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6 places in Sussex for a wetland walk this winter

PUBLISHED: 10:02 22 November 2016 | UPDATED: 14:52 21 February 2018

Pagham Harbour

Pagham Harbour

Archant

Winter is a great time to enjoy the salt marshes and other wetlands of Sussex, says Hazel Sillver. Wrap up warm and don’t forget the binoculars, as you head out on one of these scenic wildlife walks

Pagham Harbour

Location: Sidlesham, near Chichester, PO20 7NE

The wetland: Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve is a sheltered inlet that fills and empties with each tide, creating a wetland habitat for wildlife, particularly birds. The site is managed by the RSPB and covers 1,450 acres of salt marsh, farmland, marshes, lagoons, reed beds and shingle beaches. It is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area and a Ramsar site.

The wildlife: There are many birds to spot in autumn and winter, including redstarts, spotted flycatchers, honey buzzards, wrynecks, Brent geese, teals and pintails, as well common and grey seals.

The walk: From the RSPB car park on the B2145 between Sidlesham and Selsey, head south. The path eventually leads through hedgerow, alongside water, out towards the wetlands, and finally the beach. You can do a circular loop through Church Norton, but this involves walking along a stretch of the main road.

Where to refuel: The Crab & Lobster restaurant (01243 641233; crab-lobster.co.uk; PO20 7NB) in Sidlesham serves tasty dishes made with locally caught fish and shellfish. To find it, head right out of the car park, then after half a mile turn right down Mill Lane.

Dogs: Should be put on a lead when close to wildlife in the reserve.

01243 641508; rspb.org.uk

Arundel

Location: Arundel, near Littlehampton, BN18 9PB

The wetland: WWT Arundel is a 65-acre nature reserve on the banks of the River Arun, encompassing reed beds. Many birds can also be seen on the nearby lake beside Arundel Castle.

The wildlife: Look out for kingfishers, tufted duck, shoveler, teal, pochard, gadwall, and mallard ducks, Canada geese, and water voles, who are busy fattening up for the winter.

The walk: Enjoy a walk through the reed beds of the wetland centre, along a network of boardwalks. If you fancy a longer stroll, you can do a circuit through Arundel Park and along the banks of the River Arun.

Where to refuel: The Black Rabbit pub (01903 882638; theblackrabbitarundel.co.uk; BN18 9PB) is on the river between Arundel and Offham, just north of the wetland centre; Swanbourne Lodge (01903 884293; swanbournelodge.co.uk; BN18 9PA) sits beside Swanbourne Lake opposite the wetland centre and serves cream teas; and there is also a café in the wetland centre.

Disabled access: Every area of the wetland centre is accessible.

Dogs: Only assistance dogs are welcome in the wetland centre.

01903 883355; wwt.org.uk

Pulborough Brooks

Location: Pulborough, near Petworth, RH20 2EL

The wetland: Open year-round, RSPB Pulborough Brooks encompasses wetlands, woodlands, and heathland of the South Downs National Park. In late autumn and winter the flooded meadows are an important habitat for birds.

The wildlife: Look out for flycatchers, fieldfares, redwings, redstarts, whinchats, and yellow wagtails. You may also see wigeon, teal, and shoveler ducks, as well as swans and geese. In winter birds of prey such as peregrines, merlins and sparrowhawks soar the skies.

The walk: The wetland trail is two miles but a longer walk can be enjoyed along the riverbanks and past Lickfold village.

Where to refuel: The Pulborough Brooks café serves hearty hot lunches, soup, sandwiches, and cakes.

Disabled access: A mobility scooter is available, or a manual wheelchair can access the main trail with a strong helper.

Dogs: Four-legged visitors are allowed on the public footpaths, only assistance dogs are allowed on the wetland nature trail.

01798 875851; rspb.org.uk

Rye Harbour

Location: Rye, TN31 7TU

The wetland: Rye Harbour Nature Reserve encompasses 465 ha of fields, saltmarsh, saline lagoons, reedbeds and shingle on the coast between Rye and Winchelsea. There are five bird-watching hides if you fancy getting your binoculars out.

The wildlife: More than 90 species of bird breed on the reserve, and it is visited by almost 300 species. Look out for oystercatchers, little egrets, kingfishers, cormorants, grey herons, teals, mute swans, Canada geese, and lapwings.

The walk: Enjoy a long circular six mile stroll through the reserve, or along the sandy beach.

Where to refuel: The Mermaid Inn in Rye (01797 223065; mermaidinn.com; TN31 7EY) serves restaurant and bar food. Alternatively head to the Avocet Gallery & Tea Room (01797 223005; avocetgalleryandtea.co.uk; TN31 7TY) for tea and cake.

Disabled access: Wheelchairs are available for hire and can be used on the tarmac road of the Beach Reserve; contact the visitor centre for more information.

Dogs: Dogs are welcome.

01797 227784; sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk

Cuckmere Haven

Location: Seven Sisters Country Park, near Seaford, BN25 4AD

The wetland: The Cuckmere Estuary, where the River Cuckmere meanders through a wide flood plain towards the sea, is known as Cuckmere Haven. The river, salt marsh, and saline lagoons here provide a habitat for many birds.

The wildlife: Look out for grey herons, kestrels, oystercatchers, little grebes, cormorants, little egrets, geese, and swans.

The walk: Enjoy a circular loop of three miles through the wetlands and back along Vanguard Way, or do a much longer walk encompassing the Seven Sisters clifftops.

Where to refuel: The Cuckmere Inn (01323 89224; vintageinn.co.uk/thecuckmereinnseaford; BN25 4AB) offers traditional pub food. Alternatively The Plough & Harrow (01323 870632; ploughandharrowlitlington.co.uk; BN26 5RE) in Litlington offers tasty pub food, with some vegetarian options.

Dogs: Must be on a lead around livestock.

0345 608 0193; sevensisters.org.uk

Pevensey Levels

Location: Pevensey, near Eastbourne, BN24 6QG

The wetland: The Pevensey Levels is a vast area of wet meadow, scrub, pools, ditches, and freshwater fen. Within this are two National Nature Reserves, which are managed by Sussex Wildlife Trust and Natural England.

The wildlife: Keep your eyes peeled for grey herons, cormorants, mute swans, Canada geese, mallards, coots, moorhens, redshanks, yellow wagtails, lapwings, kingfishers and water rails. Birds of prey such as kestrels and peregrines hunt here all year round.

The walk: The designated reserves are sometimes open to the public via guided walks, but the wetlands around the designated conservation areas can be enjoyed most of the year on, for example, the 1066 Country Walk public footpath or footpaths from Normans Bay.

Where to refuel: The Star Inn at Normans Bay (01323 762648; thestarinnnormansbay.co.uk; BN24 6QG) serves pub fare, including vegetarian options.

Dogs: Dogs are welcome.

01323 423962; naturalengland.org.uk; sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk

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