Nymans Great Storm downloadable woodland walk
The Woodland was not spared the devastation of the 1987 storm and lost a huge amount of trees including mature oaks, beech and sweet chestnut trees, many hundreds of years old. Fallen trees created a wall of timber and progress to clear was very slow taking three years to reach the far side of the woods. Even then, not all of the timber could be removed and there are still trees from the storm lying on the ground today. However, wildlife adapted to the new, less crowded conditions.
If you look carefully, all through the woodland signs can still be seen of the storm damage; fallen trees re-growing, beautiful tree roots like pieces of natural art. But you can also see the incredible natural regeneration now thriving as a great example of the resilience of nature and the way plants and trees adapt. Change can be good for nature and woodland, it cleared areas providing the space, light and conditions that encouraged new growth and for areas to become rich in wildlife and plant species.
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). For this route start the walk from just after Step 2. For those that would like a woodland map they are available to purchase the shop. After taking a moment to enjoy the view from the temple head down the path through the Pinetum. When you reach the bottom of the slope turn to your left and head towards the large vehicle and pedestrian wooden gates.
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.
Exit the formal gardens through the pedestrian gate and you will now find yourself on a wide main track. Follow along on this track. Go straight over the crossroad in the paths, trail post number 24. You are now following part of the orange woods walk. (Those who began this walk on the public footpath can join the trail here).
Continue on the main track and very soon to your left you will see 2 oak trees that lost their canopy in 2009. Look high up and you will see the sculpted wooden owls they now have on top.
Light and growth
Where the canopy has opened up, due to fallen trees, light gets in and new plants start to grow. Some seeds can lay dormant in the ground for many years just waiting for the right light conditions to germinate and grow. Brambles can wait in the soil for 200 years and they are one of the first species to grow once an area has been opened up.
Continue on for a short distance, 50 metres and look out on your left for a small fallen tree set back from the path. Keep to the main track and walk past the path that joins from the right, trail post number 21. This is the point that you will return to towards the end of the trail. Continue on the main track for about 450 meters as it bends and starts to head downhill.
Here there is a sweet chestnut tree that fell in the great storm and was just left, you can see the roots facing you. A silver birch tree is now growing on it and you can see the roots wrapping around this fallen trunk.
As the woods opens up slightly another track will join from the left, this is called Red Lane. Keep on the main track as it heads downhill past a field on your right and you will come to a cottage and out-buildings.
Red Lane and replanting
This track was once a grassy ride but hardcore was put down to assist with the clearance work after the Great Storm and it enabled access for the trees to be removed. Also in this area a plantation of hundreds of new trees were planted to replace those that had fallen. However very few of these survived, but over time new plants naturally grew and today this area is once again full of young trees.
When you reach the buildings continue on past with the cottage on your right and the old dog kennels and game keepers cottage on the left. Here the track starts to drop downhill.
Just after the cottage there is a bank on the right where you can clearly see the roots of the trees. Throughout this walk look out for tree roots as they create some amazing and beautiful natural sculptures.
When you reach a smaller path on your left, trail post number 18, you turn left and leave the main track you have been following. Follow this path as it leads down, go past some steps on your left, trail post number 17 and continue until you reach the pond on your right and go over the small stream. At the pond follow the path that bends to the right and climbs up hill. Here you will leave the orange route.
Ignore the wide path joining on your left and soon after when you reach a fork in the path you will see a golden tree on your right. Take the left fork at this junction and the path continues to climb uphill and bends to the left, then at the top it bends to the right and you will re join the main path. You have now joined back with the orange route, trail post number 13.
This sweet chestnut tree fell during the Great Storm and has been used for a contemporary art project called Rapture. A local artist, Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, spent months striping of all the bark and then gilded it with gold. After it had stood in the garden at Nymans it was moved to its current position and original resting place.
Turn right onto this path and follow it along the ridge. You will soon see a large fallen tree on your left. As you continue along this medieval path look out for fallen trees, interesting regrowth and decaying tree trunks.
Fallen giant and rotting stumps
The large oak tree has been left where it fell and it has decayed very little in 30 years. Where the beech tree stumps have been left they create a home for wildlife. The insects live in them and badgers will scrape at the stump foraging for the bugs. Over time the stumps rot down and create mulch for the woodland. The beech decomposes very quickly unlike the oak tree and in just a few years this is what is left.
At the small gate, trail post number 12, turn right and walk down the wooden steps. Continue across the grass meadow and over the wooden bridge. Keep straight on along the end of the lake which you will see on your right. Go across a smaller wooden bridge and join the track, trail post number 9. Turn right onto this track and walk along it with the lake on your right.
At the junction where the track goes straight on along the lake, turn left onto the path that leads up and away from the lake, trail post number 8. Continue along this path as it passes sandstone outcrops and leads into conifer avenue.
Here is another example of what effect the tree canopy has on the woodland floor. Nothing is growing under the densely shading beech trees on the lake edge but opposite where a tree has recently fallen the area has opened up, light gets in and the bracken has started to grow. This also occurred after the storm, areas that were opened up by fallen trees started to naturally regrow.
Continue past the path which joins from the left, just after a wooden bench, and stay on the main wide track as it continues through conifer avenue which is lined with large redwood trees.
These Coastal Redwoods probably survived the storms as they have adapted to windy conditions in their native habitat. They tend to lose branches or the top crown of the tree as this helps reduce the chance of blowing over.
The path changes from a wide track to a narrow and uneven path that climbs uphill. You can see the steep sided ghyll on the right and more fallen trees. Continue up until a path joins on the left, keep right here over a small ditch and then take the right fork which is the lower, wider of the 2 paths ahead. Follow this path as it bends and climbs uphill.
Just before the path narrows look out for the beech tree in the middle of the path that has lost its crown. The whole top of a tree being broken off is quite dramatic, but the tree survives.
Towards the top of the hill you will pass a small clearing on the left with a large fallen branch and a leaning tree. The path then re-joins the main track that you were on earlier, trail post number 21. Turn left on this track and follow it until you reach the wooden gate back into the formal gardens. Go through the wooden pedestrian gate and turn right onto the hard path that leads up through the Pinetum back to Nymans reception, cafe and shop.
This shows the resilience of trees, although leaning and the roots lifted up this tree has survived. New roots will have grown below the tree stabilizing it and it has then continued to live and grow. A lot was learnt about the roots of trees after the storm, they were not how the old books described. There was no set structure and each tree was different and able to adapt to its surroundings and conditions.
You made it
Following this trail on mobile or tablet? Share your experience.