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25 miles from Gatwick, 13 miles from Brighton, 5 miles from Shoreham Port

Archive for October, 2017

Tottington Woodlanders – Grand Day Out

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

With over 500 visitors to the small patch of ancient woodland in Small Dole, the Tottington Woodlanders 25th anniversary was their most successful event to date.

Dan, Toby and Tookie the wonder-horse, provided their rapt audience with a show to remember. Dragging unfeasibly cut large trees from the woodland glades to the one-man-saw-mill to be converted to pristine planks was amazing to behold. The difference in skills required and the gentle way in which Tookie steadily got the job done compared with the modern machinery methods was lovely to see. Her hoof prints in the forest floor were not a danger to flora and fauna in the same way caterpillar tracks would have been.


The main display area showed us Forest Knights with longbow making and survival crafts, Besom broom making by Arthur Haffenden, Ian Swain and his traditional tools and sharpeners, Pete Brown and his turned items (my daughter is the proud owner of a beautiful wooden mushroom thanks to him), Mike Gordon and his pole lathe, Richard Bingham and his beautiful hand made trugs (Also now in residence with the tiny mushroom), Ken Wood and his walking sticks, Paul Matthews making hurdles, Michael Blencowe with the Sussex Wildlife Trust and last but not least, Ken Hempleman and his leather goods stall. The array of skills and traditional methods on offer was interesting, diverse and a feast for the eyes.

We also enjoyed some amazing ginger cake thanks to Pauline and her hard working team of tea-makers and cake-dispatchers, and I’m told the sausages on Little Lotmans were delicious. I tried the homemade tomato chutney on a cheese roll and it was the best I had ever had.

Finally, it would be re-miss of me not to mention the guided tours given by Malcolm – the chair of the Tottington Woodlanders. At one point he was surrounded by all sides on three generations of Mackleys and despite this he remained unruffled, entertaining and informative – even when we all had to shelter under a large acorn tree to avoid the worst of a downpour. We learnt about the oldest tree in the woods, the ancient art of coppicing and why it is so crucial to the survival of the woods, the hedge laying at the boundaries, the butterfly glade, the threats to the woodland and it’s future. It was fascinating and moving to hear the work that goes in to keeping those trees, and the wildlife that relies on them, healthy and happy.


The Woodlanders are a small, hard working group of dedicated nature lovers, without whom the woods would be a brambly, dark, shadow of their current selves. They always need support and volunteers, so even if you couldn’t come and see the fruits of their labours on their special day, if you would like to find out more then there are other ways to get involved.

They meet on Sundays over the Winter months to do brush clearing and burning, coppicing and all sorts of other general work that the woods demand. Its convivial, welcoming and a great way to get the children off a screen and enjoy some fresh air. (If you’re very lucky, Pauline may even make ginger cake to go with the fire side tea.)

To find out more check out the website and the Facebook page