Wetland Conservation Area and Westwood Lake
Water runs all the way through Wakehurst Place - the streams from Westwood Valley and Horsebridge Wood were dammed to create Westwood Lake, set in a valley and surrounded by mostly mixed native woodland.
Although artificial, the lake is much more than a decorative feature. Obviously, it is a useful habitat for local plants and animals, but less so, it is vital as a water store for the estate. The small building alongside the path on the west side of the lake is a pump house, distributing water when needed to the many watering points on the estate's irrigation system. Mains water from the public supply is never used to water the plants growing in our Nursery or in the estate.
After Westwood Lake, the flow of water goes through the Wetland Conservation Area to Ardingly Reservoir and the Loder Valley Nature Reserve.
The Wetland Conservation Area
The Wetland Conservation Area at the far end of Westwood Valley gives an easily-accessible flavour of the three main Wealden habitats - woodland, meadows and wetland.
The mixed native woodland is self-evident on either side of the paths to the Conservation Area. The wetland area is best seen from the raised walkway crossing an area of water and marsh planted with native water plants and marginals of all sizes, including reeds and, importantly, osiers - coppiced willows - whose shoots, when harvested, are used in basket-making. A dipping platform allows school groups using the Field Study Centre to get close to the water creatures of the estate.
Climbing away from the lake, a path reaches a small meadow, traditionally managed to allow the full flowering of grasses and wild flowers. This provides a habitat and food not only for for small mammals and birds, but also for insects throughout their complete life cycle. Nectar plants are important for the adults, but their larvae often need different food plants. At the back of the meadow is the SEEBOARD Field Study Centre.
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Thale cress hit the headlines in 2000, when this small garden weed became the first plant to have its genome sequenced.