Spring Wildlife of the South Downs
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Meadows & hills
Visit Pulborough Brooks in search of nightingales and fallow deer, explore the Wealden Greensand for Dartford warbler and the rate sand lizard, and search for orchids and butterflies at Levin Down. We'll walk up to 6 miles (9.5km) each day. Suitable for any level of experience, with no prior knowledge required.
- Leisurely walks with regular stops to watch wildlife
- Our expert leader will guide you around the best sites
- Share enthusiasm and improve your wildlife ID skills
- Flexible itineraries will take into account prevailing weather conditions and any reported sightings
Great reasons to join us:
- Great value: all prices include Full Board en-suite accommodation, guidance from our expert leader, transport and any entrance fees
- Accommodation: enjoy high quality accommodation and excellent food at our Country Houses
- Expert leaders: all our leaders are expert in their field and will ensure that you get the most from your holiday
- Sociability: spend time with like-minded people in a relaxed and friendly environment
Nestled at the foot of the South Downs, Abingworth Hall is ideally located for a short break or a longer holiday. A peaceful ambiance and excellent facilities make it a relaxing place to stay. It offers great viewing for short or long strolls in the beautiful surrounding meadows.
Choose your room
• Comfortable accommodation
• En-suite bathroom with bath or shower
• Tea and coffee making facilities
• Single rooms available at no extra charge
• Enjoy extra space or exceptional views
• Toweling robe, complimentary slippers
• Same facilities as our classic rooms
• Available from an extra £10 per person per night
• 3 or 4 beds
• Same facilities as our classic rooms
• Full sized twin or double beds for adults and bunk or occasional beds for children
|• Excellent boot and drying rooms
• Three comfortable lounges, the largest of which opens onto the attractive conservatory and bar
• Large ballroom
• Dining room
• Free WiFi avaliable in some public rooms
|• Range of board games and books
• Surrounded by eight acres of gardens
• Putting green and croquet lawn
• Heated outdoor swimming pool (open May to September)
|All holidays at our Country Houses are full board with breakfast, picnic lunch and evening meal. All of our Country Houses have a well-stocked bar serving local beers, wine and spirits.
√ Start your day with our extensive breakfast.
All of our bars are stocked with locally sourced drinks so you can really soak up your surroundings.
Friday: Arrival day
You can check in to your room from 2.30pm onwards. Please join us for afternoon tea at 4pm. All guests are invited – we’ll introduce your leader and welcome you to your holiday.
Saturday: Coast and estuary at Pagham Harbour and Church Norton
We’ll spend much of the day around the Pagham Harbour and Church Norton area - one of the best sites for birds in Sussex. Habitats include shingle beach, estuary and salt-marsh, freshwater pools and grazing marsh. We’ll search for a wide variety of marsh birds, shore birds (e.g. whimbrel) and wildfowl, as well as dragonflies, butterflies and the plants of saltmarsh and shingle. Terns, gulls and possibly even a gannet may be spotted off-shore. We may also visit Chichester cathedral to see the breeding peregrines.
Sunday: The woodland and chalk grassland of the western Downs
Today we’ll visit West Dean Woods near Singleton, a combination of ancient woodland and conifer plantations. In the oak, ash and hazel coppice we will encounter a varied flora, with wild daffodils, bluebells, cowslips, celandines and wood anemones. Birds include marsh tit, firecrest, bullfinch and a variety of warblers, with tree pipits in the clearings. We may also visit Kingley Vale, the largest yew wood in Europe, which also has pockets of chalk grassland flora. In the afternoon we’ll explore some remaining pockets of downland at Levin Down, where we will see a variety of plants (including orchids) and butterflies.
Monday: Free day
A free day for you to explore the local area or to relax in the Country House.
Guests are free to explore the local area at their leisure, or to relax in the Country House. There are many charming villages with churches, historic buildings and tea rooms in and around the National Park. Fine cathedrals, art galleries and shops can be found in Arundel and Chichester. There are historic parklands nearby at Parham and Petworth, while the latter NT property also boasts a collection of fine art including several Turners. The seaside towns of Littlehampton, Worthing and Shoreham-by-Sea are less than an hour's drive from the house.
