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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Church Wood LNR & Marline Valley NR, Hastings. Woods, Ghylls, Fungi, Lichen & Bryophytes. 05.12.22

Updated: Dec 11, 2022

I reached Church Wood from Brighton by getting a train to Hasting Station and then the 20 bus to the bus stop on Tile Barn Road, close to the junction with Church Wood Drive. The entrance to the wood is down the road to the east of Church Wood Primary School, It is a 70 minute journey from Brighton to Hastings. The 20 bus from Hastings station run every 30 minutes and the journey time is about 20 minutes. 20 Bus Route & Timetable: Hollington Tesco - Ore Down Farm | Stagecoach (

As usual the photographs in this post are in chronological order of my walk. All sections of the text in italics are quotes, sources cited.

To get to Marline Valley NR from Church Wood, I walked along Church Wood Drive (north west direction), past the Tesco Ultra, and then turned north (right) up Ingleside until I reached Napier Road. Ingleside has no pavement so it is quite a dangerous route walking on the side f the road. There may be a route through the housing estate that surrounds Tesco. The area is not very pedestrian friendly. Napier Road does have a pavement. I walked up to Queen's Way and crossed the busy Queensway at a pedestrian crossing. The entrance to Marline Valley I used was just to the north of the Sussex Exchange restaurant on the north-west side of Queensway. The entrance has no signage, but it is immediately next to the Sussex Exchange restaurant

Church Wood is a large area of mainly broad-leafed woodland, on the rocks and soil of the High Weald clays and sandstones. Church Wood & Robsack Woods are remnants of the large ancient woodland which used to cover much of the Hollington area. Church Wood & Robsack Wood Local Nature Reserve ( The wood is now surrounded by the social housing estates of the Hollington area. The majority of the housing in Hollington and the surrounding areas was built between 1940 and 1970. This 30 year period saw the area change from mainly farming community to a major residential area that connected the outskirts of St Leonards-on-Sea to the outskirts of Hastings. Castleham, Tile Kiln and Mayfield farms made way for the Tilekiln and Robsack Housing Estates.

The large open spaces available in the Hollington area were used to host three of the four major industrial estates that serve St Leonards and Hastings. The Castleham, Churchfields and Ponswood Industrial Estates are home to over 140 businesses. ... The area is made up from five distinct neighbourhoods which are Hollington, Tilekiln, Robsack, Four Courts and Wishing Tree.History of Hollington in Hastings, East Sussex, UK ( This ancient wood is surrounded by social housing, which accommodates many people living on very low incomes; an enormous contrast to other places where the high weald clays and sandstones are visible, such as Tunbridge Wells, one of the most prosperous areas if the UK

Marline Valley Marline Valley is a wonderful mix of semi-natural ancient woodland, unimproved meadows and a classic Sussex ghyll stream situated on the edge of Hastings. Leased from Hastings Borough Council since the 1980s this site is designated both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Local Nature Reserve. Marline Valley | Sussex Wildlife Trust

The woodlands are a mix of Oak, Ash and Hornbeam with old Sweet Chestnut coppice and Hazel. ... Although once coppiced, due to difficult access most of the wood is now left as non-intervention. However, along some paths and where the woods meet the meadows we still carry out some coppicing on rotation, creating nice scrubby growth at the edges, perfect for many warblers and invertebrates.

Water is an important feature of the nature reserve. Numerous springs rise through the meadows and woodland at the boundary between clays and sandstones, creating side streams and wet flushes, adding to the diversity of the reserve. These all reach the ghyll stream at the bottom of the valley, which meanders un­modified through the landscape over occasion­al waterfalls. This ghyll stream main­tains a near constant temperature and humidity through­out the year and is perfect for a suite of rare mosses, liverworts and ferns more character­istic of the North and West of Britain, to thrive. Reserve profile | Sussex Wildlife Trust

