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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Amberley Wildbrooks: Fieldfare & Redwing and Autumn Scenes. 22.11.21

Amberley Wildbrooks is a wonderful joint RSPB/Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve; but is not so easy to find! At the end of this post is a map which shows the way to walk from Amberley Station to Hog Lane, where the Wey South Path turns off, which is the only route through the reserve. By public transport the easiest way to get there is to go to Amberley Station (trains once an hour from Barnham, direction London Victoria; change at Barnham if coming from Brighton).

My photographs are presented in chronological order. All text in italics are quotations; sources are cited at the end of the quotations.

Birds seen: Carrion Crows, Black Headed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Wood Pigeon; Red Kite, Kestrels; Marsh Harriers; Fieldfare; Redwing; Teal; Mute Swans; Long Tailed Tts; Blue Tits; Blackbirds

The lowland wet grassland at Amberley Wildbrooks is part of the Arun Valley floodplain and is criss-crossed by ditches which host some incredibly rare and special creatures and plants. The grassland, pools and scrapes provide feeding areas for wintering wildfowl and nesting areas for wading birds and the ditches support a huge variety of plant and animal species.

Amberley Wildbrooks forms part of the Arun Valley Special Protection Area (SPA) important for its overwintering wildfowl including Bewick's swan, wigeon, teal, shoveler and pintail. Amberley Wildbrooks Nature Reserve, West Sussex - The RSPB

Here is a map of the route I walked; there is only one path through the reserve; there is a short path on the left (west) of the main oath which takes you to the Arun River

A thatched house in Hog Lane

The sign to the Wey South Path of Hog Lane

Down to the Wey South Path from Hog Lane

A Mute Swan

Roe Deer

Another Mute Swan, grazing on grass.

More Roe Deer

Two Red Kite

Herring Gulls and Crows

Some of the many human-made drainage channels

There were 100s of Fieldfares and some Redwings

Fieldfares are large, colourful thrushes, much like a mistle thrush in general size, shape and behaviour. They stand very upright and move forward with purposeful hops. They are very social birds, spending the winter in flocks of anything from a dozen or two to several hundred strong. These straggling, chuckling flocks which roam the UK's countryside are a delightful and attractive part of the winter scene. Fieldfare Bird Facts | Turdus Pilaris - The RSPB

Fieldfares are best looked for in the countryside, along hedges and in fields. Hawthorn hedges with berries are a favourite feeding area. In late winter grass fields, playing fields and arable fields with nearby trees and hedges are a favourite place. May come into gardens in severe winters when snow covers the countryside. Fieldfare Bird Facts | Turdus Pilaris - The RSPB

The track to the brooks; beside which were the tress that the Fieldfares were foraging on

I think a Marsh Harrier


A Mute Swan

A juvenile Mute Swan

A Kestrel

Impression: trees (aka out-of-focus shot)

The landscape of the Wildbrooks

Spectacular (part of name not just an adjective) Rustgill, Gymnopilus junorius.

Greater Tussock Sedge, Carex paniculata. This ancient grass, which grows in shallow bogs in pillars up to 1.5 metres high (4ft 11in) and about a metre (3ft 3in) across, often has colonies of 20 or 30 plants close together. The grass is not rare, but only grows in suitable habitats with its roots in water or very boggy ground. It is not the sort of plant found in gardens but in wild, wet, neglected and untidy places. The very odd towers each plant grows into as it gets older are said to have inspired John Wyndham’s Triffids. The dark spaces in-between form perfect hiding places for water voles (Arvicola terrestris) and other vulnerable aquatic species. Paul Brown, Specieswatch: greater tussock-sedge – safe haven and playground | Plants | The Guardian


Collapsed tree and Greater Tussock-Sedge

Another fallen tree.

