By Mark Monk-Terry
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, 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.
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.'