• Sim Elliott

Butterflies at High & Over and Kittiwakes at Splash Point, Seaford. 17.05.22

On Tuesday, I went to High and Over, situated on Cradle Hill, above the Cuckmere Valley, to the west, between Seaford and Alfriston. The scarp slope of the Cuckmere Valley at High and Over, and the valley to the north of Cradle Hill, (Frog Firel Farm) have a reputation for an abundance of Butterflies typical to the South Downs


Frog Firle Farm, East Sussex

Chalk downland slopes with the usual attendant species

Key species Silver-spotted Skipper, Adonis Blue, Chalk Carpet moth

Other common species Grizzled Skipper, Dingy Skipper, Green Hairstreak, Chalkhill Blue, Small Blue, Brown Argus, Wall, whites, browns and migrants

Occasional species Dark Green Fritillary, Clouded Yellowspecies

Site description The site is owned and managed by The National Trust. The Seaford to Alfriston road divides the site into two main areas; the very steep east facing scarp of High and Over and the north facing slope of Cradle Hill. The scarp can be disappointingly low in butterfly numbers, is vulnerable to erosion and best avoided by anyone with weak knees and ankles. Cradle Valley offers the best butterfly watching including a healthy population of Silver-spotted Skippers. Be careful where the footpaths cross the road as views of oncoming traffic are restricted. Butterfly Conservation - Sussex Branch - PAGE TITLE (sussex-butterflies.org.uk)


Map from https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cuckmere-valley/trails/over-hill-and-under-vale-at-frog-firle-farm


I caught the 12 bus from Brighton to the stop at the bottom of the Alfriston Road (Sutton Corner); see: 12 - Eastbourne-Brighton | Brighton & Hove Buses It is a 30 minute walk up the Alfriston Road to High and Over


In the verges of the Alfriston Road there was much Aconite, on which there were many insects


Common Carden


I think this is a Sawfly


Alfriston Road


Sheep, Dymock Farm


Sheep are the reason the grass is short on the South Downs; they have produced the unique habitat of short grass downlamd What's special about chalk grassland? | National Trust



Cuckmere Valley from High and Over.

The foreground is the top of the scarp slope of the west side of the Cuckmere Valley, the background is the west end of the Seven Sisters Cliffs. The river in the middle is the canalised (human-straightened) Cuckmere, to the left is one of the Cuckmere Haven ox-bow lakes (a meander of the former Cuckmere River now cut off from the main river). The pool behind the beach I believe is a human-made "scrape" (i.e. a pool made for waders), it certainly has a great selection of waders in winter. A “natural” landscape. But the Downs are only short grassland because humans cleared trees and introduced sheep, which has produced the short grass flower-rich landscape that we have now, and Cuckmere Haven is the product of ongoing human intervention to prevent flooding.



Wall Brown


Red Admiral


The Cuckmere Valley


The Littlington White Hose, opposite Littlington, just below Hogh-and-Over

For history of the White Horse: Litlington White Horse – East Sussex, England - Atlas Obscura


Cuckmere Valley



The walk on the north face of Cradle Hill


There were very few butterflies



Meadow Brown



I walked back down the Alfriston Road, through Seaford, across Seaford Head Golf course, up to the western end of Seaford Head.


View of the Seven Sisters


A Meadow Pipit on the cliffs


Sea Thrift on the cliffs


Splash Point


Looking toward Newhaven


A Large White



The Kittiwakes of Splash Point



There are over 1000 nests in the kittiwake colony. No one knows exactly why they are doing better than other colonies around the UK." Booth Museum Of Natural History, Brighton (2020) Kittiwakes at Seaford Head in a changing climate – Ocean Blues (brightonmuseums.org)


The Kittiwake colony at Splash Point near Seaford is one of the last in the South East and most nest further north, where some choose the most unlikely locations. Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside is home to the most inland breeding Kittiwake population in the world, with 800 pairs nesting on the Tyne Bridge and other urban structures since the 1960s


The nest itself is made of seaweed, mud, feathers and grass, which is trampled into a deep cup shape that will usually hold two eggs. Breeding takes place in May and June, and the chicks may still be in the nest during July. Unlike other gull chicks, which toddle off as soon as they can walk, Kittiwake chicks know to sit still. The nest is often on the merest suggestion of a ledge, with nothing but sheer cliff face between the tiny nestling and the pounding waves hundreds of feet below. Fledging must be truly terrifying but once on the wing they will stay out at sea for the first few years of their lives, only returning to breed when they are three to five years old. The amazingly oceanic Kittiwake | Sussex Wildlife Trust





When I got back to Brighton I was due to meet a friend at Five Ways, however, due to circumstances beyond our control, we had to mete an hour later, therefore I spent an hour in Burstead Woods (off the Dyke Road) and Hollingbury Gold Course.


These woods are accessible from buses going up the Ditchling Road, the 26 and 46.


A Speckled Wood


A micro moth n Dandelion


A Red Admiral


A juvenile Blackcap


A Dingy Skipper


The Gold Course


A Robin


A Meadow Brown


A Whitethroat


The Rampion Wind Turbines, Sussex Heights and the i360 from Hollingbury Gold Course,


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