RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk – Iping Common


This stroll is short and sweet and should be taken on a still summer evening.

It is only 1.6 miles (2.5km) and the idea is for you to hear the curious calling of the nightjar.

This bird sings mainly as the sun begins to set and during the hours of darkness until the dawn and should arrive on site from Africa in the first two weeks of May if all goes well.

Please keep your dog on a lead as the birds nest on the ground and their breeding is easily upset.

Car parking is off the minor road to Elsted which itself runs south off the A272 two miles west of Midhurst, SU852219.

Just a few yards north of the car park runs a gas pipeline embedded in the 1970s which you can’t see but which has over the years provided a straight path westward through the heather and the birch scrub.

One of the nightjars usually sings along this path as it perches in the bushes.

It is best not to leave the path to go into the bushes due to the danger of ticks and adders in these rough places.

The same applies to most areas of rough country in England. Stay on the path and stay safe. Three species of heather grow alongside the paths, these being Erica cinerea, E tetralix, and Calluna vulgaris, otherwise known as ling.

Eventually you may see the gas pipeline marker near a couple of garden seats (from which you can enjoy a view of the South downs) and just before a trig point.

Turn left along the sandy track, passing two Bronze age tumuli to the left.

On, soon reaching a cross ways, turn left on to the Serpent Trail.

This will take you into another good area for nightjar listening. Path 
goes downhill to a damp area of this nature reserve, marked by tufts of purple moor grass.

Scattered birch trees are left as perching song posts for nightjars.

There are many paths criss-crossing the moor, but the general direction is east, then northeast, keeping to a left-handed circle.

One of the problems with this walk is that if you start at dusk to hear the nightjars, you will end up in the dark.

The track back to the car is often lit by glow worms 
in midsummer, but their light will not be enough so take a torch.

If you do go wrong and miss the track at the end, you will only come out on the Elsted road and on turning left you will soon be back at your car which if you are one of the lucky ones, could be an old Morris Minor. I had happy days behind that wheel on the road to see the nightjars.