Brede High Woods. Bryophytes, Lichen, Wild Flowers, Insects and a Brook Lamprey. 03.04.23
Updated: Apr 13
Brede High Woods (Woodland Trust) is a wonderful collection of ghyll woods north of Hastings
Brede High Woods is home to astonishingly rare wildlife, diverse habitats and long-forgotten iron works. Roam the network of paths and rides through dense ancient woodland, open grassland and sandy heaths in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Catch a glimpse of the strange eel-like lamprey as they swim up woodland streams, spot the medieval tree-lined bank, or look for some of Britain’s rarest beetles. Brede High Woods - Visiting Woods - Woodland Trust
I reached the High Brede Woods by train and bus. From Hastings Station the 449 bus to Hawkshurst stops at Cripps Corner, it is about a one kilometre walk from Cripps Corner to the Brede High Woods 349 Bus Route & Timetable: Hastings - Hawkhurst | Stagecoach (stagecoachbus.com). Please note, it is an infrequent service and only goes every two hours, and only a few times a day, so you need to plan your journey in advance.
High Brede Woods are ghyll woods, which are a very special landscape type of the High Weald. For further information of ghyll woods see:
Burnside, Niall & Metcalfe, Daniel & Smith, Roger & Waite, Steve. (2006). Ghyll Woodlands of the Weald: Characterisation and Conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation. 15. 1319-1338. 10.1007/s10531-005-3875-5. Full text available on line (click on link)
Abstract: Ghylls are linear valley features cut into the sandy beds of the Weald of south-eastern England. The ghyll’s indigenous woodlands are highly species rich at the small scale, support distinctive assemblages of cryptogamic plants, and are unique to south-east
England. ... The ghylls are shown to be reasonably uniform for canopy vegetation type and structure and for their geological and soil characteristics. However, analysis shows that geomorphology, understorey and field layer variability may act as stronger indicators of site
conditions and character. Further analysis focused on the level and extent of nature conservation protection that these unique and ancient systems receive. The study concludes that despite their ecological importance and potentially international significance,
ghyll woodlands are poorly understood and protected.
Map from Ordnance Survey
Walking routes from Woodland Trust
A tree on the road to the reserve. Chitcombe Road (B2089) between Cripps Corner and High Brede Woods car park; showing the extraordinary geomorphology of the Wealden Group possibly, Ashdown Formation or Wadhurst Clay Formation. For more information on the geology of the area, see the SSSI citation fir Brede Pit And Cutting1005722 (naturalengland.org.uk)
The photographs are presented chronological (in the order of my walk) rather than by species groups
All identifications of species are provisional, especially those for lichens and bryophytes which are hard to identify. If you note a mistake in identification please feel free to tell me. If you want to contact me about any aspect of this post, email simeon[underscore]elliott[at]gmail[dot]com.
Moss, Mnium hornum with capsules (containing spores)
Lichen, possibly Arthonia spadicea
Oak with various epiphytic liverworts
Epiphytic liverworts on tree above:
Probably, Radula complanata (green) and Fruliana dilutata (brown)
Liverwort: Radula complanata with moss:, possibly Isothecium myosuroides
Lichen on the same tree: Punctelia subrudecta
Liverworts in the ghyll:
Liverworts: probably Barbilophozia attenuata, (brown sticks) and probably a small bit of Lophocolea heterophylla (tiny flat green leaves), and the moss Campylopus pyriformis (green pointy leaves) - none of these plants leaves are longer than 3mm. Sample taken home and examined with macros camera and dissecting microscope.
Lichen: probably Usnea subfloridana
Liken: probably, Pertusaria pertusa
Tree with moss at its base
Moss: Mnium hornum
Moss: probably Isothecium myosuroides
Lichen: probably, Flavopermelia caperata
Moss: Ulota sp. probrably U. bruchii
Moss at the base of the tree: Mnium hornum
Acid heath land, full of heathers and bracken, and sapling willows
Sapling willow blossom
Another ghyll with Lampreys in it
Reclusive, primitive and eel-like. The brook lamprey is an ancient and rarely seen fish found in the rivers and streams of several of our woods. It lives most of its life as a larva buried in the silty stream bed before turning into an adult and swimming upstream to spawn - its last act before it dies. Brook Lamprey (Lampetra planeri) - Woodland Trust
Lamprey hold on to the bottom of a waterway, suckered on with the use of their mouth. They feed on bacteria, algae and other types of detritus from the water and the mud. They are present in the Swansea Canal in quite high numbers and occasionally appear elsewhere.
Listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species
Listed on Annex III of the Bern Convention and Annex II of the European Commission Habitats Directive (3).
Rare in the UK
Special Area of Conservation Annex II species at a number of sites
Appearance: lampreys lack gill covers and paired fins. Instead of a jawed mouth, they have a sucker disc with two tooth plates containing a few blunt teeth.
They are eel-like in shape, being long and cylindrical with a rear dorsal fin near to the tail and seven breathing holes on each side of the body (visible in the picture, just behind the eye). They are dark brown or dark grey in the body, with a white belly and bright yellow eyes.
Typical size: 10-15cm
Lifespan: 4 to 8 years Brook lamprey | Rare and protected fish | Canal & River Trust (canalrivertrust.org.uk)
Hornbeam with epiphytes
Epiphytes of this Hornbeam:
Lichen: Cladonia sp.
Lichen: probably Usnea subfloridana
0.5mm (1500 µ) gradation on rule
Lichen: possibly, Anisomeridium sp.
Tadpoles in a puddle!
