A winter woodland walk
Exploring Nymans gardens can be complemented by a walk around the surrounding estate, an area of the High Weald, designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1983.
The perfect place for a woodland walk
The ancient woods are a great place for winter walks and there’s a lot to see. When the trees are stripped of leaves and the ground free of dense undergrowth other features come to light. The rocky outcrops decorated with mosses, the redwoods stand tall like giant Christmas trees, evergreens and berries give colour and our trackside sculptures take on new prominence.
Nymans car park, grid ref: TQ263296
To take advantage of stunning views over the Weald towards the South Downs, enter Nymans gardens via visitor reception (admission charges apply, free for members, no dogs admitted via this entrance). Head towards the temple in the Pinetum. Alternative access for those with dogs is via the public footpath (from the rear of car park) following Sussex Ouse Valley Way, and excludes the Arboretum loop of walk. For this route start the walk from Step 7. For those that would like a woodland map they are available to purchase from reception.
Great views can be seen across the Weald towards the South Downs. The woodland stretches before you, showing a wide variety of tree species which give a spectacular patchwork of colour and shapes.
After taking a moment to enjoy the view across from the temple head down the path through the Pinetum. When you reach the bottom of the slope turn to your left, leave the main path and head towards the Arboretum pedestrian gate.
Exit the formal gardens at the gate marked 'Woods and Arboretum' where you will see a way-mark post numbered 1, take the path downhill towards the lower pond. Following the orange arrows will also assist you in taking the walk from here.
The Arboretum was created in the early 20th century with many exotics trees but amongst them are some impressive large native veterans that look almost sculptural in the winter landscape.
Just before the lower pond take the gate on your left leading into the woodland next to waymark post 2.
The winter of 1947 was bitterly cold and the pond at the bottom of the arboretum was iced over, tragically delaying efforts to extinguish the fire in the mansion.
Once in the woods veer right and follow the woodland track.
Fallen beech sculpture
To the side of the path a fallen beech trunk has been carved into a sculpture, providing stunning wildlife to be admired at any time of year.
You will come to a sign saying Pookchurch Wood on the left. Follow the path on the left and after another fork at waymark post 4 keep left, you will come to a short section of board walk. Exiting at waymark post 5, weave slightly downhill following the orange directional arrows (indicating the Millennium Walk).
As you descend the slope you can see large sandstone outcrops, a subtle mellow yellow, rising up from the ground on either side of you.
Follow the track down the slope and steps, you will see a magnificent Giant Redwood ahead on your right by a short section of boardwalk. Ahead the track then joins the Ouse Valley Way footpath at the bottom of the slope where you then turn right. (Those who began this walk on the public footpath can join the trail here).
The Conifer Avenue and the Giant Redwood, tallest tree in Sussex, provide contrast. They stand out especially well at this time of year; tall, majestic evergreens with glossy foliage and deep orange bark.
Stay on the public footpath until you come to the lake, take the right hand fork down the slope and keep right along the edge of the lake.
The lake was originally created as a 'hammer pond' to drive the iron furnace downstream. The power of the water behind the dam drove hammers to break locally quarried ironstone. It was widened in the 1800s to create a pond with a boathouse and bathing hut.
When you see waymark post 9 turn to your left and cross a small footbridge, you will see a woven bird-hide on the left, continue on until you come to a larger bridge, cross this then head up the steps and follow the path to enter the meadow.
Wildlife at the lake
The lake is a haven for wildlife including dragonflies, rare beetles, fish and eels. An array of birds can be spotted from the hide and if you are very lucky, you may sight the blue flash of a kingfisher.
Head across the meadow and up the steps, at the top of the steps turn sharply left then continue to follow the path ahead. As you follow the track remember to look to your left to enjoy views across the woods. At waymark post 13 follow the orange arrow straight ahead.
In snowy years the meadow can be the perfect place for a snowball fight or to build a snowman.
You will eventually come to a sign that says 'Jack Reedings Woods' continue ahead and follow the orange arrows. After a while the path begins to head back down hill, there some twists and turns with steps and railings to guide you and you will pass more rocks to your left.
Keep following the orange arrows, after a while the path turns to the left and you will see a stream far below you to your right. Eventually you will come to another flight of steps on the right at waymark post 16 that brings you down to water level. Follow the stream along, still to your right- it can get boggy here. Beyond the cascades go directly across a grassy glade and join the track taking you up a slope until you come to a T-junction where you turn right at waymark post 18 and head uphill.
The cascades are often full and fast flowing adding movement and sound in the hush of the woods. The cascades were created, for the Messel family, by soldiers returning from the First World War.
Follow the track up the hill, you will come to a clearing with a cottage and barn on the left and old dog kennels on the right. Past here the path bends to the left, keep to the main track and continue to follow the orange arrows. This will eventually almost bring you full circle as you will now be able to see the garden gate at the bottom of the Pinetum ahead of you.
As you pass the cottage look left over the field and you can see the top of the Giant Redwood, standing proud head and shoulders above the rest.
Before you reach the garden gate ahead, there is a track sharp right, take this turn joining the public footpath, there is a steep incline that then brings you back to the main Nymans car park.
On the final stretch, can you spot the two beautifully sculpted owls high above you, carved on trunks of large dead oak trees on the right-hand bank?
Nymans car park, grid ref: TQ263296
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