Walkers explored rare species and valuable habitats in ancient woodland as part of a campaign to protect it.
Arundel SCATE (South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Environment) organised the guided walk to show people what lies along the proposed Arundel Bypass route A, known as the pink-blue route.
Organisers said the walk through Tortington Common on Sunday attracted 75 people from the Arundel area, with a few from further afield, including Worthing.
The walk started from the banks of the River Arun, where a 30-metre wide road crossing point, by the Billycan Camping site at Manor Farm, a popular dog walking and birdwatching spot, had been marked by pink and blue flags.
Tony Whitbread, Sussex Wildlife Trust chief executive and a woodland expert, described the diverse and rich habitat of the riverside areas, which are home to many insect and bird species such as kingfishers, frequently seen along the Arun.
Further along the route, he explained the importance of woodland edges, indicating the mature oaks bordering Tortington Common, which support more species than any other trees.
He said: “All ancient woodland in the UK has been changed by people over the centuries. We are learning about our history as well as our wildlife.”
The walkers stopped for tea at Noor Wood, in the heart of Tortington Common and directly in the line of the prospective road.
Julie and Tony Upson own the 4.5-acre ancient, semi-natural, woodland site and manage it to restore native species. They are also working with charities, including Mind, to establish the wood as a site for promoting health and wellbeing.
Julie said: “One of many mammals here is the hazel dormouse, a European protected species. We have 55 nesting boxes which are monitored and reported to the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and to Maves.”
Mid Arun Valley Environmental Survey (MAVES) has carried out recent surveys of the woodlands and surrounding countryside.
The newly-published results were outlined by chairman Julia Plumstead and licensed local naturalist Ian Powell.
They said findings included colonies of listed rare bats, populations of dormice, owls, butterflies, and plants signifying ancient woodland.
Ian added: “Large blocks of woodland are critical for wildlife and it’s important that interconnecting hedgerows and ditches are kept for wildlife food sources and thoroughfares.”
Arundel SCATE is an independent group of residents and small businesses concerned about A27 development plans.
Member Marlane Rutledge, of Tortington Lane, said: “This was a very enjoyable walk and showed just how precious the natural landscape here is. We don’t want to lose it.”
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