Church Wood

Candlesnuff fungus, Xylaria hypoxylon

Crimped Gill / Crispling, Plicaturopsis crispa, ,

Probably Mucilago crustacea; a slime mould - to be confirmed

Yellowing Curtain Crust, Stereum subtomentosum

Possibly, Fairy Inkcap, Coprinellus disseminatus

A Hypoxylon is a genus of the ascomycetes phylum, found on dead wood, and usually one of the earliest species to colonise dead wood, possibly, Hypoxylon fragiforme, Beech Woodwart

Yellowing Curtain Crust, Stereum subtomentosum

Possibly Netted Crust, Byssomerulius corium

Probably Birch Polypore, Fomitopsis betulina

Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, variant porioides; a common slime mold. Coral Slime Mold

Each time I see this species it looks different! Slime moulds are very badly named as they are neither slimy (although they are a times) nor mouldy (in the sense that we use it to describe mould in homes); they are fascinating organisms that form into very interesting shapes, and are an important part of the ecosystem for decomposing dead wood; without them and fungi the world would be piled high with dead wood.

I have seen this species a lot recently. I don't think they are particularly more abundant at the moment, although they do like wet conditions; I think it is just when you get your eye in for slime moulds you see them all over the place on rotting wood. I find it a marvel of nature that a group of singe cells can "decide" to come together and form extraordinary shapes.

I have had to learn from the internet quite bit about the biology of very "primitive" life, as they are hard to explain in the vocabulary that we use for animals and plants. They can move, make collective decisions that defy notions of cognition exemplified by things that have brains; they don't have one, and eat things, but they are not plants, animals or fungi. Slime molds are classified in the Kingdom Protista (the Protists), and are the class Myxomycetes

"The plasmodium [of this species] [a collection of unicellular organisms] often appears as white frost-like growth or thin watery layers on wood. Pillar or wall-like sporangia [he capsule structure which the reproductive spores are produced and stored} bud from the plasmodium and develop spores that undergo multiple divisions before they release flagellated zoospores [asexual spore that uses a flagellum {tail for locomotion]]. The zoospores will then pair off, undergo plasmogam [two parent cells ... fuse without the fusion of nuclei, effectively bringing two haploid nuclei [a cell with single set of chromosomes' close together in the same cell] and form zygotes [a eukaryotic cell formed by a fertilization event] that will later form new plasmodia. Ceratiomyxa - Wikipedia

Plasmodium is net-like or thin layer enveloped in mucous. Often translucent or white in colour but can also be tinted slightly yellow, pink, or blue-green. The protoplasm within the plasmodium can be seen flowing, resting, and resuming flow in the opposite direction. This occurs in intervals of approximately 40 seconds. Protoplasmic flow slows as the sporangia develop and halt completely during mitosis [the process by which a cell replicates its chromosomes and then segregates them, producing two identical nuclei in preparation for cell division] Ceratiomyxa - Wikipedia

Fallen Tree!

Cladonia sp lichen

Sulphet Tufts, Hypholoma fasciculare

Yellowing Curtain Crust, Stereum subtomentosum

I looked at this tree (I think a Crab Apple Tress) in detail; and tried to photo all the different lichen species on it. I am bound to have missed lots, as I am a beginner "lichenologist". But here are the ones I I recognised as different species.

Oakmoss lichen, Evrnia prunastri

Possibly Powdered loop lichen, Hypotrachyna revoluta

Common Greenshield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata

Common Orange Lichen, Xanthoria parietin

Common Green Shield Lichen, and Lemon lichen, Candelaria concolor

Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena

Orthotrichum sp possibly Wood Brittlemoss. Orthotrichum obtusifolium

Black Stone Flower, Parmotrema perlatum

The ghyll in the wood

Swan's-neck tyme-moss, Mnium hornum

Common Feather-moss Kindbergia praelonga and something to be identified!

