RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: Lakeside walk at Burton Mill Pond

This lakeside walk is between the A29 and A285 main roads, 3 miles SW of Fittleworth.

Sunday, 23rd August 2015, 12:00 pm

There is a car park below the road at the mill at SU979181. The walk is about 2.5 miles (4kms) along woodland paths, over swampy ground (by boardwalk), across dry heath, and for short distance on the road.

The Sussex Wildlife Trust manages these 56 ha. as a nature reserve. Cross the road SW to the lodge on footpath sign into New Piece Wood. Rather than stay on the main track you can divert closer to the lake edge on the Dragonfly Trail. Rowan, birch, oak and holly bushes and trees provide wintering flocks of fieldfares, blackbirds, titmice, woodpeckers, nuthatches and robins with food and shelter.

On the water you should see great crested grebes until they leave for the harbours in the cold weather, while small flocks of pochard and tufted ducks dive deep under the water for snails, weed, and insect larvae throughout the winter, unless the lake is frozen solid. Look for coots with their white faces, and moorhens with red faces.

The dark green spikey tufts of rushes were used by the Romans to plait ropes. Look for cross-leaved heath Erica tetralix as you cross the boggier places in the track through Snipe Bog. Remains of the old iron fence of Burton Park Estate go back to Edwardian times.

Some huge sweet chestnut trees at the footpath crossways are centuries old, and over 10 metres in girth. These are the homes of jackdaws and lesser spotted woodpeckers. View ahead of Bignor Hill. Turn sharp left down road past a house on the right.

One of the small heathland plants in this area is sheep sorrel, a miniature relative of the dock, and nice to taste, like samphire. The Serpent and Literary Trails cross the dam and you should see moorhens and coots, mallard and tufted ducks.

Our path now turns left onto the Dragonfly Trail which follows the shore of the lake near enough. The evergreen trees are western hemlock which has uneven needles, western red cedar which has soft bark, sitka spruce which has cylindrical cones, and Douglas firs which has cones with 3-bladed bracts. The path wanders through the swamp, and over a boardwalk crossing the Black Hole, where tussock sedges grow and which look like shaggy brown dogs.

You then leave the wet ground and cross the dry heath which has a very ornate little grass called silver hair grass. At the road, keep left back down to the mill.

What the Romans and Elizabethans learned about metal eventually culminated into our Euro boxes and space craft. We couldn’t have done it without them.