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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Autumn Landscapes and Colours: Hastings Country Park NR; Hastings to Fairlight. 03.11.21

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

This post records, in images only, the walk I made from Hastings to Fairlight through the Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve. The photos are in chronological order. At the end of the post there is a list of the animals in the photos; a route map of the walk and some details of the nature reserve from Hastings District Council. This walk is easily accessible by public transport: I caught the train to Hastings from Brighton arriving at 11.40; I walked to East Hill (the start of the park) from Hastings Station. At Fairlight I caught the Stage Coach 101 bus (hourly) back to Hastings Station at 16.30, as the sun was setting.

Animals in the photos

Worker Buff Tailed Bumblebee

Clouded Yellow Butterfly

Green Woodpecker


Helophilus pendulus Hoverfly





Eristalis tenax Hoverfly (aka Drone Fly)

Exmoor Ponies



Black Headed Gulls and Herring Gulls

Map of my walk (route - purple line)

Information about the Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve from Hastings Country Park Local Nature Reserve

The reserve is a beautiful area of ancient gill woodland, maritime cliff and slope, cliff top grassland and mixed heather, lowland meadow and sustainably managed farmland, all sitting with the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The nature reserve covers 345 hectares (853 acres) of coastal gill woodlands, open pasture and cliff top grassland, together with five kilometres of dramatic soft rock cliffs and coastline.

Some of the most stunning views of the south east coast can be experienced from the cliff tops. On clear days there are spectacular views overlooking the coastline from Beachy Head to Dungeness and as far afield as Folkestone and the coast of France.

It is difficult to underestimate the importance of the site to wildlife conservation on a national, international and local context. The site is an outstanding area for birdwatching with many species breeding throughout the various habitats.

Many rare and scarce liverworts, mosses and lichens occur within the gills. Peregrines, black redstarts and fulmars breed on the cliffs. Dartford warblers, stonechats and yellowhammers breed on the gorse covered hillsides.

Many migrants pass through the site in spring and autumn and usually include a few rarities such as Sardinian warbler, red-rumped swallow, and Pallas's warbler which have all occurred in recent years.

A large population of dormice occur within the woodland areas here. Stoats and weasels are also seen regularly and bottlenose dolphin and harbour porpoise can be seen occasionally offshore from clifftop watch points.

An amazing diversity of invertebrates live on the cliff habitats and within the heathland and acid grassland including some species which occur in very few other places in Britain. Some notable examples are include the hedgehog weevil, Cathormiocerus myrmecophilus, the ant mimic ground spider, Micaria albovittata, and the nomad bee, Nomada sexfasciata.

The cliffs are rich in fossils and have yielded many specimens of dinosaur, pterosaurs, turtles crocodiles and plesiosaurs. The site is one of only a handful in the world to have produced early mammal fossils.

Landscape management and habitat restoration

Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve, owned and managed by Hastings Borough Council, is one of the foremost coastal nature reserves in the UK. It encompasses a Country Park, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The 345 ha reserve is situated on the south-east coast of the UK and boasts spectacular scenery, eroding maritime cliff and slope, coastal grassland and heather, ancient woodlands and a sustainably managed farm, all within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Bale House

The new visitor centre for Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve, 'The Bale House', is now open.

The unique building has been built from a range of sustainable materials such as straw bales.

The new centre is located on Lower Coastguard Lane opposite the main carpark for the Firehills area of the park, making the most of the park's stunning views over the English Channel.

The Bale House is managed by Groundwork South, and you can find out more information about the centre on our webpages about The Bale House.


Free-roaming conservation grazing

We currently have a small herd of Exmoor ponies and a new herd of Belted Galloway cattle to manage glens and slopes in the SSSI and SAC, which are otherwise inaccessible to mechanical management. We have opened up fencing so the cattle and ponies can roam freely around one of our largest and wildest glens, allowing them the same freedom as walkers. Visitors have enjoyed connecting with these charismatic animals, and they have been extremely successful in managing the reserve sustainably. Large areas were awash with bluebells in spring, and now with red campion, bedstraw, sheep's sorrel and foxgloves. The open areas are also alive with invertebrates.



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