Swan Barn Farm well, woodland and meadow walk
Take a walk from the medieval dipping well past a traditional orchard grazed by sheep, through a network of intimate meadows, streams and into the ancient woodland where a hazel coppice is still worked. From the woodland, amble through pastures lined with hedgerows, where Belted Galloways graze and hay is cut to encourage meadow flowers. Then return to the historic market town of Haslemere.
Well Lane Haslemere, grid ref: SU905330
With your back to the Georgian House Hotel, cross the road to Well Lane. Then pass the CAB on your right, before going through a small gap in the trees down a very narrow gravel track. On your left you’ll see one of Hazelmere’s old town wells. The path, flanked by our omega sign, bears to the right. Soak up the views to your left down the wooded valley while passing a Wych Elm, a large Red Oak, and several Large-leaved Limes.
Sign to Well Lane
The old town well (direction 1) ceased being used in the late 19th century. It was one of the main wells supplying the local area, charging a penny ha'penny per bucket (that was including delivery).
At the notice board and our information point a large kissing gate leads to a path adjacent to a post and rail fence, the other side of which is a restored orchard, grazed by Jacob sheep. From now on there are grazing animals throughout the fields, so please keep your dog under close control. Cross the bridge and head upwards towards a gate onto a gravel track. Turn left for 90m (98yd), passing a Southern-Counties-style laid hedge.
You’re welcome to wander through the orchard where seven survivors flourish alongside our plantings since 2001. You can see varieties like Dr Hogg and Egremont Russet apples, Merryweather damson, Williams Bon Chrétien pear and Denistons Superb gage.
Go left where an elegant young elm droops gracefully over a gate, the path crosses a pasture to another gate followed by a small bridge over the stream into Longmoor Woods. It can be very muddy here especially during the winter months and the summer of 2012.
Hedgerows and gateways
The hedgerow you have just passed is laid to encourage it thicken, improving the potential nesting and food availability. This traditional practice is completed during the winter months when the trees are dormant.
For a slightly longer walk head up the steps and follow the track round and up to the right, taking you around the upper part of the woods. Or else take the right-hand track after the bridge. The track passes several glades and is crossed by a small streamlet, after which you pass a large glade dominated by nectar-rich brambles and foxgloves. The alternative longer path re-joins the track from the left 20m (21yd) before a small perch. Head over the stream as it loops under a small bridge among mature beech trees.
Perch near the stream
In the summer this area (direction 4) is deliciously cool. The patient observer may be fortunate enough to see a water shrew, beaded with silver bubbles as it forages in the stream for the many aquatic invertebrates hiding underneath the stones.
Bear up to your left, passing on your right several hazel coupes at different stages of growth in their 12-year rotation. The materials harvested here are used for charcoal making and for hedgelaying stakes and binders. Please note: The path has many roots crossing it, which can be slippery when wet. To protect the young hazel from grazing deer we put up temporary fencing. After the canopy cover has been removed the light returns to the woodland floor so flowers such as bluebells may flourish, having lain dormant for years.
Speckled wood butterflies
Speckled wood and white admiral butterflies frequent these newly created coupes and woodland glades. They gave the inspiration for the name of our eco-house: Speckled Wood.
After 200m (218yd) a gate marks the entrance to a hay field, rich in ladies smock during the spring. Keep the sweeping boughs of the woodland edge to your left until you reach a kissing gate and descend a new series of curving steps down to and across a stream. Here you may be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of a beautiful demoiselle damselfly. Again, with the overhanging woodland edge to your left, continue towards another set of kissing gates through another field.
Rich in summer with butterflies such as the large skipper and meadow brown, seen here in their hundreds as a result of hay making and grazing. (Direction 6.)
Turn right at this gate along a mature hedgerow, very good for sloes in the autumn. Turn right through the cattle corral, heading diagonally across a meadow towards a gate in a young hedge over to your right, planted in 2004. Dog Rose is commonplace here, providing bees with nectar and pollen. Grazing and cutting for hay reduces nutrients in these flower-rich meadows, encouraging diversity. Orchids have returned and Bird's Foot Trefoil and clover are abundant.
Common spotted orchids?
There are two orchids with spotted leaves which hybridize: the common and the heath. To tell these two apart, careful examination of the flower is the only way. The heath orchid's is broader in petal and less lobed.
Turn left into a wide gateway, passing through a small, rich, damp wooded hollow. Head up through another hay field towards another large gateway on the other side of the hazel coppice, which is now to your right.
This is a classic dormouse habitat. Throughout the coppice and in the hedgerows 50 nesting boxes are used to monitor these nocturnal mammals as part of a national scheme. Please, despite the temptation, don’t disturb these boxes.
The track turns right, following the woodland edge. Here brambles grow in profusion, providing early summer nectar then fruits for butterflies such as the gatekeeper (hedge brown) and ringlet to feed on. This track takes you through two marshier fields - Devil's Meadow and Balls Moor where buttercups dominate during the spring. Leaving the gates as you find them ensures that the cattle graze what we want them to target, encouraging a greater number of desirable flowering plants and grasses.
Fields of the past
Many of these fields (direction 9) have interesting links to their past use. Names include Clay Pit Field, Bean Field and Saw Pit Meadow. And some names are more practical or observational, including Six Acres, Lower Meadow and Barn Meadow.
Just past a large gateway, a path running from north to south bisects the track. Ignore this footpath and continue through this small strip of woodland, crossing another stream. The track runs towards a collection of farm buildings glimpsed through gaps in the tree line. Head towards a small black building (our office for the Black Down Estate) and through a gate.
This woodland strip (direction 10) is particularly pleasant during the early spring. Many woodland species of flower grow at this time, including the white-flowered Wood Sorrel, Wood Anemone and the bright-yellow of Lesser Celandine. These spring plants use heliotropism (following the sun) throughout the day, often closing in dull weather conditions.
At this point if you look to your left you can see our new building Speckled Wood. Continue past the office onto the gravel lane (Collards Lane), past a small pond on the left, which in summer seethes with small blue Azure Damselflies and with frog spawn during early spring. At the gate to your right retrace your route back into the town, where you can enjoy a coffee in one of Haslemere’s many outlets.
House of the woods
This house (direction 11) has been made using much of the timber from these woods and built by local woodsman Ben Law and his timber-framing company. Oak from the coppice that you passed earlier on the walk was used for large structural timbers, cladding on the gable end, and for internal flooring and the veranda.
Well Lane Haslemere, grid ref: SU905330
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