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.
Our classic bedrooms offer comfortable accommodation and an en-suite bathroom with bath or shower. They also have TV, hairdryer, and tea and coffee making facilities. Single rooms are available at no extra charge.
You can enjoy extra space or exceptional views plus additional facilities including a towelling robe and complimentary slippers when you upgrade to a premium bedroom. Premium rooms are available at just £10 extra per person per night.
If you are travelling with your family, we have a selection of 3 and 4-bedded family bedrooms. These have all the facilities of our classic rooms plus full sized twin or double beds for adults and bunk beds or occasional beds for children.
All our Country Houses are tailored to the needs of walkers and outdoor enthusiasts and have excellent boot and drying rooms.
Abingworth Hall has three comfortable lounges, the largest of which opens onto the attractive conservatory and bar. The large ballroom can be used for dancing, evening talks or as a games room with table tennis. There is also a pleasant dining room. Free Wifi is available in some public rooms. There is also a range of board games and books.
Abingworth Hall is surrounded by eight acres of gardens. Outside there is a putting green and croquet lawn. The heated outdoor swimming pool is popular with our guests in the summer (May – September).
All holidays at our Country Houses are Full Board with all meals included, from dinner on arrival to breakfast on the day of your departure.
Start your day with our extensive breakfast. Choose from a wide selection on the cold buffet and/or a full cooked breakfast. Maybe enjoy a lighter option of fruit and yoghurt followed by scrambled egg, go for porridge followed by a full English breakfast, or select something in between.
Choose from our famous self-select picnic lunches - everything you need to keep you going on a day outdoors. Your own choice of sandwiches is prepared to order, and you can add crisps and snacks, fruit, nuts, chocolate bars, sweets and biscuits as you wish.
Our house-based Leisure Activities include an in-house lunch (generally soup, sandwiches etc).
The relaxed dinner is a highlight of any stay at our Country Houses. With tables seating up to 10 and no seating plan, it offers a great opportunity to get to know your fellow guests. There is always a choice of dishes for every course, featuring good British cooking and often local specialities. A vegetarian option is always available.
All our Country Houses have a well-stocked bar serving local beers, wine and spirits.
Guided Walking: enjoy a glass of wine or local beer in the bar before a talk about the next day's walks. After dinner there will be an activity or entertainment which you will be welcome to join. These vary from week to week but could include a talk on wildlife from a local speaker or a team quiz. Alternatively if you prefer, feel free to just relax in our lounge or bar.
Leisure Activities: many of our Leisure Activities holidays continue into the evening with programmed sessions. Other holidays will have the evenings free, and you will be welcome to join in other social activities that may be happening in the house.
Self-Guided Walking: there may be evening social activities happening in the house during your holiday, and you will be most welcome to join in. However, not all self-guided holidays will have evening activities available – if these are important to you, please check before booking.
Abingworth Hall is generally accessible to wheelchair users and has a bedroom specifically designed for wheelchair access.
