Sussex - spring in southern England

This short break will introduce us to the beautiful county of Sussex and the best of its spring wildlife.
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Our base for the week will be in the attractive village of Bramber nestling at the foot of the South Downs and centrally located for exploring the wildlife of the county.

During our explorations we will visit the important wetlands at Amberley Wildbrooks home to a huge array of plants, as well as interesting birds and invertebrates.

We will also take in an extensive area of chalk grassland at Castle Hill, home to a strong population of Early Spider-orchids amongst others. Exploration of some of the county’s ancient woodland as well as the important heathland habitat at Ashdown Forest are also included.

Our visit wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Knepp Wildland, an interesting rewildling project in the heart of the county where we will find out more about the approach being used for conservation here and experience some of the growing number of species that are calling the estate home.

During some early mornings and evenings there will be opportunities for excursions to listen for the diverse repertoire of the Nightingale, as well as searching for foraging Barn Owls and bats, or listening to the dawn(ish) chorus, which is reaching its prime at this time of year.

The holiday has been designed to give us an opportunity to experience the diversity of Sussex’s habitats and look for a good range of wild flowers, birds, butterflies and other wildlife along the way in the spring.

Day 1 Our holiday starts in the village of Bramber where we will meet in time for an introduction to the holiday and our first dinner together. Depending on the weather, we will make a visit to a local nature reserve to listen for Nightingales.

Day 2 We visit Amberley Wildbrooks, an area of wet grassland crisscrossed by ditches and linked to the chalk springs of the South Downs. An interesting array of wetland plants can be found here and the site is also important for dragonflies and we hope to see early species such as Hairy Dragonfly and Scarce Chaser. We will look out for birds such as Sedge Warbler, Hobby and Cuckoo, whilst the ‘plop’ of Water Vole could tantalise us as we walk alongside ditches. 

We continue west, where we hope to find Pearl-bordered Fritillary at one of its remaining Sussex strongholds. Our day will also include a visit to one of the county’s premier butterfly sites, giving us an opportunity to catch up with spring species such as Duke of Burgundy, Dingy Skipper, Green Hairstreak and Wall.

Day 3 We have an earlier start, taking a short drive to the Knepp Wildland. This exciting conservation project is using free-roaming grazing animals as part as a process-led approach to habitat restoration. At this time of year migrant birds will have started streaming in and we should find Lesser Whitethroat, Nightingale, Garden Warbler, Cuckoo and perhaps even an early arriving Turtle Dove. We will hear about the rewilding project itself and look for its key players; the Tamworth pigs, Longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies and Red Deer. 

Our afternoon will be spent at Old Lodge in the heart of the Ashdown Forest. We should find a different set of birds here, including Woodlark, Tree Pipit, Redstart and Dartford Warbler. We will also keep an eye out for Adders, and interesting plants and invertebrates.

Day 4 Today we visit Castle Hill National Nature Reserve, where we will search for the petite Early Spider-orchid (and its pollinator the Buffish Mining Bee). The site is home to one of the last remaining populations of the Wart-biter in the UK, and we will keep an eye out for early instars of these magnificent Orthoptera. 

Our afternoon will be spent at the beautiful Loder Valley Nature Reserve, with woodlands and wild flower meadows set around Ardingly Reservoir. The bluebells should be reaching their best and we will listen for Marsh Tit, with a passing Hobby or Osprey always possible over the reservoir. Following dinner, we will take an evening stroll to nearby Beeding Brooks to look for Barn Owls and foraging bats.

Day 5 One final breakfast, and an optional stroll back to Beeding Brooks then it is time to bid farewell to Bramber, hopefully taking some good memories of the diverse spring wildlife of Sussex.

Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.

We will be based at the Castle Inn Hotel in the village of Bramber. All rooms are en-suite. Dinners are included in the price and we will buy packed lunches or visit tearooms for lunch during our daily expeditions.

Our transport for this trip will be by a small 16-seater coach/minibus.

If you would like to extend your stay in Sussex, we can book extra nights accommodation at the hotel, and give advice on good places to visit.

If you would like to extend your stay in Sussex, we can book extra nights’ accommodation at the hotel, and give advice on good places to visit.

Travel to Bramber

The holiday starts and finishes at our accommodation in Bramber.

You can reach Burgess Hill or Shoreham-by-Sea by train, from where you can travel by bus to Bramber. Alternatively you can reach Hassocks by train, from there you would need to take a taxi to Bramber.

Bramber lies around a mile east of Steyning, off the A283.

The English weather is of course anything but predictable. We should expect mild conditions, although colder, wetter weather is always possible. We will not walk for long in hot or adverse weather conditions. Evenings and early mornings may feel chillier.

We will be walking for much of the day, each day, albeit at a slow pace and never covering any great distance. This includes areas of rougher ground and some slopes, and the ground at Amberley can be boggy. None of the walks are strenuous, but (light) walking boots are essential. In some locations ‘facilities’ are scarce! You therefore need to have a reasonably good level of fitness. There are likely to be steps at the hotel.