EBERNOE is ‘an improbable and enchanted place in the middle of the Weald with an air of never having been touched by the 20th century’ was the thought of architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner writing in 1965.
Little has changed in 47 years. They still play cricket across both village green and the road. Nightingales still sing in the coppice woods; the roadside verges are covered with wild flowers, and the houses only betray the current age with their modern cars parked outside.
There is a quiet calm that puts you a century past. But best of all, the integrity of time past is enhanced by that dynamic and ultra-modern scientific organisation, the Sussex Wildlife Trust. They manage the best part of the landscape here and give it status and protection.
This is English rainforest at its most diverse and richest capacity. I walked around here once with a land agent who said, ‘My goodness – why on earth have they not cleared all the dead timber and old trees? The place needs thinning at the very least and replanting with decent trees.’
That was back in the 1970s. The new science of ecology was still in its infancy. Today the network of Wealden woodlands stretches across Sussex into Surrey. These places contain priceless valuables that are part of the national treasure.
For instance, here you can find more than 1,000 species of fungus, some nationally rare: 375 species of flowering plants and ferns grow here: while 200 species of lichen live on the ancient trees. Sixteen of the 18 species of British bats find crevices and holes where they can hide safely to rear new families.
The wide range of timber species have a rich crop of insects for them to feed on: 131 beetle species (35 of them nationally scarce) live in that dead wood.
It is all part of the natural development of which nature is capable if given the chance. All has evolved by itself. Now the SWT has acquired more land at Butcherland Farm where it will allow this biodiversity to burst out into yet more areas that were once rather arid arable fields.
Forget about those pipe-dream ideas of ultra-expensive trips to the Congo or the Amazon. Make a trip to the Sussex rainforest instead. There aren’t any howler monkeys or macaws, but the trees soar high, the glades are gold in the sun and the flowers and birds give the experience of wilderness.
Birds flit elusively through the canopy. You could see or hear up to 50 species of birds as you track around – but you might have to make more than one visit to get that many.
Deer, badgers and fox tracks betray their hidden presence. If you visit under the summer moon, the many rare bats will be feeding above those old Elizabethan furnace ponds mentioned on the walk.
This is a wonderful place: go and see it for yourselves and enjoy that ‘enchantment’.