Arrival & car parking facilities
- There is ample (gravel) car parking available at the rear of the House
- Disabled parking is available closer to the front door
- The driveway from the main B2139 is tarmac up to the front door
- It is possible to load and unload cars directly at the front door
- Assistance can be provided with luggage
Main entrance & reception
- There is a small step (6cm high) into the porch at the front door of the house
- The front door can open double to 151cm wide
- The step into the main reception hallway is 12cm high with double doors opening up to 162cm wide
- A hatch immediately inside the front doorway opens to reveal a check-in desk
- The reception hallway gives access to the drawing room, large lounge with conservatory, dining room, reception / office, powder room and gents
- A well-lit corridor leads off to the ballroom and bedrooms 1 - 8
- There is no lift. The main stairway (112cm wide) leads up to rooms 9 – 25
Public areas - hall, stairs, landing, corridors etc
- All public areas are carpeted
- The corridor leading to rooms 1 - 8. Minimum width is 99cm
- The main stairway leading up to rooms 9 - 25 is 112cm wide
Public areas - sitting room, lounges, lobbies etc
- Door is 86cm wide
- A carpeted, wood panelled lounge with relaxed seating for 12
- Door is 86cm wide. Impressive lounge with a baby grand piano and a large mirror. Carpeted with comfortable seating for 26. Leads into the conservatory
Conservatory & bar
- Carpeted with relaxed rattan furniture. Bar in the corner (bar height 117cm)
- Accessed though the large lounge, doorway is 117cm wide and a step down 17cm high or alternatively accessed from the reception hallway, down the corridor which is ramped. The door from the corridor is 79cm wide
- Entrance through double doors (total width 150cm)
- A large room, 7m by 11m with windows on two walls. Carpeted around a wooden dance floor, which measures 5m by 9m
- Chairs are movable, armless and stackable
- Ground level from the reception hallway, carpeted, door 79cm wide
- Two cubicles, doors 59cm wide, with standard toilets of 42cm high
- One basin with hot and cold taps
- A vanity unit with good lighting and a large mirror with two upright padded chairs
- Tiled floor (door width 81cm)
- One cubicle with standard toilet of 44cm high
- Four self-flushing urinals, 67cm high
- One basin with hot and cold taps
- Good lighting and mirrors
- From the reception hallway, three steps up into the main stairway (154cm wide with handrail) is the entrance to the dining room. Further two steps up (120cm wide with hand rail)
- The dining room is L-shaped, carpeted throughout
- Tables are rectangular, six legged and 72cm high, each seating five to eight diners
- Seats are without arms, 48cm high, padded seats with 40cm wooden backs
- A portable stainless steel mobility ramp is available
Bedrooms & sleeping areas
- Bedrooms 1 - 8 are on ground floor, down a well lit corridor from the reception hall
- Bedrooms 9 - 14 are up a main L-shaped stairway, 16 steps to the first floor landing
- Bedrooms 15 and 16 are through a door and further 7 steps up from the first floor landing
- Bedrooms 17 - 23 are through another door from the first floor landing, up a second flight of stairs, 16 steps up through a landing door onto the second floor
- Bedroom 24 is situated above room 16, up a curved narrow stairway of 15 steps
- Bedroom doors are 72cm - 87cm wide
- Beds are 55cm high. Rooms are single, twin or double bedded
- Usually made up with hollow fibre duvets and pillows, blankets and feather pillows available on request
- All rooms are carpeted and well lit
- All furniture, including beds are movable
- Most rooms have baths, although some have only a walk-in shower
- Rooms with baths have mostly mixer taps with a shower attachment
- Most rooms have vinyl or tiled floor, rooms 9 / 10 / 11 and 24 have carpet
- Room 6 has been specially adapted for wheelchair users
- A low level shower tray, 62cm by 105cm, with the step-in of 7cm
- An adjustable free standing mobility shower seat is available
- The shower is thermostatically controlled to give even water pressure with an adjustable shower head
- The toilet is 47cm high with left side static hand rail and adjustable right side rail
- The basin has level mixer taps and is wall-mounted for wheelchair access
- Tiled floor
Grounds and gardens
- There are around eight acres of grounds. Most of the pathways are gravel and therefore uneven
- Grass meadows and lawns are also uneven. Steep, uneven steps lead to the meadows
- There is a stone terrace along the front of the house. The surface is uneven. The terrace is accessible either via the front door or through the conservatory doors with 2 / 3 steps down to the terrace. The conservatory door width is 113cm
- The outdoor swimming pool is situated between the main house and the car park
- The pool is heated May - September
- Due to the secluded location of the pool, guests are advised not to swim alone. Pool emergency alarm at the side of the pool, attached to changing room
- Fire procedure is displayed in each room and explained to guests on arrival. Guests requiring assistance at an evacuation are identified at this time and door hanger cards are issued
- Mobile phone reception is generally good from the main building
- Assistance dogs accompanying visually or hearing impaired guests are welcome; dogs must be kept on a lead or harness at all times
- Information can be provided in large print
- Staff have received disability awareness training
- Special diets can be catered for. Specialist food can be obtained with prior notice
- Fridge for medication can be supplied
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
|12 May 2017||AWWWS - Spring Wildlife of the South Downs- Abingworth||7||£999.00||Book Now|
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