Description and Walk
There are at least two ways onto the Sandy Smith Nature Reserve that we know of, and for walkers the best option is probably via the lane adjacent to Top Farm. Cyclists are better served by the entrance at Standalone Warren. Both addresses are set-out below.
For walkers beginning at Top farm there are two entrances close to the small parking area, one is next to a large five-bar gate, the other is a marked footpath. Whichever you choose to take, the walk makes a natural circuit: you enter through one entrance and end-up at the other. Both are within metres of where the cars are parked. See our route map.
This 93 hectare site is owned and managed by the Greensand Trust, and is at least partially situated on the site of the formerly, locally well-known Chicksands ‘Stonehenge’ radio antenna array. This was a military facility operated by the United States Air Force which was used, along with other such bases around the world, to triangulate radio transmissions emanating from the Russian Armed Forces. These days, satellites do the job.
As well as being a nature reserve, part of Sandy Smith still functions as a live shooting range used by the army at JFC Chicksands. On Sunday mornings in the autumn and winter there are often red flags flying to signify clay pigeon shooting, deer culling and military target practice. The golden rule, therefore, is to always follow the many signs, observe the red flags, and keep to the marked footpaths. In any event, it’s difficult not to notice the sound of gunshot or to hear the spectacular echoes that sound ominously like near-miss ricochets.
According to one soldier we spoke to, the sound of gunfire and the sight of red flags is still not sufficient to deter some walkers, who occasionally insist on strolling onto the live ranges. Tip of the day: Don’t do it.
With regards to the Standalone Warren entrance, this presents as one very long path running between two sides of a large, unpromising wood. Unpromising because the wood is rather dense and not especially inviting – think Bilbo Baggins and Mirkwood, except this one is probably not enchanted. Cyclists, on the other hand, can traverse the lengthy woodland path with ease, and ultimately do whatever it is that cyclists do. I’m not really sure where they end up, but the nature reserve as a whole would be too grassy and bumpy to make off-road cycling very enjoyable.
Sandy Smith is a pretty big site and there are parts of it that we have not explored yet, even though we have been three times. So, it's worth visiting, though rather unsung.