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Ramblers - Now Open May / June 2017   (11.05.17)




Now Open

West Sussex County Council – Now Open May 2017

Surface Improvements

Shipley FP1973 & BW1882 – Knepp Castle Estate

Knepp Castle Estate is a pioneering rewilding project on 3,500 acres of former unprofitable arable and dairy land. Herds of Old English longhorns, Exmoor ponies, Tamworth pigs, red and fallow deer roam freely, grazing, browsing, trampling and rootling at will. They have created a mosaic of habitats that are proving a boon for wildlife. Knepp is now an important breeding hotspot for threatened species like purple emperor butterflies, nightingales and turtle doves. This system of naturalistic grazing also produces high quality, organic, pasture-fed meat – much sought-after by restaurants and ethical consumers.

An increasing number of visitors, including from NGOs like the National Trust and RSPB, are drawn here by the wildlife successes. The Estate welcomes all responsible users of the public rights of way, and has added 4.8kms of permissive footpaths to help create a network of walks through the project and 7.5kms of permissive TROT routes. Occasionally footpaths are disturbed by animals and the management does its best to keep the 38kms of paths across the estate in good condition. Heavy Sussex clay is always a challenge and the Estate has recently carried out work to resurface sections of Shipley Footpath 1973 and Bridleway 1882 - historically notorious stretches crossing particularly boggy ground.


Lady Burrell, Isabella Tree, has kindly provided the following excerpt on the clay soil from her book, ‘Wilding’, about their story from going from intensive farming at Knepp to the largest rewilding project in lowland Britain. It will be published in Feb 2018 by Picador:

“The soil of the low Weald - 320 metres of heavy clay over a bedrock of ironstone – is infamous. People who live here know it as bone-jarring cement in summer, unfathomable, sticky porridge at all other times of the year. Like the Inuit who have a whole vocabulary for snow, the old Sussex dialect has over thirty words for mud.

There’s clodgy for a muddy field path after heavy rain; gawm – sticky, foul-smelling mud; gubber –black mud of rotting organic matter; ike – a muddy mess; pug – sticky yellow Wealdon clay; slab – the thickest type of mud; sleech – mud or river sediment used for manure; slob, or slub - thick mud; slough - a muddy hole; slurry - diluted mud, saturated with so much water that it cannot drain; smeery - wet and sticky surface mud; stoach - to trample ground to mud, like cattle; stodge – thick, puddingy mud; stug - watery mud; and swank - a bog.

Until the advent of sealed roads most traffic avoided all this mud by travelling by boat, along rivers and canals down to the coast, and around to London by sea. There were barely any east-west thoroughfares in the county until the late-18th century and droving roads to markets in the capital were only viable in the height of summer. Folktales immortalise the horrors of a Sussex lane - like the traveller who, picking his way along a bank beside one, spotted a hat sitting on the muddy surface.

On stretching out to pick it up, he found beneath it the head of a local man, sunk to the eyebrows. The man, yanked out, thanked the traveller and asked for help to haul out the horse he’d been riding. ‘But he must be dead under all that mud’, the traveller said. ‘Oh no, he’s alive right enough’, the man answered. ‘I could hear him munching away at something. Must be the haywain that sank along here last week.’

The ability of Sussex folk to survive in these conditions led to some extravagant theories. The famous physician, Dr John Burton, travelling through Sussex in the mid-18th century, wondered if the apparent long-leggedness of the oxen, swine and women in Sussex was a result of ‘the difficulty of pulling the feet out of so much mud, by the strength of the ankle, that the muscles get stretched and the legs lengthened.’”

WSCC  Public Rights of Way Volunteer Rangers

Bepton BW3359

In Bepton, the Team spent four days working to clear the whole 1.5km length of Bridleway 3359, also known as Minching Lane where parts of the bridleway had become overgrown with brambles and Blackthorn and the surface had been poached at a number of pinch-points caused by the vegetation.

A total of 196 hours were given up by the volunteers to cut back the vegetation, clear fallen trees and unblock a culvert which had been causing severe drainage issues.

With BW3359 now opened up back to its full three metre width, it is again suitable for use as a Bridleway and it will allow the surface to dry out more rapidly in the future.

