RICHARD WILLIAMSON Another very important jubilee to be celebrated

Lots of people have said to me, over the years, that though they have lived near Chichester all their lives they have never been to Kingley Vale. They’ve heard all about it, but never quite got round to seeing this nature reserve. Well, this year of the Diamond Jubilee you should.

It is not only the Queen who is celebrating her 60 years, so is Kingley Vale. It was rescued from military occupation and declared one of the very first national nature reserves in 1952.

This Saturday, July 7, the present owners, Natural England, are hosting a little party there to celebrate the occasion. I shall be one of those leading a walk around to show you the flowers, birds, archaeological sites and weather permitting the tremendous views across the Sussex landscape. This week’s walk (see above) shows you how to get there and where you can walk.

One of the VIP visitors we hope will be attending will be the grand-daughter of the man who started the whole business of nature conservation in Britain and to some extent in the world, Sir Arthur Tansley.

His memorial stone is placed at the head of the vale, overlooking Chichester cathedral, the harbour, the Solent, and on to the Isle of Wight. He declared this view to be the finest in Britain and there is a photo of the great man sitting on the spot in 1912.

Last year was the centenary of the occasion when the whole idea for preserving wild places first came into Tansley’s mind. He was on a visit in 1911 with a German botanist, one Professor Drude. This man was so thrilled with the great yew forest that he said ‘Professor Tansley, you did not tell me you were going to show me the finest yew forest in Europe’.

Tansley mulled this remark for 30 years, finally getting the government to agree to setting up a command similar to the Forestry Commission, but to protect wildlife habitats.

Five other NNRs were declared in 1952. Today there are 220 NNRs and a vast network of other forms of protection such as SSSIs, Ramsar sites, Special Areas of Conservation, Stewardship, etc, etc, all of which have made people aware of our magnificent countryside.

And it all started right here on the Downs near Chichester. We should all be immensely proud of this, so I shall see you there then.

Kingley Vale has the highest number of butterflies recorded on any NNR with a grand total of 41 species out of 56 nationwide. We should see many of the 320 species of flowers. There are 16 separate archaeological sites making it the richest collection east of Dorset; these include two bell barrows, two bowl barrows, several saucer barrows and several ancient dew pond.

Above all you will see most of the 30,000 yew trees, including very ancient specimens which so excited the international group of botanists a century ago.