Reserve profile

There are two sites on either side of the Graffham/Selham road that make up the reserve, which is part of the wider area that was once Graffham and Selham Commons.

We purchased the reserve during 2009/10 as a key link in the historic chain of Greensand Heaths and have been restoring the pine plantation back to heath and heath-pasture by pine and rhododendron clearance and judicious scraping of the pine and bracken litter layer.

Forestry drainage ditches were blocked to allow the wet heath to re-naturalise. It responded brilliantly and the heather is returning from the buried seedbank. Heathland birds too have returned to their ancestral territories. Please help protect them by keeping dogs to the paths.

The site has been fenced to reintroduce grazing back into this ancient landscape with gates to allow access to the many tracks. There is a horse riding permit scheme in operation with the neighbouring landowner otherwise riding is restricted to the bridleways only.

The Serpent Trail, a long distance route encompassing many of the Greensand Heaths in the area runs through both parts of the reserve. If you have the energy, walk to the top of Gallows Hill to enjoy distant views of Petworth House and imagine darker times when those guilty of relatively minor crimes may have been hanged from the gallows.

There are a few old sand and ironstone quarries that supplied iron for the iron industry below in the weald. In more modern times the site was used for training Canadian soldiers in preparation for the D-Day landings. There are signs too of even older heritage with a string of Bronze Age burial mounds running along the ridge of the hill.

There are some ancient open-grown pines to be discovered around the reserve, probably over 150 years old, a sign of the Commons’ open heathland past. Fallen trees and old branches are left where they fall if safe to provide deadwood habitat.

There are plenty of wet seepages creating ideal habitat for cross-leaved heath, purple moor-grass and hare’s-tail cottongrass.