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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Butterflies. Mill Hill NR, Anchor Bottom NR & Many Adonis Blues, Cissbury NR, 28.05.22

On Saturday 28th February I took the 700 bus 700 Bus Route & Timetable: Brighton - Wick | Stagecoach ( to Shoreham and embarked on a long walk across the South Downs from Mill Hill to Cissbury Ring. I walked along the east bank of the Adur to the Shoreham Toll Bridge, I then walked up the path to Mill Hill. From Mill Hill I walked on the path that goes through Old Erringham Farm, back up to the Mill Hill Road; where I walked past the end of the disused chalk quarry (behind the disused cement factory). I walked down through Anchor Bottom (Beeding Hill), and crossed the Adur at St Botolphs. From there I took the South Downs Way onto the downs. At Canada Bottom I turned off the South Downs Way and walked up to Cissbury Ring. From Cissbury Ring I walked down to the Findon Valley were I got a bus (23) 23 - Crawley - Worthing | Metrobus into Worthing, and changed to a 700 bus 700 Bus Route & Timetable: Wick - Brighton | Stagecoach ( back to Brighton.

The purpose of this day out was to look for Butterflies; Mill Hill, Anchor Bottom and Cissbury Ring are all noted in The Butterflies of Sussex: A Twenty-First Century Atlas by Michael Blencowe and Neil Hulme (2017) as excellent places to see Sussex butterflies

The walk from Shoreham to Mill Hill


A diving Cormorant

A Whimbrel

An Oystercatcher

A Cormorant

Three Mute Swans

Bittersweet in the hedge next to the path that goes up to the Mill Hill Road bridge of the A27

A Holly Blue, in the hedge next to the path to the Mill Hill Road bridge

A Buzzard over Mill Hill

The Toll Bridge from Mill Hill

A Goldfinch

Lancing College from Mill Hill

Mill Hill is famous for its butterflies:

Shoreham Bank (Mill Hill) is the most nationally famous of the Sussex butterfly sites.

This fame was created by the huge numbers and aberrations of the Chalkhill Blue Butterflies. The fame started from about 1820 when butterfly collecting became the vogue. During the heyday of butterfly collecting between the two World Wars, the site was kept a secret by commercial collectors. In 1938 the area of Mill Hill and other downland was presented to the people of Shoreham, some 724 acres, although less than 28* acres remain as public open land. It was rediscovered in 1955. (*may be 30 acres)

Despite the large number of collectors, they did not cause the decline of butterflies on Mill Hill but the demise of the rabbit through myxomatosis and the invasion of scrub through the absence of the rabbit. This disease arrived in 1954, but in the cold winter of 1963, the hill was still almost devoid of scrub. The main invasion of woodland and scrub occurred from the mid-1960s.

In the 1950s (before my time) the area was fenced off and the upper slopes were grazed with cattle. The area was grazed right down and only Ragwort remained (like the fields adjoining nowadays). This seemed to have encouraged Hawthorn scrub, Dogwood and Creeping Thistles which remain today. The reports from butterfly collectors said that all the Horseshoe Vetch and wild flowers had been lost from the upper slopes. This remains the case in 2003, although there are now large swathes of longer grass and Scabious, Greater Knapweed, etc. The lower steeper slopes were fenced off and this is still a continuous mat of Horseshoe Vetch with incursions of Wild Privet. There is a report of a recovery after the cattle were removed and by 1960 there is an authentic report of 6000 Chalkhill Blue Butterflies seen on one day. In 1967 grazing was banned and this resulted by 1971 in a sudden growth of the long grasses, which are now forage harvested in late autumn. Volunteers than helped with scrub clearance but no lasting impression was made on the problem. In the late seventies, I still observed hundreds of Chalkhill Blue butterflies that had descended to the Waterworks Road where the grass was mown, but this area has been neglected and is now covered in nettles.

In 1990, cattle were again introduced to the upper slopes for a short period. The area looks very much like a lowland cattle pasture ten years later. Although the upper slopes now support large populations of many hundreds of Common Blues and Marbled Whites in the longer grasses, this seems to be at the expense of Chalkhill Blues. Erosion has been caused by hang-gliders and other human activities, but it appears that is not as great as the damage caused by cattle.

In 2003, my summer survey revealed that Horseshoe Vetch was still abundant on the lower slopes covering only about five acres, but that the same species on the middle and upper slopes is very small in area and does not support Chalkhill Blue Butterflies. Scrub incursions are very serious and a woodland has developed where there used to be bare hill. However, in the main breeding area on the lower slopes is still maintained although the scrub is making serious incursions, led by Wild Privet. The numbers of Chalkhill Blues seen on one day was 3000*, which roughly corresponded to previous years, but this represents about one half of the number for 1960. The only major management change in this time has been cattle grazing.

