Worth Church & Worthlodge Forest; a relic of the former Worth royal hunting forest. 01.09.23
Worthlodge Forest is a relic of the former Royal hunting forest of Worth. Worth Forest has a more unified block of near-continuous woodland than anywhere else in middle Sussex (even St Leonards Forest)... The Forest reaches to just a mile from the centre of Crawley, and it is bounded along most of its northern side by Crawley's spreading suburbs, yet the bulk of its woodlands have no formal public access. The Forest is a place of peace where nature seems to rule, yet its dense coniferous plantings and dense Rhododendron infestation over some areas, have eliminated communities of wildlife which had survived for many thousands of years. David Bangs (2018) The Land of the Brighton Line: A field guide to the Middle Sussex and South East Surrey Weald , p.291
The Worthlodge Forest is part of the earlier extensive forest of Andredswald, which from ancient times stretched across the South-East from an area close to the Hampshire border, over the High Weald into East Sussex. The area came to prominence in the 16th and 17th centuries as the Wealden iron industry developed, extracting iron ore from the landscape and using the abundant forest to produce the charcoal that was the essential fuel for the process. The forest has many ditches, embankments and mounds which confirm its use over the centuries as a valuable resource. Worthlodge Forest circular | The Argus
I started my Worthlodge Forest circular walk at Old Worth, now a suburb of Crawley, West Sussex. To get to Worth Church from Brighton take the train to Three Bridges (four trains an hour ca. 30 minute journey time) or take the 272 bus to Crawley Bus station (one bus an hour, 70 minutes journey time 273 - Crawley - Brighton (Old Steine) | Metrobus and then get one of the frequent bus to Three Bridges Station (ca. 15 minutes). From Three Bridges follow the Worth Way to Worth, and after visiting worth Church, I followed the Worth Way circular walk 1:
All sections of text in italics are quotations, sources sited.
I am only an amateur naturalist; thus all identifications are provisional; if you note a mistake in identification please feel free to tell me. If you want to contact me about any aspect of this blog, email me at simeon[underscore]elliott[at]gmail[dot]com.
Worth is at once a glory and a mystery. Domesday Book lists it in Surrey and the mediaeval parish consisted of over 13,000 acres, suggesting it was little developed with a small population, yet the church is large. Most early churches in Sussex are on the Downs or the coastal strip, where most people lived, but here the manor was a forest reserved for hunting and granted to William de Warrenne by William II ; in 1065 it had been held by the brother of the abbot of Chertsey, who may have had influence over the area. Worth – St Nicholas – Sussex Parish Churches
An ancient Oak in its churchyard
The small avenue of Large Leaved Limes, Tilia platyphyllos, which lead to the Church
(N.B One of the biggest trees in Sussex is a huge pollarded Small Leaved lime on the Worth Way, just east of Worth Church.)
An ancient Cedar in the church yard
Faced with Wealden Sandstone, Worth church is stunningly and unmistakably Saxon, with its pilaster strips all round the outside, its double-headed windows and its apse.
Worth is a common Old English place name, usually meaning “enclosure”, but in this case, and in that of Worthing, it comes from the personal name “Wurth”. Worth lay within the Forest of Andredsweald and the church is believed to have been founded by King Edward the Confessor himself, who dedicated it to St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (died 6th December, 343 AD).... Held of King Edward by Oswol, after the Conquest it was given by William l to William de Warenne, whose family held it until the middle of the 14th century. It passed to the Fitzalan family (Earls of Arundel) then, in 1415, to the Nevilles.
The church is cruciform in shape, with an apse at the east end; it has been dated to between 950 and 1050, but possibly earlier which of course would preclude Edward the Confessor being its founder. As it stands today, 99% of the nave walls, the three great internal arches and the two transepts are original Saxon work. It is constructed of coursed rubble (irregular shaped stones laid in lines) which is the commonest fabric used in Anglo-Saxon walling. Jenny Ashbury (2017) Worth church – Tha Engliscan Gesithas (tha-engliscan-gesithas.org.uk)
I walked along the Worth Way, through Worthlodge Forest. I turned off (to the right, south) from the Worth Way when it meets the Turner Hill Road. Then I walked down Standinghill Lane (which is a footpath rather than a road) through Worthlodge Forest. Before reaching Worth Abbey I made a sharp north west turn onto the footpath that takes you west (downhill) to the B2306 next to the M23; which has a bridge over the M23 into Crawley. Turning points marked with red crosses on this map. The route is well-described in this article: Worthlodge Forest circular | The Argus
The photographs in this post are ordered chronologically (the order in which I saw the things) but due to an uploading error I uploaded the photos in reverse order, so the photos below follow my route backwards, sorry!