Sompting FP2953

In Sompting, Footpath 2953 required attention from the Team to open-up the legal route of the path, as users were having to walk along the edge of the neighbouring field.

Although it looked daunting, we were able to make use of a pedestrian flail mower to make relatively light work of cutting back the overgrown first section.

However, as we progressed along the Cross-Dyke, which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, it became unsuitable for the flail and we were reduced to the hand tools and hedge cutters.

Fortunately, with 39 volunteers giving us 215 hours of their time to help out, the job was done after 6 task days.


South Downs National Park Ranger and Volunteer activities

This is what national park rangers and volunteers got up to in April.  


Work to maintain the South Downs Way National Trail included replacing way markers and, installing gates along the route, as well as repairing a water tap at Amberley.

Tested a
new route for walkers, horse riders and cyclists to publish on ViewRanger by completing a 7 mile stretch from Fittleworth, taking in heath woodland farmland and ponds.

Rangers worked with
volunteers to improve access for visitors by installing hunt gates at Beddingham and the Long Man of Wilmington and replacing a stile at Kingston.

A student from Sparsholt College began a three week
work experience placement with our Ranger team in the Wealden Heaths area.

Rangers led volunteers to carry out
fence repairs on Welches and Chapel Commons including new gate posts and rehanging gates.

9 Barn Owl boxes and 6 Little Owl boxes constructed by the Volunteer Ranger Service (VRS) for a new project and for replacement and refurbishment in Selborne area.

Restored chalk grassland on a SSSI/SINC with the VRS on a valley adjoining Butser Hill.

Otter activity noted on our wildlife cameras on the River Rother near where the VRS installed an otter holt.

Other sightings include-
2 Ring Ouzels seen at Stephen Castle Downs while on a task with the volunteers.

Attended celebration for
new Hants & IOW Wildlife Trust reserve, Hockley Meadow

met landowners on the River Meon to discuss recommendations from the completed habitat suitability survey, so theycan enhance and improve their section of river.

Invasive scrub and rhododendron at Ambersham Common was cut back by a task force of volunteers including the South Downs National Park Authority Chief Executive Trevor Beattie plus guest Adam Phillips from the Youth Mosaic Project 

25 people attended a Ranger led Heart Smart walk

pearl bordered fritillary caterpillar was discovered at Rewel Wood in West Sussex proving that recent coppicing to support the butterfly in this area is working.

Attended the
seasonal opening of the Visitor and Countryside Centre at Beachy Head.

Neil Hulme from Butterfly Conservation took volunteers on a
guided walk around Tottington Wood to see the effects from the coppicing they have completed over the last couple of years.

successful ‘Cash In Trash Out’ event was held at Cuckmere Haven

The Sussex Don’t Lose Your Way campaign

In the last month members of this campaign have applied for the following routes to be added to the rights of way map on the grounds that historical records show that they are rights of way.

  • A byway running from Southover High Street in Lewes to Iford  via Rise Farm

  • The existing footpath at Mill Lane Climping to be ugraded to a bridleway


If you live in a town then you probably use the footpaths in the town without thinking about it.  But after the beginning of 2026 many of these could be lost.  Pavements at the side of the road are not at risk, but any other path could be threatened if:

  1. It existed before 1949 AND

  2. It is not on the map of rights of way AND

  3. It is not on the list of streets maintained by the council.

The easiest way of finding out whether a path is on the map of rights of way is to look at an ordnance survey map.  You can find a map of maintained streets in East Sussex here and West Sussex is here

The numbers affected can be surprising.  Researchers in Horsham found 40 threatened routes.  In Brighton there are hundreds.  In Lewes your editor found 6.  In these three towns action is being taken, but if you live elsewhere no one, so far as we know, is taking action to protect these paths.  If you would like to do something about this please email comms@sussexramblers.org.uk

Guestling Footpath

Ian Streeter reports:

“Footpath Guestling 51 ( at grid referenceTQ 828/128) has recently been re-opened following extensive enquires by Chloe Rowling, ESCC Rights of Way Access Officer.

Following my information her determined work to trace four landowners who had blocked the route, and subsequent ground work  has taken approximately two years.

This has been a difficult task achieving an excellent result”.