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Forbidden Britain – Access to the Arundel Estates

August 12, 2012

Forbidden Britain – Access and Arundel Park

The Arundel Park Estates around Arundel Castle, home of the dukes of Norfolk, has been mentioned a few times in this blog and on my website. The signs around the boundaries indicate access – away from the several rights of way – on all days of the year bar one. But on a couple of recent visits I have found gates locked, discouraging the public from entering (though I climbed over!)

Sussex access campaigner Dave Bangs has sent this update on access to the estate, for which I am most grateful.

Hiya John,

You are being too kind to the Arundel Castle Estate.

Most painfully, they blocked up the northern entrance to Arundel Park (which gives access to the superb ancient woodland of South Wood with its special relict flora…and some superb old chalk grassland sites) back in 1998.

This was the customary way into the Park from Whiteways car park…a famous and much-used ‘honeypot’ for visitors. They closed the lodge gates entrance and bricked up the hole in the Park wall.

We organised a big mass trespass there in the spring of 1999 and marched through the town with our banner and across the Park and climbed the wall back and forth to mark our disgust….and got some good publicity for the CROW bill…but no result in terms of Park access.

The reason the estate did this was because of their game bird management of this area, which has its HQ in those northern Park woods.

All of the current Arundel Park was common land until 1809, by the way, when the then megalomaniac Duke enclosed it all.

We went on a family picnic to the Swanbourne Lake part of the southern Park only last summer and found the gate into the middle Park locked and with prohibitive signing. That was the main customary route that the public used from the Swanbourne ‘honeypot’ site to the Park’s eastern slope ancient chalk grassland access land sites…

At the moment the area which gives me most concern is The Rewell, an area of heathy ancient woodland which, in fact, was the medieval Castle Park until 1809, when it was replaced by the modern Park just to the east across the London Road.

The Rewell was leased to the Forestry Commission until April of last year, when the FC was forced by financial cutbacks to sell back their lease to the Arundel estate.

The Rewell is particularly famous with lepidopterists, and has a population of the (very rare) Scarce Merveille Du Jour and many other good moths. The FC was conducting a very good project to conserve the very rare Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary population there…and enhance it. Indeed, The Rewell was the seed site for the translocation of SPB Frit to their property at Abbots Wood , north of Eastbourne some years ago.

Now, I think all that good work is at risk. The Rewell had informal public access under the FC, though they couldn’t make it CROW access land becos it was only leasehold.

The Arundel Estate say they will manage it as before, but I wouldn’t put a penny on it…Already the new management company – Euroforest – have their new notices up…and they make no reference to public access. I think the long term prognosis is one of decline in the wildlife interest and attrition of the public’s access…and a new emphasis on game management…

All these above notes omit any analysis of the Park’s fortunes as a wildlife resource in modern times under the Dukes…Briefly, most of the ancient chalk grassland has long gone…every place, that is, that was tractor-accessible and thus easily ‘improveable’.  The Park was most famous for its ancient trees, mostly beech, which had a superb dead wood assemblage, particularly of wonderful beetles, but, after the ’87 an ’92 gales they were nearly all cleared ruthlessly by the Estate.

To paraphrase a top coleopterist in Sussex…”it’s not worth going there, now…it’s ruined”…

Dave Bangs

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