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Often referred to as the finest Yew wood in Europe, Kingley Vale is certainly the best surviving remnant of Yew forest in Britain. This collection of gnarled and twisted trunks, some thought to be more than 500 years old, forms a virtually unique habitat in southern Britain, a dark and mysterious woodland that is worth visiting for its scenic beauty alone.
In addition to the pure Yew woodland there are stands of Yew mixed with Oak, Ash and Whitebeam and scrubbier areas with Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Juniper and Wayfaring Tree.
Elsewhere in the reserve there is chalk grassland, of great botanical interest, and chalk heath where acid-loving species such as Heather can be found.
A great variety of woodland birds can be seen at Kingley Vale at all times of year as well as more open-country species.
Although the pure yew is noticeably poor in birds the mixed and deciduous woodland and areas of scrub support a wide range of breeding species. Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat and Common Whitethroat are among the breeding warblers as well as Common Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. Goldcrest, Eurasian Robin and Common Nightingale also breed in addition to Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit and Blue Tit. Blackbird, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush are all common as are Chaffinch, Bullfinch and Greenfinch but among the most numerous species are Wren, Dunnock and Robin.
The more open areas support Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting, Meadow Pipit and Skylark. Barn Owl, Little Owl and Tawny Owl can be seen in the reserve and Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Common Kestrel are both resident as are Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Woodcock are present but usually elusive and also difficult to see, despite its incredibly gaudy plumage, is the Golden Pheasant. Introduced to Britain from China and now tenuously established, the Golden Pheasant first appeared at Kingley in the 1960s and may still survive although numbers have been in decline for some time.
Passage brings a few additional species to Kingley Vale when Whinchat, Common Redstart and flycatchers appear for short periods. Larger migrants can include Northern Hobby, Common Buzzard and Hen Harrier.
Winter sees the arrival of large numbers of thrushes to join the residents feeding on the many berry-bearing plants. Fieldfare and Redwing both occur in good numbers and there are often large finch flocks in the woodland including Siskin and Redpoll, sometimes also Hawfinch.
Birds you can see here include:
Hen Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Northern Hobby, Red-legged Partridge, Grey Partridge, Common Pheasant, Golden Pheasant, Eurasian Woodcock, Stock Dove, Common Woodpigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, European Turtle Dove, Common Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Skylark, Barn Swallow, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Eurasian Robin, Common Nightingale, Whinchat, European Stonechat, Common Redstart, Black Redstart, Northern Wheatear, Eurasian Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, European Pied Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Common Treecreeper, Common Magpie, Eurasian Jackdaw, Common Jay, Carrion Crow, Common Starling, Chaffinch, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Eurasian Siskin, Eurasian Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, Hawfinch, Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting
As famous for butterflies as birds, Kingley Vale is home to a wide variety such as Chalkhill Blue, Dark-green Fritillary and Grizzled Skipper in the chalk grassland while White Admiral, and Green and Purple Hairstreaks can be seen in the scrub.
As elsewhere on the Downs the chalk grassland supports a high number of plant species including aromatic herbs such as Marjoram and Large Thyme and Typical downland plants like Clustered Bellflower and Round-headed Rampion. Orchids present include Fly, Bee and Frog, Pyramidal, Fragrant and Early Purple as well as the delicate Autumn Lady's Tresses.
Roe Deer and Fallow Deer are both present in the reserve and other mammals include Fox, Badger, Stoat and Weasel, Harvest Mouse and Common Dormouse with reptiles represented by Adder and Common Lizard.
History and Use
Areas of Interest
Access and Facilities
Kingley Vale lies well-hidden on the South Downs and can only be reached on foot after a 1.5km walk from the car-park.
The car-park is situated on the edge of the village of West Stoke which can be reached from the A286 Chichester-Midhurst road by turning on a minor road at Mid Lavant.
The reserve has a signposted 3.5km nature trail.
Content and images originally posted by Steve