Posted on

The Lupin Field

Against the distant background of the South Downs, a small church stands alone among fields and woodland. It is a modest building from the late 11th or early 12th century with extensive 19th-century alterations including the addition of a porch. This is St Peter’s Church in the West Sussex village of Terwick and here you’ll find The Lupin Field.

There has never been a village of Terwick as the soil near the church is poor. In 1646 there were only five houses in the parish but they may have been substantial households. Today, it is a lovely place to visit in late May or early June, depending on the weather, to see the lupin field at its best.

This field full of lupins separates St Peter’s from the A272 and is now in National Trust ownership.  Until after World War II the field formed part of the rector’s glebe. The Reverend George Laycock planted the lupins which self-seeded and bloomed year after year. He was Rector of Terwick for over 40 years until his death in 1933 (he is buried in the churchyard). He lived nearby in the large rectory and as he was not burdened with many parish duties, he spent much of his time using the field behind the church as a market garden.

The lupin field was later owned by Mr and Mrs Hodge of nearby Fyning House. She adored the view of the lupin flowers in the field framed by the South Downs. The surrounding land is arable and Mrs Hodge wanted to ensure that the view was protected and the lupins would always be there. On the Hodges’ death in 1939, the field was gifted to the National Trust with the condition that they would continue to grow lupins in part of the field. Through the decades the National Trust has worked with the Rogate community and the local farmer to try and ensure new seed is planted and the number of lupins  maintained.

Today, the lupin field still holds hundreds of lupin plants, but within this is a mix of wild grasses and flowers such as ox-eye daisies, poppies, vetch and meadow cranesbill, which have self-seeded and become part of the meadow. Harvest mice also live here and the space is now a ‘naturalised’ meadow which gives space and opportunities for wildlife to flourish amongst a more formal and farmed landscape. The NT manage the field in a similar way to a hay meadow. A cut is taken late in the year once the lupins have seeded and the grass is baled and removed. Russell mix lupin seeds are sown into the bare ground in spring. The lupins are commemorated in an altar frontal given to St Peter’s to celebrate the millennium.

A272 ROGATE to MIDHURST ROAD National Grid Reference: SU 81784 23512. Signpost to St Peter’s Terwick and parking behind the church.

Walks from here turning east back along the road from the church and then crossing the A272 can take you north to Borden where you connect to the Serpent Trail.

Caroline Douglas