence that Willand Wood became available at around the same time we received notification that they had remembered us in their Wills. There couldn’t have been a more suitable area of woodland for us to purchase as a lasting legacy and tribute; woodland which will now become a part of the reserve that they had dedicated so much of their lives to.

‘Our Appeal also supported the purchase of The Warren at Streels Lane, made possible with a gift from the estate of the late Doreen Donner. Her son, a member of Sussex Wildlife Trust, arranged a deed of variation to her Will, enabling the Trust to buy this parcel of land.'

Leave a comment


  • Clive:

    This is thrilling news. I have seen the nature reserve at Ebernoe grow since the 1980s when I got to know the site whilst working in ancient woods nearby. The opportunity to add to an already diverse landscape has been secured. Hurrah to all those generous souls who helped this happen.


    26 Dec 2021 20:54:00

  • Robin Crane:

    Delightful news. Such an appropriate memorial for Alf and Iris who were so passionate in their support of the trust. Acquiring Ebernoe was a very close call. We had to raise a substantial amount of money in a week in order to purchase it when there were proposals to fell trees. Robin Crane

    03 Jan 2022 11:25:00

  • Barbara Jeffers:

    Can we have a map of the whole area to better understand how the pieces will connect together (and which ones it is already permitted to walk in at this early stage)?

    03 Jan 2022 13:28:00

  • Julia Dance:

    Wonderful and I hope we see more of these donations, perhaps aided by crowd funding.

    03 Jan 2022 13:46:00

  • James Power:

    Congratulations – this is an important addition to the nature reserve and a fitting memorial to Iris and Alf

    03 Jan 2022 18:05:00

  • Rich Howorth:

    Really pleased to hear about this expansion of the Ebernoe Common reserve supported by Alf and Iris, in their memory – they would have been thrilled! Well done to Mark and the SWT team on this strategic land acquisition into the west weald landscape, Willand Wood in particular is a really exciting prospect for ecological enhancement.

    03 Jan 2022 23:01:00

  • Ann Griffiths:

    Alf and Iris would be so delighted with this outcome – a real tribute to their dedication to nature conservation – well done SWT

    04 Jan 2022 10:47:00

  • Margaret Newton:

    This is marvellous news and these acquisitions will enhance and extend the very special habitat that Ebernoe provides for all species. It will be interesting to see the maps and discover paths to be explored.

    04 Jan 2022 13:06:00