Much of the woodland is a mix of oak and birch, many of the oaks planted for the ship building industry in the eighteenth century. There are also areas of old sweet chestnut coppice, and remnants of plantations of Scots pine and beech. Alder and willow occur along the streams and hornbeam is most obvious where they have been pollarded along old boundary banks. Areas that are open, such as the ride beneath the power lines, are full of heather, a characteristic of woodlands in this area of Sussex, which reflects its underlying geology.
This diverse mixture of habitats is reflected in the wildlife that can be found on the nature reserve. The woodland is full of spring flowers, bluebells and wood anemones in particular, but it is perhaps the invertebrates that are most special here.
In the summer of 2014 we discovered a very rare bee, the oak mining-bee Andrena ferox which, prior to its discovery, had only one record in Sussex over 70 years ago. It’s notoriously hard to find but there are plenty of other bees and wasps along the rides to look at. It’s also an excellent place for butterflies and moths. While you might not encounter many moths during a walk in the daytime, at night there is an abundance to be seen as nearly 500 species have been recorded on the reserve. The specialities of the reserve are some of the oak feeders, species such as festoon, triangle, clay fan-foot and scarce merveille du jour. But there is also a moth that feeds on the seeds of bluebells that can sometimes be seen during the day – the bluebell conch.
Today we manage the reserve through maintenance of the open areas, coppicing along the paths and rides to create open areas and maintain structural diversity, but much of the woodland looks after itself.