• Sim Elliott

Birds and Butterflies at Arlington Reservoir and Abbot's Wood. 12.07.22

I hadn't visited Arlington Reservoir for a long time, and I had never visited Abbot's Wood nearby, so I decide to visit both on Tuesday 12.07.22.. Arlington Reservoir is a great place to visit in the winter when it provides a home for many overwintering birds (particularly ducks, geese and warders)' in the summer there is less to see. On the lake were some resident birds like Canada Geese, Mallards and Great-Crested Grebes, and in the reeds there were summer migratory warblers, not that I saw any, and in the woods around the lake there were some migrant woodland birds like Blackcaps and Whitethroats, like the warblers in the reeds I heard them but did not see them. Abbot's wood has a reputation as a good place to see Butterflies, but I saw as many around Arlington Reservoir and on the paths between the reservoir and the woods, as at Abbot's Wood. But at Abbots Wood I saw some "big name" butterflies, such as White Admirals and Silver-Washed Fritillaries. However, I enjoy as much seeing "everyday" Butterflies like Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Large Whites, and Commas (although Commas are not so "everyday" now), due to the huge decline in Butterfly numbers.


  • The new analyses provide further evidence of the serious, long-term and ongoing decline of UK butterflies, with 70% of species declining in occurrence (based on the BNM distribution data) and 57% declining in abundance (based on the UKBMS) since 1976.

  • Overall, 76% of the UK’s resident and regular migrant butterfly species declined in either abundance or occurrence (or both) over the past four decades. By comparison, 47% of species increased in one or both measures. This is of great concern not just for butterflies but for other wildlife species and the overall state of the environment. The State Of Britain's Butterflies | Butterfly Conservation (butterfly-conservation.org)


I reached Arlington by catching the train from Brighton to Berwick station, about 1K south of the entrance to Arlington Reservoir.


Some very small donkeys in a field by the entrance to Arlington Reservoir



Arlington Reservoir


For more information on Arlington Reservoir see Arlington Reservoir | South East Water

Map from: Arlington_Reservoir_Osprey_trail_leaflet_2022.pdf (southeastwater.co.uk)


I walked to way marker 5 (north end of dam) and I then left the reservoir to walk to Arlington Village an on the Abbot's Wood


Domestic Geese eating the heads of fescue grass


The excellent Kiosk where I had a drink



A Grey Heron


Plant that I am not sure what it is; in meadows between way markers 1 and 2


Gatekeeper in the meadows


The meadows


View of the reservoir


Comma on poo; extracting nutrients through its proboscis


Very worn Meadow Brown on the path


Juvenile song Thrush


Juvenile Robin


Spotted Wood


Bird hide


Nothing much from the bird hide! It's summer!


Two Great Crested Grebes


Paths from Arlington Reservoir to Abbot's Wood


Spear Thistle


Small Skipper on Bramble


Gatekeeper on Bramble


Meadow Brown on Bramble


Arlington Church


Very worn Meadow Brown


Meadow Sweet


Water Lilies in the Cuckmere


Moorhen in the Cuckmere


Banks of the Cuckmere Purple Loosestrife and Meadow Sweet


Musk Mallow


Footbridge over the Cuckmere


The Cuckmere


Arlington Church: St Pancras

This imposing flint built church can be dated back to Saxon times, although during restoration work in the 19th century evidence was found of a burnt out wooden building, possibly from earlier times.


Proof of Saxon origins exists in the ‘long and short’ work stones at the quoins of the flintwork and the small window to the right of the Porch. In Saxon days there was just the Nave and Chancel, a side Chapel being added, to the north of the Chancel, in Norman times - dog tooth springing of the arch being evidence of this. Entrance to the chapel was from the Chancel, the floor under the arch being formed of a large coffin lid with an early English Cross raised on the surface; during later restoration this was raised to prevent further wear.

The Tower was built in the Transitional period (1199-1272) and there is also a feature from this period in the form of a leper window behind the Vicar’s Stall.


Then, during the Decorated Period, the population of Arlington must have increased - evidence that the village was once much larger than at present exists in the field to the west of the church and early maps show a large Rectory there. To accommodate the increased congregation a North Aisle was added, the Saxon Wall being removed and replaced with the present colonnade of three arches. The Chancel was also rebuilt during this period and the large East Window added with carved stone heads representing King Edward 111 and Queen Phillipa at the top of the frame. St. Pancras, Arlington - History (stpancras-arlington.org.uk)


Medieval frecos



Arlington Robin!

The church yard; unmown for wildlife


A Tudor house in Arlington


A male Banded Demoiselle


Purple Loosestrife


A Gatekeeper in a hedge; butterflies are often hard to spot as with wings closed as many butterflies look like leaves; a evolutionary response to avoid predtation.