Blossom floating on water
Lichen on oak, possibly: Arthonia spadicea
Liverwort: Metgeria furcata on the same tree with gemmae (capsules of cells on the ends of leaves for vegetative reproduction)
Moss: probably Hypnum curpressiforme on the same tree
The liverwort: probably Radula complanta on the same tree.
The liverwort Metzgeria furcata and moss, probably, Homolethecium sericeum on the same tree
The liverwort probably Radula complanta on the same tree
A lichen, probably a Pertusaria sp.
The Pertusaria above on the tree
A lichen, probably Flavoparmelia soredians
Ghyll flowing in to damned lake
A ground-growing moss, probably Fissidens Taxifolous
An ancient woodland indicator, Wood anemone. Why? Because it mainly grows vegetatively and spreads slowly. Dr Duncan Westbury on Twitter: "An ancient woodland indicator, Wood anemone. Why? Because it mainly grows vegetatively and spreads slowly. Every year I take a photo of this same patch. Photos below from 2023, 2020 & 2017 @BSBIbotany @LGSpace @WoodlandTrust @BiodiversitySoS @blue_campaign1 https://t.co/ZySXNm2qZ9" / Twitter
Lesser Celendine, Ficaria verna. Charming and cheerful, the star-shaped flowers of the lesser celandine brighten up the woodland floor. Look out for their friendly yellow flowers on path edges in early spring. Lesser celandine is a small low-growing perennial herb in the buttercup family. Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) - Woodland Trust
Another ghyll scene.
An ancient farmers (drove) way
The High Weald has a unique, radiating network of ancient routeways and tracks. These routes were first formed when early settlers from the surrounding lands began to exploit the area's woods as a seasonal source of food for their animals: for, as well as timber and fuel, the woods held another important resource - acorns!
A tasty treat
Domesticated pigs, being descended from wild boar, enjoyed acorns as a natural food. From as far back as the Neolithic period (c.4300 - 1400BC) or even earlier, farmers from the South Downs, North Downs and coastal plains would drive their pigs into the woods each year to fatten them on acorns and beech mast. This happened in late summer or early autumn and is known as pannage.
A stronghold for pigs
The Weald was the stronghold of pannage in Britain. In 1086 - when the practice was already past its peak - Domesday records indicate that around 150,000 pigs would have been driven to and from the woods of the High and Low Weald!
Farmers from a particular village returned with their pigs to the same woodland place year after year. These woodland pig pastures were called dens.
A legacy of north/south roads, lanes and paths
The frequent passage of pigs being driven to and from the dens formed tracks known as droves, connecting the dens to their parent villages - often as much as 20 miles away. Over time the dens became settlements in their own right, and the roughly north-south droving routes remained, and can be seen today in the pattern of lanes, bridleways and footpaths radiating away from the High Weald.
Centuries of use by many trotters, feet, hooves - and, later, cartwheels - have worn the soft ground away so that, today, many of the routes have deeply sunken sections. In spring and summer, the High Weald's narrow, sunken lanes with their ancient, wooded banks are transformed into shady 'tree tunnels'. Many are lined in places with wildflower-rich verges, important wildlife refuges - some even designated as 'Roadside Nature Reserves'. The Routeways Story (highweald.org)
Common Dog Violet, Viola rivinana
A charming sanctuary for butterflies, common in UK woodland. Look to the woodland floor for a flush of purple and you might see fritillary butterflies feeding and laying their eggs.
A huge mossy oak
Primroses, Primula vulgaris, are a cheerful sign of spring. They are one of the first woodland blooms and an important nectar source for butterflies. Look out for their friendly yellow in woodland clearings. Primrose (Primula vulgaris) - Woodland Trust
Buff-Tailed Queen Bumblebee, Bombus terrestris
One of the ‘Big 7’ widespread and abundant species, found in a wide range of habitats across the UK. Less abundant in Scotland than it is in England, but has been increasing in recent years. At least in cities in the southern UK the species is becoming winter-active, with nest establishment in October-November and workers flying all winter, feeding particularly on Mahonia bushes. A large species with dark yellow bands at the front of the thorax and middle of the abdomen, queens are the only caste which actually have buff-coloured tails: in workers and males the tails are white, although males in particular often have a narrow but distinct yellow-buff band at the front of the tail. Buff-tailed bumblebee - Bumblebee Conservation Trust
Dark-legged Bee-flies, Bombylius major, look adorable. Seeing the dark-edged bee-fly hover in mid-air, some people describe it as a tiny, fluffy, flying narwhale. It has a hairy little body and face, and a very long, straw-like tongue. At a glance, it's easy to mistake one for a bee. But these small fluffy creatures buzzing around looking for nectar are actually flies. And they have a fascinating lifestyle. Meet the bee-fly: the cute bee mimic with a dark side | Natural History Museum (nhm.ac.uk)
The lichen Xanthoroia parietina; a very common epitphytic lochen in Sussex
The lichen Parmotrema perlatum
The moss Mnium hornum, showing the mail inflorescences (reproductive structures) of male M. hirnum.
The fungus Stereum subtomentosum
The fungus Temestes versicolor
A Polytrichum sp moss, probably P. formosa
Red Admirals, Vanessa atalanta are migrant butterflies that visits the UK from Europe. Sometimes, instead of going south, Red Admirals try to hibernate, usually in the open, on the side of large trees in woodland, where they are almost impossible to see, or on sheds or houses. Butterfly Conservation Yorkshire - Red Admiral (yorkshirebutterflies.org.uk) This one is an older overwintered Red Admirals who had quite a hard year last year from the look of its wings.