The National Trust in Slindon
The Slindon Estate is a 3,500 acre agricultural and woodland estate on the South Downs, in the care of the National Trust. It is an excellent example of a typical Sussex estate and includes two-thirds of the properties in the village, Slindon House (now Slindon College, a boys’ school), four tenanted farms and much of the surrounding woodland. There is an extensive network of footpaths and bridle ways across the estate and open access to wooded areas.
The National Trust has owned the estate since 1950, when Frederick Wootton Isaacson, the owner of the estate from 1913 to his death in 1948, bequeathed it. The Slindon Estate starts at the top of the coastal plain and gently rises in a northerly direction across undulating hills to a high point of 245 metres at Glatting Beacon, before dropping down the steeply wooded escarpment to Bignor village.
The whole area is rich in archaeology, going back as far as 100,000 years ago. In Palaeolithic times (Old Stone Age), the sea came up to Slindon and evidence of this has been found through excavations, revealing a raised beach. The Romans left their mark on the estate, most notably the Roman road of Stane Street, which crosses the Downs here as it makes its way to London from Chichester. This section of the road, which dates back to AD79, is the best surviving part of Stane Street and one of the best examples of a Roman road in the country.
In AD 684, Caedwalla (the king of the West Saxons or Wessex) was granted Slindon and he gave it to Bishop Wilfred who then donated it to the Archbishops of Canterbury. The estate stayed in the ownership of the Archbishops until given to the Crown in the 16th century (Henry VIII). A palace was built for the Archbishops near to the site of the modern day Slindon House, as well as a mediaeval deer park. Today, the park survives (without the deer) and the house is Slindon College.
Many of the vernacular flint buildings of the village are in the ownership of the National Trust, most of which were built in the 18th century but the oldest dates back to the 15th century. The best known landmark on the estate is the early 19th century Folly, built on the top of Nore Hill. Originally there was a round house behind the arch, which was used for tea and lunches during shoots.
Slindon was once famous for its magnificent beech woods around Slindon Park but most of these trees came down in the great storm of 1987. Today the woodlands are very much managed with wildlife in mind, with deadwood invertebrates and molluscs particularly doing well. There is a large number of veteran trees across the area. Spring and early Summer is a good time to see the many flowering woodland plants, eg bluebells and varieties of woodland orchid such as Early Purple Orchid.
There is a camping barn (Gumber Bothy) and a base camp (residential hostel) on the estate, which can be hired by volunteer and private groups. Information on these can be found on the National Trust website. There are car parks at Dukes Road and Park Lane giving access to Slindon woods. Also, there is a car park at Bignor Hill where the South Downs Way crosses the estate.
Katie Archer (Lead Ranger)
Lisa Trownson (Area Ranger Slindon Estate)
Tel: 01243 814730
Link: www.nationaltrust.org.uk and follow links to Slindon