Estate walk at Sheffield Park
Complement a visit to the stunning landscape gardens with an exploration of the historic parkland at Sheffield Park, East Sussex. Gentle slopes across grazed fields lead you by copses and down to the riverside flood meadow. Dogs on leads are welcome.
Spot local wildlife and enjoy beautiful vistas
Keep a look out for dragonflies, butterflies, kingfishers or birds of prey as you soak up the tranquility of the wider estate.
Sheffield Park car park, TQ413239
Starting facing away from Visitor Reception, cross the car park and enter the parkland through the kissing gate. Bear slightly left across the parkland following the grass permissive path, following signs to Ringwood Toll. Head through the two kissing gates and to the left of the stag-headed oak. After the gate, follow the path to the pedestrian gate in the middle of the forested area ahead and enter Ringwood Toll.
This area was arable land farmed to grow cereal crops until 2006 when the National Trust embarked on an arable reversion project to restore the area to grassland of high wildlife value. The land is grazed to help improve the nutrient balance of the soil to encourage wildflowers and associated insects. The parkland now has a rich fauna, including abundant green woodpeckers, at least eight species of bat and several scarce dragonflies. On clear days you can see Fletching church to the South West and the Ashdown Forest to the West.
Passing the carving of the Green Man, turn left and follow the main path through the play trail. Follow the main trail around in a semi-circle exiting past the rope swing, past the stock gate on the left. Exit onto the parkland through the next pedestrian gate on the left.
Set in an enclosed woodland copse, you can build a den, test your balance on the balance beam, climb trees or sit on one of the story-telling chairs and let your imagination run wild. See if you can find the see-saw, slack line and stepping stones.
Join the permissive path going right, go through the pedestrian gate. Head slightly left past two benches.
If you are lucky you will hear the steam trains approaching on the Bluebell Railway, and spot the tell-tale sign of clouds of steam through the trees. At such moments, it is easy to imagine that this landscape has remained largely unchanged for the last 100 years. The 3rd Earl of Sheffield championed the growth of the railway and the station at Sheffield Park was built in 1882 to serve the house and garden.
Turn left downhill towards the gates and bridge - pass over the Hammerdick stream. Bear left and follow alongside the stream, past the hollow oak.
The oxbow features are a result of straightening and deepening of the Ouse in the 1700s, meaning what used to be meanders of the river are now oxbow features. To restore the natural fauna and flora of the river, Sheffield Park is embarking on a restoration project to improve the river and floodplain, and re-connect the Ouse to its local communities. The project hopes to encourage natural processes back onto the site, improving habitats for river and terrestrial species.
Turn left out of the floodplains at the next bridge, passing through the pedestrian gate. Head up hill slightly out of the trees and head right along the permissive path, keeping the trees on your left-hand side, towards a flat bridge ahead.
The dragonfly and damselfly populations at Sheffield Park are nationally significant. The species recorded include Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense), Downy Emerald (Corduela aenea) and Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythroma najas).
Continue along the permissive route, along the level ground, towards the Pillbox and pond.
The pillbox is the main surviving structure from the Canadian Army camp stationed here in the Second World War. The inside is well preserved, with five large weapon shelves and faint grafitti marks remaining from its time in use. The Pillbox pond has recently been improved to enhance the wildlife value. By reducing the over-shading of the pond, it is now a more suitable habitat for aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates. This should bring in populations of frogs, toads and newts which use the pond for breeding and feed on the invertebrates.
Continue straight ahead through the pedestrian gate, follow ahead and enter Skyglade through a gate on the left and have a go at cloud watching. Exit via the same gate, turn left and follow the permissive path along the outside fence-line of Skyglade. At the end of Skyglade, continue straight ahead to the double metal gates out of the parkland.
Turn right and follow the track. Cross the weir into East Park.
This is a perfect spot for views of the lakes and garden - keep a look out for kingfishers around the water's edge and for eels on the eel pass in the weir.
After the bench, bear to the right into the wooded area.
Work is being done in East Park to establish a hazel coppice to benefit local dormouse populations. Dormice are a rare species in the UK and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Coppiced woodland is perfect habitat for them, and hazelnuts are a major food source. During the Second World War, Sheffield Park was an extensive camp for several Canadian regiments. The Nissen huts that housed the soldiers covered a wide area stretching from the main road almost to Fletching village. Remains of these buildings can still be seen around Sheffield Park, including in East Park. Various pots, crockery and equipment from that time are often found in the grounds.
At the first fork in the path within the woodland, turn right. Follow round to re-join two main tracks - turn left down the farther track on the other side of a fenced grassland area. Keep following the track around as it curves to the left, with the cricket pitch to your right and head back to the bottom of the lake. Follow the track back up to the car park from which you can head to the garden, tearoom or shop.
Cricket has been played at Sheffield Park since 1845. The 3rd Earl had a passion for cricket and hosted all types of matches, from junior village standard to internationals. The Australians were frequent visitors and would open their tour with a game at the ground against Lord Sheffield’s XI. A particularly notable fixture against Australia in May 1896, was attended by 25,000 people, including HRH Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). Banners lined the route up from the railway to the garden and no expense was spared.
Sheffield Park car park, TQ413239
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