Warren Hill is a well-loved recreational green space offering quiet enjoyment within the South Downs National Park.
It was bequeathed to us in 1942 and many years later Warren Hill still shows all the signs of having been a classic small forestry estate. This would have been managed for timber production and you can still recognise small plantations of softwoods, hazel and sweet chestnut coppice, and beautiful straight oaks here. In other areas you will find mainly mixed semi-natural woodland with broad paths, grassy glades and a small pocket of heathland.
You can go for a run, take a leisurely walk or find a peaceful spot for a summer picnic at Warren Hill. Encourage your children to explore the woodlands or make a den. They will love the informal play features that we’ve made from felled trees.
Where gaps in the canopy allow the sunlight to penetrate you will find foxgloves, bluebells and red campion attracting a variety of insects. Look out for speckled wood and white admiral butterflies. Venture into the woodland and you may find the nests of wood ants; they are fascinating to watch but please don’t disturb them.
If you have a keen eye you may spot a dormouse in the hazel coppice at the north end of Warren Hill where they scamper between the branches in summer and find places to hibernate in winter. Grey squirrels are fun to watch as they chase each other through the branches overhead. Sadly the large number of them means that we occasionally have to fell trees that have suffered too much squirrel damage.
Stroll along the path leading south-east from the car park in spring and you’ll be greeted by an avenue of daffodils. This is the old carriage drive leading to the estate house and the bulbs were planted when it still served this purpose.
This pathway cuts through an area of pasture woodland. We graze this area in mid-summer with Belted Galloway cattle. These good-natured animals eat away at the undergrowth and lower leaves of the trees. This creates an attractive woodland with more-open views. Come to Warren Hill and introduce your children to this visually-distinctive breed. Notices will be displayed when they are in residence.
Heathland is an important habitat that is fast disappearing in the south of England so we are conserving and extending the area we have here by clearing some of the woodland surrounding it. Visit from mid-August to early September to see the heather in full bloom.
Clearing small areas of trees increases the number and variety of native plants and insects in other parts of the woodland too. We are widening some of the paths and replacing the trees alongside them with shorter native plants. This will produce a sunnier more-open habitat that will attract insects and birds and give you a better chance to see more of them as you enjoy your walk.
How to get here
Warren Hill is to the northwest of the village of Washington in West Sussex. A National Trust car park can be found in Georges Lane which is the second turning on the right off the A283 (to the right of Bradbury Court) when approaching from the A24. Use postcode RH20 4AG or grid reference TQ114140.
There are no facilities at Warren Hill so you may prefer to park in Washington where there is on-street parking and a pub called the Frankland Arms (not National Trust). Walk towards the A24 and turn right along Sandhill Lane where you will find a subway taking you under the A24. Turn right on the other side and a short distance along the path you will find a footpath leading to the left into the woods.