The landscape of the bog

Looking west to the South Downs

A Pied Wagtail

The pied wagtail is a delightful small, long-tailed and rather sprightly black and white bird. When not standing and frantically wagging its tail up and down it can be seen dashing about over lawns or car parks in search of food. It frequently calls when in its undulating flight and often gathers at dusk to form large roosts in city centres. Pied Wagtail Bird Facts | Motacilla Alba - The RSPB

A common and familiar bird, the pied wagtail is often seen in towns and cities, dashing across lawns, roads and car parks while wagging its long tail up and down. Pied wagtails eat insects, but will feed on seeds and even rubbish in winter. They flock together at warm roost sites like reedbeds and sewage works or trees and bushes in city centres. In summer, they defend breeding territories and will nest in ivy, under roofs, in walls, between stones ... in all kinds of places! Pied wagtail | The Wildlife Trusts

A Robin. This was the point on the path, just beyond the end of the brooks, where I turned round and retraced my steps.

Rusty plough

The South Downs

Long-tailed Tits in silhouette, the sun was getting lower.

A Kestrel, perched and in flight.

Mute Swans close to the Downs

Another Greater Hedge-Tussuck

The same juvenile Mute Swan as I saw before, in the same place


More Fieldfare

The track back

When walking back to Amberley on the Wey South Oath, I turned on to a side path (right, west), that took me to the banks of the Arin where I saw more Fieldfare, Redwings and lots of Teal


Teals are small dabbling ducks. Males have chestnut coloured heads with broad green eye-patches, a spotted chest, grey flanks and a black edged yellow tail. Females are mottled brown. Both show bright green wing patches (speculum) in flight. They are thinly distributed as a breeding species with a preference for northern moors and mires.

In winter, birds congregate in low-lying wetlands in the south and west of the UK. Of these, many are continental birds from around the Baltic and Siberia. At this time, the UK is home to a significant percentage of the NW European wintering population making it an Amber List species. Teal Duck Facts | Anas Crecca - The RSPB


More Teal

The Arun at twilight.

A Blue Tit


The redwing is most commonly encountered as a winter bird and is the UK's smallest true thrush. Its creamy strip above the eye and orange-red flank patches make it distinctive.

They roam across the UK's countryside, feeding in fields and hedgerows, rarely visiting gardens, except in the coldest weather when snow covers the fields. Only a few pairs nest in the UK. It is listed as a Schedule 1 species of The Wildlife and Countryside Act. Redwing Bird Facts | Turdus Iliacus - The RSPB

The Arun


Amberly Castle, now a hotel

The land where Amberley Castle stands was gifted to Bishop Wilfrid in 683 AD by Caedwalla, King of Wessex and the castle’s current buildings owe their origins to a timber-framed hunting lodge built in 1103 by Bishop Luffa. The following 400 years saw this lodge transformed into a fortified manor house complete with crenelations, battlements and a portcullis under the supervision of a number of resident bishops.

In the wake of the English reformation, the castle was leased to a series of tenants and during the Civil War it became a royalist strong hold. Oliver Cromwell sent General Waller to destroy the defences in 1643 and 20 to 30 feet was lost from the Curtain Walls and the Great Hall was destroyed, creating a ruin. After the Civil War, Amberley Castle was seized from the Church by Parliament and sold by the Office of Sequestration of Estates to Mr John Butler, a cloth merchant from London who built the Manor House out of the ruins which had been the Great Hall. History of Amberley Castle - Amberley Castle

The banks of the Arun

An old poster for a Water Vole campaign

The thatcher's signature on the top of this newly re-thatched cottage in Amberley

The thatching firm I work for doesn’t do finials – a twee Home Counties affectation, I was told once. We’re not alone: in her 1939 study of English craft traditions, Made in England, Dorothy Hartley records a thatcher saying that only those with “more time nor sense” indulge in such adornments.

For others, the figures are the crowning glory of a roof – and a chance to show off a thatcher’s skill and imagination. As well as countless foxes and pheasants, I’ve come across the wheel of a ship, a trio of pigs, and a straw snake, winding over the top of a ridge.

West Country thatchers have been making straw figures for centuries, a tradition that can be traced back to the dollies placed on hayricks. These were used to identify the owner and deter foraging birds – and at one time were also intended to ward off evil spirits and witches. The descendants of these old talismans are now proudly mounted on some of the most exclusive country properties. Tom Allan, 2017 In the rooftop realm of straw animals | Rural affairs | The Guardian

Amberley Village



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