Altogether at least 30 species of butterflies have been positively been identified by myself in the last three years, and I expect this total to increase. In season the Chalkhill Blue still remains the most prevalent butterfly, with small population of Adonis Blues and Dingy Skippers, mostly on the lower short ward (20 mm to 35 mm) herbland. Large numbers of Common Blues and Marbled Whites are to be found on the upper slopes and these will most likely to be seen by casual visitors, although the dispersals of Chalkhill Blues will venture over the whole area in the search for nectar plants.

Common Blue



Dingy Skipper

Dingy Skipper (underwings)

Another Dingy Skipper

Adonis Blue

Small Heath

Common Columbine

Dingy Skipper

Common Blue

Common Blue

Adonis Blue

Adonis Blue (underwing)

Adonis Blue

Adonis Blue underwing

Common Blue

Common Blue

Meadow Brown


Mill Hill

Steps up Mill Hill

Meadow Pipit?

Small Tortoiseshell underwing

Small Tortoiseshell

Red Gate Farm - Pigs, Annington Hill

A Corn Bunting, Old Erringham Farm

Small Tortoiseshell close to corn bunting

Beeding Hill / Anchor Bottom

Anchor Bottom is known for Adonis Blues, as the signage attests. I saw several 100 Adonis Blues

Anchor Bottom

I saw a large number if Adonis Blues, probably several 100. I think these photos are all different butterflies but it possible that some are repeats, as butterflies fly around all over the place! I photographed 45 Blue Adonises in Anchor Bottom

Adonis Blue - 1

Adonis Blue - 2

Adonis Blue - 3 (female)

Adonis Blue - 4

Adonis Blue - 4

Adonis Blue - 5

Adonis Blue - 6

Adonis Blue - 7 (underwings)

Adonis Blue - 8

Adonis Blue - 9

Adonis Blue - 10

Adonis Blue - 11 and 12 - mating

Fragrant Orchid

Bufftail Bumblebee

Adonis Blue - 13

Adonis Blue - 14 underwing

Adonis Blue - 15 underwing

Adonis Blue - 16 on dried animal dung

View down Anchor Bottom

Adonis Blue - 17

Adonis Blue - 18

Adonis Blue - 19 female

Adonis Blue - 20 & 21

Bee Orchid

Fragrant Orchid

Adonis Blue - 22

Adonis Blue - 23, female

Adonis Blue - 24

Adonis Blue - 25

Adonis Blue - 26

Adonis Blue - 27 & 28 mating

Adonis Blue - 29, underwing

Fragrant Orchid

Adonis Blue - 30 & 31

Adonis Blue - 32, female

Adonis Blue -33

Adonis Blue - 34

Adonis Blue - 35 & 36, underwings

Adonis Blue - 37 & 38, underwings, mating

Adonis Blue - 39

Fragrant Orchid

Adonis Blue - 40, female

Fragrant Orchid

Adonis Blue - 42

Adonis Blue - 42

Adonis Blue - 43 & 44, on dog excrement

Adonis Blue - 45 on dog excrement

Adonis Blue - 46

St Botolph's

Goldfinches in St Botolph's Churchyard

A House Sparrow

St Botolps

St Botolph's Church is of charming flint construction and stands on a slight rise above the River Adur. Today with just a house or two for company it is hard to imagine that 700 years ago it was at the heart of a bustling port and crossing place of the river.

As the river changed course and silted-up the population gradually moved away and since Tudor times the church has served a tiny farming community. The south door carries the date 1630 in delightful graffiti and leads into a homely and welcoming interior.

The tall chancel arch dates from late Saxon times and is surrounded by the ghosts of medieval wall paintings whilst the three huge blocked arches in the north wall show where a north aisle has been demolished to match its reduced circumstances. The church has given its name to the place - St Botolph is patron saint of wayfarers - and today it receives many visitors walking the South Downs Way which crosses the river nearby. St Botolph's Church, Botolphs, West Sussex | The Churches Conservation Trust (

Small Tortoiseshell on the path of the South Downs Way

Looking over to Anchor Bottom from Annington Hill

Whitetail Bumblebee on Carline Thistle

Lancing College chapel from Annington Hill

The Beeding Cement Works from Annington Hill

Lynchpole Bottom


Meadow Pipit (?)

Cissbury Ring

Small Tortoiseshell


Large White




Out-of-focus Yellowhammer

Painted Lady

Common Blue


Ponies conservation grazing Cissbury Ring

Path along the ramparts

The Iron Age hill fort was constructed around 400BC and was used for defence for around 300 years. Cissbury is a univallate fort, that is a hilltop enclosure with a single rampart accompanied by a ditch and a low counterscarp bank. The hill fort encloses around 26 hectares and originally had only two entrances, one at the eastern corner and the other at the southern end. The story of Cissbury Ring | National Trust

The Isle of Wight from Cissbury Ring

Owl (?), on the path to Findon



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