Tuesday: Farmland, river and wetland of the Arun Valley
In the morning we’ll explore bird-rich farmland on the Duke of Norfolk estate near Burpham. Here a partnership with the Game Conservancy has resulted in over 20 years trialling cultivation techniques to benefit the grey partridge and other farmland birds. In addition to partridges, we will also look for lapwing, skylark, corn and reed buntings, together with brown hares. The number and diversity of seed and insect-eating birds in turn attracts various birds of prey, so with a little luck, we may see buzzard, red kite, sparrowhawk and kestrel. The afternoon will be spent next to the River Arun at the Wildfowl & Wetlands (WWT) Centre. Here are a variety of different habitats occur, including freshwater pools, scrapes, wet ditches and reed bed. We may encounter water rail, kingfisher, reed and cetti's warblers, water voles and damselflies.
Wednesday: Eastern Downs, chalk cliffs and Cuckmere Valley
We head eastwards to explore the downland above Beachy Head, the tallest chalk sea cliff in Britain. Walking westwards we will search the gorse and thorn scrub for spring migrant birds e.g. ring ousel, redstart and pied flycatcher, and resident linnet and yellowhammer. We will also stop to examine the turf for chalk downland plants and butterflies. At Birling Gap we will try sea-watching; at this time of year there could be terns, skuas and bar-tailed godwits passing by. After lunch by the NT tea room, we will head across to the Cuckmere Valley, looking for herons and egrets on the meandering river. We'll then climb up to Seaford Head, from where we can obtain fine views of the iconic 'Seven Sisters', with a chance of fulmar and raven.
Thursday: Heathlands and wetlands of the Wealden Greensand
We begin the day by visiting one of the largest heathlands on the Greensand ridge south of the River Rother, near Midhurst. A limited, but specialised bird community is found here, including woodlark, Dartford warbler and stonechat, together with heathers, dwarf gorse and specialised bog plants. Heathlands are also rich in invertebrates and we should see various kinds of solitary bee and wasp. If we’re lucky, we may also encounter reptiles such as common lizard, adder, or even the rare sand lizard. In the afternoon we'll drive to Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve, one of the best wetland sites in SE England. Summer migrant birds here include garganey, little ringed plover, ruff and sedge warbler in and around the pools and marshes. The hedgerows may hold lesser whitethroat, cuckoo and the brown hairstreak butterfly. This site is one of the best places in the UK to see and hear nightingales, so we’ll make a special effort to experience their wonderful song. The many dragonfly species here attract hawking hobbies, whilst marsh harriers can sometimes be seen quartering the marshes, looking for a tasty moorhen or water vole!
Friday: Depart after a leisurely breakfast
Sometimes things happen beyond our control – the weather, traffic jams or changes at the places we visit. If we need to adjust your holiday programme, for whatever reason, your leader will help smooth the way.
What to bring
- Outdoor clothing appropriate to the season, including waterproofs
- Strong, comfortable footwear with a good tread is essential
- A telescope (if you have one) and binoculars
- Thermos flask (optional) and water bottle
- Sun cream and insect repellent
- Recommended field guide (optional) - The New Mitchell Beazley Birdwatcher’s Pocket Guide or RSPB pocket guide to British Birds by Simon Harrap (2nd edition)
Discover Sussex and the South Downs
Abingworth Hall is situated amidst gentle rolling farmland at the foot of the South Downs.
The nearest facilities are in the village of Storrington, about two miles away. Here you’ll find a small supermarket, post office, newsagent, pubs and a bank.
