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Fairmile Bottom

Ancient Yew treeA one-kilometre sweep of wildflower-rich grassland, following the smooth downland contours, surrounded by atmospheric woodland. Groves of yew trees, living sculptures with wonderfully convoluted trunks. Views over the pastures and hedgerows of Madehurst to Glatting Beacon on the horizon. An important haven for insects such as butterflies, moths and an outstanding diversity of beetles.

What's at Fairmile Bottom?

Chalk grassland is one of our richest natural habitats, maintained by centuries of grazing. Nationally about 80% has been lost in the last sixty years, so this is an important site. It is rich in flowers, including scented herbs such as wild basil, thyme and marjoram. Ten orchid species have been found here, including bee, frog and fragrant. Other colourful finds included devil’s bit scabious and delicate nodding harebells.

Green Woodpecker by Roger CraggButterflies include silver washed fritillary, grizzled skipper and white admiral. The grassland buzzes with grasshoppers. The anthills in the grassland and decaying branches in the surrounding trees make this a great place to see green woodpeckers. As well as yew and beech, the woodland features oak, ash, coppiced hazel and sweet chestnut. A range of impressive fungi thrive on the woodland’s decaying matter. A rare species of flat bark beetle depends on the beech trees and is known from just a handful of sites in the UK.

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How to get there

Interactive map

To find Fairmile Bottom, launch our interactive iMap (opens in a new window), select 'British National Grid' from the search menu and enter SU985091 into the search box (top left).

Walking

The network of footpaths and bridleways in the area connect the site to Madehurst, Slindon, Houghton and Arundel (2½ miles away). The Monarch’s Way passes nearby the site, following Charles II’s escape route from Worcester to Shoreham-by-Sea.

By bike

The site can be reached on a bridleway from central Arundel (2½ miles).
Use West Sussex Cycle Journey Planner

By train

Nearest train stations are Amberley (3 miles on foot or bike) and Arundel (3½ miles on foot or bike). See related links for more information.

By car

There is limited lay-by parking at the site alongside the A29 between its junction with the A284 (Whiteways roundabout) and Slindon.

Getting around

Fungus on beech treeThe grassland area is Open Access Land and can be walked around freely. There are no surfaced paths and the terrain is sloping. Towards the top of the slope is a well-trodden route for walking the full length of the grassland area. A public footpath leads into the south-west end of the grassland from Rewell Wood.

Dogs should be kept under close control please, to avoid disturbance to wildlife and other visitors.

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Facilities

There are no toilets or other facilities on the site.

Whiteways countryside and picnic site is just up the A29 at Whiteways roundabout, with car park, picnic site, Whiteways Café and toilets.

How we look after the site

Sussex CattleFairmile Bottom is designated a nationally important Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its yew woodland and chalk grassland. It is also a Local Nature Reserve. It is managed by West Sussex County Council Countryside Services.

Chalk grassland needs traditional management to maintain it and control scrub; nationally we have lost over 80% of our chalk grassland during the past 60 years. West Sussex County Council has reintroduced traditional cattle grazing to conserve this site's special downland flora and fauna, characteristic of the South Downs National Park. Cattle create a patchwork of different habitats in the grassland, benefiting plants such as fragrant orchid and wild thyme, as well as butterflies, grasshoppers and other insects.

More places to explore nearby

Footpaths from Fairmile Bottom continue into Rewell Wood to the south and east and Houghton Forest to the north-east.


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