Marsh Woundwort


A wren on the path



Abbots Wood



Map from Abbots Wood walking trail.pdf (forestryengland.uk)


The historic site of Abbots Wood derives its name from the times of Henry I, when the wood was gifted to Battle Abbey and overseen by the Abbot.. A mixture of tree species, including conifer, hazel and hornbeam can be found. Go for a wander along Abbots Amble to view waterfowl and dragonfly on the lake or take a short stroll on Oaks Walk. Look out a variety of wildlife, including rarer species such a Dormice and Pearl Bordered Fritillaries, or visit in spring to view the magnificent woodland bluebells. Abbots Wood - Woodland Trust



From Arlington Village | Abbots Wood | local Attractions:


.. The wood was once part of the great Saxon forest of Andredesweald, which stretched across the whole of the south-east of England as far west as Hampshire.


The woods were also known as Lindhersse at the time of Henry I, who presented them to Battle Abbey. The Abbot oversaw them, hence the present name. This lasted until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. Evidence of monastic care can be seen in the 13th century embankments and ditches, while the lake is one of three ponds believed to have been built in this period to produce fish. (The other two are Upper and Lower Fishponds at Primrose Farm). It fell into disrepair after the Dissolution, but was finally restored by the Commission in 1964.


James Eglington Anderson Gwynne settled at Folkington in Sussex in 1876, purchasing land and property in considerable quantity, including Abbots Wood, Michelham Priory and farm land.


The Gwynnes of Folkington Manor owned the land for a considerable time. Squire Gwynne, who would ride on horseback through the wood, was remembered by locals as a very unpleasant character, particularly with trespassers. He is said to have tipped up a basket of blackberries collected by children.


There are references in the Parish Council Records to effect that Squire Gwynne would remove bridges and was ‘required’ to reinstate them.


Before WW2, the whole forest was standing oak trees with coppice growing under them. The forest was completely cleared of trees and coppice over a period of two years. The first two dozen or so were cut down with a cumbersome 2-man chain saw, but when the saw broke, no one could fix it as it was German made. Nearly 1000 acres were cleared using a cross-cut two-man saw and axes.


It is understood that all this wood was taken to Shoreham, where it was rolled into tin smelting furnaces. All the branches and the coppice were cut up with axes and burnt in square steel moveable kilns for munitions factories.


Once the wood was cleared, what remained showed up small boundary banks marking the fields (and probably the lake banks) as used, presumably, by the monks at Michelham Priory, before it was planted with oaks and allowed to grow into forest naturally.


With the forest cleared, one could stand where the car park now is and see right the way to the gasometers by Common Pond in Hailsham. The cleared forest allowed the return of bright yellow broom and foxgloves. Conditions were also right for migrating nightjars who stayed and nested.


Thousands of soldiers camped here to prepare for the D-Day landings in Normandy. Huts and an emergency aircraft landing strip were constructed.


The land was bought by the Forestry Commission in 1953 and eventually established as a public recreation area with nature trails, car parks and picnic facilities.


The wood suffered enormous damage in the Great Storm of 16th October 1987. Arlington Village | Abbots Wood | local Attractions


Regeneration following Great Storm of October 1987 from Abbots Wood - Forest Research


Several native species, including oak, have been planted to increase the variety of trees present.

  • Original conifer species { i.e. planted by the forestry commission after WWII]: Corsican pine and Douglas fir

  • Current trees: Similar amounts of birch and hornbeam (mostly from coppice shoots).

  • Groundflora: Bramble, honeysuckle, bluebell and woodsage plus other grasses and herbs.


Butterfly Conservation; Sussex Branch description of Abbot's Wood Butterfly Conservation - Sussex Branch - PAGE TITLE (sussex-butterflies.org.uk)


Historically excellent for butterflies, moths and many other species, both flora and fauna.

Key species Pearl Bordered Fritillary, Grizzled Skipper, Silver Washed Fritillary, White Admiral

Other species Purple Hairstreak, Glow worm, Nightingale, Dormice

Occasional species Wall, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Broad-bordered Bee Hawk

Site description Ancient Woodland, improving steadily with recent management. Good stands of mature oak.


A Comma


Pine


White Admirals, extracting nutrients and moisture from damp mud








A blurry photo of a Silver-Washed Fritillary; there were several, continuously in flight along the rides of the wood



Oak


More White Admirals




A Damelsfly


Speckled Wood


Teasels


Comma


Arlington Tea Garden


The walk back to Berwick Station


A Buzzard


Back over the Cuckmere Foot Bridge


Great Crested Grebes on Arlington Reservoir


When I re-joined Arlington Reservoir I completed the circular route (clockwise) where I had left it to go to Abbot's Wood


Linnet - there were several Linnets and Pied Wagtails drinking for the reservoir

Mallard


Linnet


Same Linnet

Pied Wagtail

Pied Wagtail


Little Egret and Canada Geese


Little Egret in above photo in flight


A Jackdaw in a nesting box; I don't think the box was intended for Jackdaws.


Gatekeeper


Comma


Meadow Brown


Gatekeeper


Gatekeeper


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