Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Devil's Jumps, Treyford, West Sussex

A gem of a site and one I return to regularly when walking on the South Downs as it is found along a favorite section of the South Downs Way, being between Harting Down and Cocking.

The Devil's Jumps consists of seven Bronze Age bell barrows, of which the five remaining visible are aligned with the setting sun of mid-summer's day. Only two of the barrow's were found to have burials associated with them when excavated in the 19th century.

Recent clearance of the encroachment of woodland on the southern edge of the site and removal of the trees growing upon the barrows themselves - has opened up the chalk grassland surrounding the site, heightening the barrow's visibility within the landscape - better reflecting their original situation when constructed around 3,500 years ago.

It does not take a leap of imagination to picture how these monuments, when first constructed, must have gleamed bright with the newly exposed chalk, amidst the rolling green of the downland.

I've enjoyed many wildlife encounters on this part of the down over the years, including my first ever red kite (Milvus Milvus) as a novice birder some 10 years ago; along with regular sightings of buzzard (Buteo buteo) and kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) soaring or hovering above. Last autumn I watched three wheatear (Oenanthe Oenanthe) as they foraged on the newly restored chalk grassland. 

At this last visit, meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis) flocked in the adjacent winter seed crop whilst a small herd of fallow deer (Dama dama) grazed openly in a nearby field. Skylark (Alauda arvensis) raised their song in the blue sky and sunshine, of a long overdue mild winter's day.

The site is managed by the Murray Downland Trust - whose BLOG appears at:

the South Downs looking East from Beacon Hill
towards the Devil's Jumps

woodland detail just south of the Devil's Jumps
via the South Downs Way

The Devil's Jumps summer 2007 with encroaching woodland

The Devil's Jumps Feb 2014 looking West
in the recently cleared chalk downland

The first bell barrow (looking East)
the bell-shape and ditch clearly visible

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