Brandy Hole Copse is a local nature reserve that lies on Brandy Hole Lane just off the B2178, Old Broyle Road in the west of Chichester. It’s a beautiful coppiced area, full of shrubs, chestnut, sycamore and oak, lined narrow paths, ideal for short walks on a Sunday afternoon. In the Spring and Summer, you will come across many types of butterfly, dragonflies, frogs, bats in the evenings and squirrels.
The Friends of Brandy Hole Copse (FBHC) and ‘The Crumblies Conservation Volunteers ‘ manage the copse throughout the year,. They conduct guided walks, pond dipping sessions and nature trails for the local community. Coppicing is still practised to maintain the balance of light for the plant life, woodland and wildlife. It can seem rather drastic at times, but it regrows very quickly.
The paths through the copse have a magical feel about them, especially during the evening light. There are plenty of routes to choose from and they change their character through the year. I especially like the path to the north of the copse that takes you past a fallen tree, blown down in a storm. I have to duck under it as I continue along. This path leads past some very curious concrete objects, large cuboids and cones, weather warn. These are the Word War II tank traps placed there to stop advancing enemy vehicles in case the south coast was invaded. Finally, the path takes you to a gate and onto Centurion Way.
Some days, I get a strange sensation as I walk along this enchanted path; something slows me down on my journey. Some of that may be the soggy feeling underfoot if we’ve had a lot of rain! It can turn into a bit of a bog when wet so bring wellies.
I recorded the video below, taken in July 2017 to give a small idea of the copse’s beauty. You’ll see the small pond, nearby the Brandy Hole Lane entrance on the west side, and you’ll see some of the paths wind their way through the copse. All credit must be given to the volunteers that keep this reserve so well maintained – a lot of time and love is regularly poured into this place.
History of Brandy Hole Copse
There are ancient defensive earthworks running along the north and west edges of Brand Hole Copse, thought to be late Iron-Age. These ridges are clearly visible today and show the importance of this land.
Brandy Copse’s name is said to originate from its smuggling connections of the 18th and 19th centuries. A barrel of brandy was found in a cave during the construction of the Chichester to Midhurst branch railway line in 1881, near the bridge under Brandy Hole Lane. it was thought to have been a smuggler’s cave!
Adjacent to Brandy Hole Copse is a path that runs from near Bishop Luffa School in Chichester to the site of Lavant’s old railway station. The route now extends beyond up to West Dean. This used to be an old railway line. This railway from Chichester to Midhurst stopped carrying passengers in 1935 and the line was closed north of Lavant in 1957. The remaining section was used to carry gravel and sugar beet until 1991. The tracks were then removed a few years later, and in 1995 a path was opened alongside Brandy Hole Copse that lead to Lavant, part of the Centurion Way.
Photographs are my own.