Sunday, 21 January 2018

Nyman's Woodland Walk

Nymans View
After our tour around Petworth Park using one of the National Trust walks we thought we would have a go at another since time was short.  This time we headed up to Nymans, a garden at the north end of our county.  It is one that we visit regularly but what we don't do very often is venture into the extensive woods beyond.  In fact the last time we did was many years ago when my children were small and it proved to be a real struggle for them to get around the relatively modest distance (2.5 miles).

Setting Off Into The Woods
I am a little behind with writing this up - the walk was actually completed at the height of autumn when the trees were at the zenith of their colours and this is the main reason why we thought we would give the walk a go.  The start of the walk is actually at the back of the car park and not close to the main entrance.  It disappears down a tree hollow on a slope that is deceptively steep.  We had to watch our step for the muddy season was already underway and we were concerned that we might end up sliding down on our backsides if we weren't careful.

At the bottom of the slope and still on our feet we were relieved to be able to turn left on to a more solid path with a much gentler slope.  Out of the tunnel of trees we had descended by we were also now able to enjoy the full majesty of the woodland.  Most of the trees were either beech or oak and in among them were some sculptures along the way.  Sadly we didn't manage to see them all but the first caught my daughter's eye as they were a couple of owls.  She is a massive owl fan and really enjoyed seeing them so early on in the walk.

Glimpse From The Wood
I particularly enjoyed the walk through Cow Wood.  The majesty of the trees was something else although it was fairly obvious that seasons were about to change with the arrival of the holly berries providing some different colour along the way.  At the eastern end of the wood views opened up out into surrounding Wealden countryside - I imagine that the tract of woodland that once covered this area must have been cleared at some point and not allowed to grow back.  Soils around here are pretty poor so I doubt it was for growing crops - more likely for keeping livestock.

Cow Wood
A little further on and we passed by the rather fairytale like Woodlands Cottage.  This is now a National Trust holiday home and looks like a mighty fine place to stay.  It was occupied as we went past - someone had picked their week well.  It's heritage as a woodman's cottage was plain to see as we went past for the outhouses complete with woodcutter's tools were also still present.

Woodland Cottage
Just past the cottage and our route descended still further, this time to the end of a lake that we were to get a better view of later.  We turned left again and walked up though coppice woodlands to the top of a slope.  This proved to be the most popular part of the route and we were glad of the breaks on the hill that we needed to let people past.  It was a short but testing hill and enough to get us breathing but when we got to the top we were faced with some of the worst mud we had encountered yet.  Luckily previous walkers had shown us the way by doing some work arounds from the main path and heading past some of the trees on the other side from the main path.

Crossing The Field
The onward path descended slowly and through big piles of leaves that just begged to be kicked over as we walked through.  This is surely one of the joys of an autumn walk?  Soon we were to come to a fence blocking our way ahead and we had to take a sharp right hand turn and descend to a field.  After all the woodland walking thus far it seemed strange to head out across an open field like this.  The light and airy field didn't last too long though - over the next stile and we were back in the woodland, this time at the other end of the lake we had passed earlier.

The Lake
It was worth pausing at the lake for its serenity was beautiful and for me the highlight of the whole walk.  Somehow its mood seemed to calm down passing children too - they lost their boisterousness and admired the reflections instead.  We walked along a little of its shore before turning left to head up the last stretch of the woodland back to the main house of Nymans.  The mood of this woodland was quite different from the earlier one though, principally because there are conifers on this stretch and the left hand side is overlooked by some sandstone crags.

Which Way?
We climbed up the valley side and soon came to the edge of the wood.  Our route up to the main house skirted the wood for a bit and this proved to be a much wetter route than we expected.  It looked as if there are some springs along this section of path so be warned if you attempt it during the winter months.

Finding The Edge of the Woods
The path rose slowly at first and then up a final steeper section until we were at the entrance to the house. Nymans isn't all it appears.  For one thing it isn't nearly as old as you might think.  It was built in the early 20th Century to replace an older Regency house.  It is ruined now following a disastrous fire in 1947 which gutted the main building.  Although a portion was rebuilt and was lived in for a time most of the house remains a ghostly shell.  In 1987 the garden was ravaged by the Great Storm, which felled a huge number of trees.  Yet despite these two calamities the house and garden are fascinating to visit at any time of year and we lingered in the garden for quite a time, enjoying the lingering dahlias and roses that were still trying to cling on to the long gone summer.

Remembering The Great Storm
This walk is more of a stroll than a serious expedition but it does add extra enjoyment to a visit to Nymans and is worth a look if you have plenty of time for your visit.  The whole distance is 2.5 miles and should take no more than 90 minutes to complete.

Nymans House

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