Tree stump with a Cladonia sp, lichen. Many tree stumps in the weald are covered in Cladonia sp. lichen. This stump was on the part of the walk (a small part) through what is called Worth Forest - which is mostly commercial pine plantation. The area called Worthlodge Forest has more ancient trees, which are more representative of the former ancient Worth Forest; although it too has many mature commercial pines
Common Powderhorn Cladonia coniocraea, on tree trunk
Bell Heather, Erica cinerea; showing the underling Wealden acid heath habitat of the old Worth Forest
Probably Cladonia polydactyla on tree stump
Neat Feather-Moss, Pseudoscleropodium purum
Sessile Oak Quercus petraea; less common the Q. Robur in South East
Waterpepper, Persicaria hydropiper; a common Knotweed of wet ground
Tapered Drone Fly, Eristalis pertinax on Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum
Common Cat's-Ear Hypochaeris radicata
Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
Heather revealing the heathland biogeography which underpins Worth forest
Lesser Spearwort, Ranunculus flammula R. flammula has declined in lowland England, especially in central and eastern areas due to habitat destruction, drainage and eutrophication of water, but remains frequent elsewhere Ranunculus flammula L. in BSBI Online Plant Atlas 2020 Listed as vulnerable on Red list of vascular plants for England.
White Earwort, Diplophyllum albicans; on the banks of a ghyll, characteristic of acidic wet habitats
Probably Common Pellia, Pellia epiphylla on the same ghyll bank
Common Smoothcap, Atrichum undulatum, with capsules
Hard Fern, Struthiopteris spicant
Wavy Bittercress, Cardamine flexuosa, on of water-logged land round a ghy;;
Devil's-bit Scabious, Succisa pratensis
Holly Blue, Celastrina argiolus, on Common Fleabane, Pulicaria dysenterica
Male Fern Dryopteris filix-mas
Tufted Hair Grass, Deschampsia cespitosa
Gyrinus sp. a genus of small aquatic whirligig beetles
A widening of the maim ghyll providing an area of wetland in which the Gyrinus live
A stunning ancient Beech, Fagus sylvatica
Bleeding Oak Crust, Stereum gausapatum
Black Stone Flower, Parmotrema perlatum
Common Feather-Moss, Kindbergia praelonga
Probably Finger Cup Lichen Cladonia digitata
Common Bent, Agrostis capillaris
Bitterr Oysterling, Panellus stipticus. A saprobic fungus i.e. a fungus that feeds on dead organic matter, mostly dead wood.
Lumpy Bracket, Trametes gibbosa A saprophytic [which obtain nutrients directly from dead organic matter] polypore, the Lumpy Bracket is found on most kinds of hardwood trees but most commonly on Beech, forming brackets on standing timber and more often rosettes on the tops of stumps. It causes white rot. Trametes gibbosa, Lumpy Bracket fungus (first-nature.com)
Transpiration from the sweet chestnut leaves as the sun warms them
Probably Greater Featherwort, Plagiochila asplenioides
Probably Hart's-tongue Thyme-Moss Plagiomnium undulatum
Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria
Hedge Woundwort Stachys sylvatica, seeds
European Goldenrod, Many populations of S. virgaurea in lowland Britain have disappeared since the 1960s due to habitat loss and it is now a very localized species in areas dominated by intensive agriculture. Upland populations appear to have fared much better although it is likely to have suffered localized declines due to overgrazing and moorland burning. Solidago virgaurea L. in BSBI Online Plant Atlas 2020
Enchanter's-Nightshade Circaea lutetiana
Cuckoo-Pint Arum maculatum
Tufted Vetch, Vicia cracca
Common Field-Speedwel, Veronica persica; an anthropogenic introduction
Redshank Persicaria maculosa