During your stay at Abingworth Hall you may enjoy visiting the following places of interest:
The quaint town of Arundel, about 30 minutes' drive away, is dominated by its castle, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk. During your visit you may enjoy a walk in the Castle's extensive grounds, or beside the river Arun. www.arundelcastle.org
Completely restored after an extensive fire, this stately National Trust property has ornate rooms and gardens. Uppark is around 50 minutes' drive from Abingworth. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/uppark
The cosmopolitan seaside city of Brighton is about 40 minutes' drive from Abingworth Hall and has an excellent range of specialist shops, entertainment, and its famous beach. You may also enjoy a visit to the Royal Pavilion, built in the early 19th century by George IV. www.brighton-hove-rpml.org.uk
Amberley Working Museum
Just 15 minutes' drive from Abingworth Hall, this large open-air museum tells the industrial story of the downs, complete with a steam railway, vintage buses and restored quarry machinery. www.amberleymuseum.co.uk
Just 10 to 15 minutes' drive away, Elizabethan Parham House is surrounded by an extensive deer park. www.parhaminsussex.co.uk
The historic cathedral city of Chichester, about 45 minutes' drive away, has plenty of interest. Just a couple of miles away is the fascinating Fishbourne Roman Palace, uncovered in 1960, which has many superb mosaics. www.chichestercathedral.org.uk or www.sussexpast.co.uk/fishbourne
A large late 17th century mansion, now run by the National Trust with extensive grounds that were landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown. Around 30 minutes' drive from Abingworth. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth-house
Weald & Downland Museum
Located on the Downs, near the village of Singleton, this excellent open-air museum contains many restored buildings that bring the history of Sussex to life. These include a working watermill and a re-creation of a typical downland village. The museum is around 45 minutes' drive from Abingworth. www.wealddown.co.uk
One of Britain’s premier steam railways with an impressive collection of 50 locomotives, representing the Southern Railway and its predecessors. The line runs through rolling countryside from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead, about 40 minutes' drive from Abingworth. www.bluebell-railway.co.uk
Uppark House and Petworth House image ©National Trust Images/John Miller
Travel to Abingworth
Our address is: Abingworth Hall, Storrington Road, Thakeham, West Sussex, RH20 3EF
The nearest railway station is at Pulborough. For train times and general rail enquiries visit www.nationalrail.co.uk or call 03457 484950 (from outside the UK call +44 20 7278 5240).
The 6 mile journey from Pulborough railway station takes approximately 15 minutes. Pre-booked taxis cost approx £14. Details of our current recommended taxi company and rates will be sent to you with your booking. The return taxi journey can be arranged on your behalf by the Abingworth Hall Manager.
From the north leave the M25 on either the A24 or the M23 and A264 to Horsham. Continue south on the A24 towards Worthing. About 5 miles south of Horsham turn right onto the A272 signposted to Billingshurst and Petersfield. After 3 miles turn onto the B2139 in the village of Coolham. After 3½ miles pass the turning for Thakeham on your left. Abingworth Hall is on the left after the Thakeham turn.
From the south take the M27 and continue on to the A27 and around Chichester. 4 miles before Arundel at Fontwell Park turn left on to the A29. After approx 4 miles at a roundabout, turn onto the A283 to Storrington. Turn right onto the A283 in Storrington. Continue through Storrington and left at the mini-roundabout at the Anchor Inn onto the B2139 towards Thakeham and Coolham. Go straight across at the next roundabout and then take a left at the Rydon Community College roundabout. Abingworth Hall is on the right, 2 miles north of Storrington.
Travelling from overseas
Abingworth is particularly convenient from London Gatwick Airport, which is served by a large range of long-haul and European flights.
From Gatwick Airport station there are trains every 30 minutes to Pulborough - journey time 40 minutes. See www.nationalrail.co.uk for train times. From Pulborough station complete your journey to Abingworth by taxi (see above)
London Heathrow airport is a little further away, so you'll need to travel via the centre of London. Allow 2½ hours to get to Pulborough.
Jonathan is a professional conservationist and currently works for the RSPB. He honed his birding skills on the moors, dales and reservoirs of the Peak District, with regular stays at Spurn Bird Observatory during his teenage years. During this period Jonathan gained a detailed knowledge of the songs and calls of British birds which has stood him in good stead when undertaking bird surveys and leading guided walks. He has extensive experience and understanding of the ecology and conservation of lowland heathland. In his 'spare time', Jonathan is a voluntary warden at Pulborough Brooks and undertakes surveys for the BTO.
Dates & Prices
We're sorry, there are no dates available for this holiday at the moment. Please check out our other tours and breaks or call our team on 0345 470 8558 to be notified of new dates as soon as they become available.
Prices are per person
- Premium single room: £15 per night
- Premium twin/double room: £10 per person per night
- Non-member associate fee: £10 per person