Furnace Meadow and Brick Kiln Rough

Location: Ebernoe Common, near Petworth, West Sussex

Grid Reference: SU 977 277

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A magical area of old grassland and semi-natural woodland, set in the Sussex Weald.

Furnace Meadow, named after a 17th century ironworks, is delightfully situated in a small valley. Within its small area, it contains a range of habitats, from meadow to marshy grassland, scrub and stream. The ten-acre field had been neglected before we bought the land, but since grazing was restored in 1995 it has burst into life once more.

Banks sloping steeply down to the stream support a strikingly rich flora, with old grassland specialities like cowslip, pepper-saxifrage, pignut, zigzag clover and adder’s-tongue fern. Ragged-robin, sneezewort and yellow iris grow in damper areas. The streamside is lined with scrub of blackthorn, hawthorn, willow, maple and alder.

Beneath the trees, woodland edge species flourish, including bluebell and the delicate little “town-hall clock” moschatel (below). Dragonflies dart over the stream and roe deer graze the meadow.

Woodland riches

To the southwest of the meadow there is an area of ancient woodland, where hazel, maple, ash and goat willow have been coppiced – cut off near ground level so regenerating shoots can be harvested repeatedly. This provides shelter for wood anemone, dog’s mercury, lesser celandine, bluebell and some earlypurple orchid.

Brick Kiln Rough adds to the diversity of the site and is at its best in the spring. This is an area of ancient oak woodland, sharing many species with the Furnace coppice, including the largest colony of early-purple orchid in the reserve. The harvested coppice was used to fuel a kiln here in the 18th century which turned the local clay into bricks.

Purchase of the reserve was made possible by Unilever (Timotei).