Mycena sp, possibly Mycena polygramma, Grooved Bonnet

Crested Coral, Clavulina coralloides

Mycena sp, possibly Mycena galericulata, Common Bonnett

Churchtard of the Church in the Wood

Graveyard of the Church-in-the-Wood (St Leonard's Church, Hollington, St Leonards. The church has stood in isolation in the middle of an ancient wood since it was founded in the 13th century. When I visited it on Monday the wood felt particularly spooky, probably because of the many twisted ancient tree. I have done a bit of research on the church and wood, and this wood was obviously perceived as spooky in the middle ages as a local legend grew up to explain this: The location of Church in the Wood is explained by a story (also attributed in various forms to other churches in Sussex) involving a battle between the Devil and the builders. Every night, the work carried out the previous day would be destroyed and the materials taken away. A voice spoke to the builders, claiming that the site belonged to the Devil and demanding the church be built elsewhere. The church was successfully rebuilt on a new site to the Devil's liking, and a wood grew around it to conceal it (either from the Devil's influence or to hide it from the parishioners). Thornton, David (1987). Hastings: a Living History. Hastings: The Hastings Publishing Co, quoted in Church in the Wood, Hollington - Wikipedia

Church in the Wood, is known officially as St. Leonard's Church. The church was originally known as St. Rumbold's Church. It is an Anglican church founded in the 13th century with a list of known vicars dating back to 1344, the successor to an earlier 11th-century chapel. Restoration work around 1860 gave the Early English Gothic-style building its present appearance, but some medieval portions remain. A number of legends have been associated with the church, and its secluded situation has been praised by many writers including Charles Lamb. The church is a Grade II Listed building. The church bell is 14c.

In the mid-19th century, the rector (the Rev. Rush) proposed that due to the church having fallen into disrepair it should be removed to Sir Charles Lamb's home at Beauport to become a folly; this was opposed by Robert Deudney and the proposal subsequently rejected. Church in the Wood - Historical Hastings (


The majority of the housing in Hollington and the surrounding areas was built between 1940 and 1970. This 30 year period saw the area change from mainly farming community to a major residential area that connected the outskirts of St Leonards-on-Sea to the outskirts of Hastings. Castleham, Tile Kiln and Mayfield farms made way for the Tilekiln and Robsack Housing Estates.

The large open spaces available in the Hollington area were used to host three of the four major industrial estates that serve St Leonards and Hastings. The Castleham, Churchfields and Ponswood Industrial Estates are home to over 140 businesses. History of Hollington in Hastings, East Sussex, UK (

Hollington Community centre with food bank

The woods on the road between Hollington and Marline Valley Nature Reserve

Mycena sp possibly Mycena adscendens, Frosty Bonnet,

Log on which these Mycena were growing

Marline Valley Nature Reserve

Tree with Trip Fungus on top

The LIchen Pertusaria pertusa

Auricularia mesenterica, Tripe Fungus. Reminds me of my very first paid job (a Saturday job) - packing tripe in Taubman's; Brighton Abattoir, 1978. I was 16 and worked from 6.00 to 11.00, getting the tripe packed in bags to put on the vans delivering offal to local Sussex butchers. Tripe is not quite as brown as this!

Left: probably Xanthoparmelia pulla lichen

Right: probably Common Greenshield Lichen, Parmelia sulcata

Birch Polypore, Fomitopsis betulina

Fenugreek Stalkball, Phleogena faginea

Hairy Curtin Crust, Stereum hirsutum

This fallen oak had a fascinating and beautiful range of saproxylic (wood decomposing) fungi, including Artist's bracket, Ganoderma lipsiense and Hairy Curtain Crust, Stereum hirsutum. Wood decay fungi are the only forms of life capable of degrading wood to its initial constituents. Wood decay fungi: an analysis of worldwide research | SpringerLink

Ganoderma lipsiense

Stereum hirsutum.

Pellia epiphylla, Overleaf Pellia or Common Pellia); a species of thallose liverwort

Probably Atrichum undulatum, Catherine's Moss

Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, a slime mold




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