This month’s featured walk is a 3km (2mile) stroll around Bersted Brooks in North Bersted. Established as a Local Nature Reserve in 2010, Bersted Brooks covers an area of 19 hectares and with its many habitats is an important site for wildlife. The reserve borders Rowan Way, Shripney Lane and the Aldingbourne Rife and is spread over three separate fields, it has wide areas of meadow, narrow reedbeds, ditches, ponds, and a floodplain woodland of Willow and Elder as these trees can live with their roots in water. The Brooks floods every winter, making it a good place for wetland wildlife.
The brooks can be explored in a variety of ways; however, a good way round is walking the perimeter of each field before moving on to the next. From the car park just off Rowan Way is the first field, a wide-open meadow with a small circle of black Poplar trees that borders three ponds of differing depths, in the winter following heavy rain these ponds tend to overflow and become one. There is a purpose made path which is accessible to all that goes around half of the meadow and I believe is planned to be extended all the way round. The far end of the meadow just beyond the trees is known as ‘Crickets Field’ and on a quiet summers day you can hear a whole chorus of crickets. Follow the Aldingbourne Rife and the narrow reed bed leading to the next meadow.
The second meadow is much more wooded than the others and adds a different perspective, more than 11,000 trees have been planted across the brooks since 2000 mainly Alder, Crack Willow and Grey Willow, this particular meadow has been renamed ‘Friends Field’ in acknowledgement of the contribution the friends make to Bersted Brooks. In this meadow along the rife, scrapes with gently sloping edges have been created to improve access for both birds and water voles.
The third meadow is also a mixture of woodlands and meadows. It contains an area that is fenced off providing a dog free wildlife sanctuary, this allows ground nesting birds such as skylarks to be undisturbed. An intriguing bench is situated by the rife in this meadow and is a great opportunity to take a rest. At the far corner of the field is an exit to Shripney Lane where the walk can be extended if so desired.
The walk back to the car park is along the northern edge of the Brooks that borders farmland. In the northern corner of the first field is an old farm pond, the mature reeds, and trees around makes it a good habitat for voles and other small mammals. The pond itself is home to many dragonflies.
The walk can be done as a stroll just around the Bersted Brooks or part of a longer walk taking in the Bersted Park sculptures the other side of the relief road.
Further information about Bersted Brooks can be found on their website Friends of Bersted Brooks | A nature haven on the outskirts of Bognor Regis (wordpress.com)