Crowborough Country Park & Crowborough Ghyll. Frogs, Bryophytes & Dinosaurs. 24.02.23
Crowborough Country Park was previously a clay quarry and Crowborough Ghyll is a typical High Weald ghyll wood. Both nature reserves are shaped by the geomorphology of weald sandstones and clays. Both sites have had human intervention which has contributed to the shaping of their landscapes; quarrying in the case of Crowborough Country, and water storage (previous small water reservoirs) in the case of Crowborough Ghyll. Both sites are rich in epiphytic and terrestrial bryophytes and ferns; they are very wet habitats with flowing water and ponds, with warmer microclimates, that are very propitious for oceanic bryophytes and ferns.
Crowborough Country Park and Crowborough Ghyll can be reached by bus (Brighton & Hove Buses 29) or train. Crowborough train station is closer to these nature reserves, and is actually in Jarvis Brook, but from Brighton there is no direct train service to Crowborough; you need to change at East Croydon and the journey time takes nearly 2 hours, so it is easier to get the 29 bus directly to Crowborough, which takes 1 hour 40 minutes, 29 - Brighton-Tunbridge Wells | Brighton & Hove Buses. From the Crowborough High Street bus stop walk down Crowborough Hill and turn right into Osbourne Road to reach Crowborough Country Park; a 25 minute walk. To reach Crowborough Ghyll from Crowborough Country Park, walk back to Crowborough Hill, walk a little way further down hill and turn left into Burdett Road.
All sections of text in italics are quotations, sources cited.
Please note, all identifications are provisional, especially those for lichens and bryophytes which are hard to identify in the field. If you note a mistake in identification please feel free to email me. If you want to contact me about any aspect of this post, email simeon[underscore]elliott[at]gmail[dot]com.
The species in this post are things which I noticed and there are inevitably many things in both locations which I didn't notice, so these are not complete accounts of the biodiversity of these locations. A rich part of these locations' biodiversity will be dragonflies and woodland butterflies; but it is a bit too early to sees these yet!
Crowborough County Park
The Country Park is a 16 acre local nature reserve (LNR) set within the urban fringes of Crowborough in the area of Jarvis Brook. The park started life as a clay quarry and evidence of its industrial past can still be seen in the exposed rock faces, rock outcrops and slippages.
A diverse mosaic of habitats are present in the park including scrub woodland, remnant ancient coppice, wet marshy areas, streams, grassy and heathy glades, ponds, rock outcrops & slippages. The main stream on site runs through a steep rocky gorge before flowing through areas of ancient hazel and ash coppice and there is also a carpet of bluebells in the spring. These habitats form homes for a wide variety of flora and fauna. The quarry was largely left to natural regeneration until 2008 when Crowborough Town Council acquired the site. Crowborough Country Park - Country Park in Crowborough, Crowborough - Wealden (explorewealden.co.uk)
I looked for the rare Discellum nudum, but couldn't find any!
The landscape of Crowborough Country Park
Carex pendula, pendulous sedge Attractive, strong, damp-lover. Spot pendulous sedge swooning in damp woodland and river banks. It’s useful in a pinch, with edible seeds and strong leaves that can be made into rope and matting. Pendulous Sedge (Carex pendula) - Woodland Trust
Frogs mating and laying spawn in the upper pond
Frog spawn in the lower pond
Bryophytes - liverworts
Bryophytes - Mosses
Kinderbergia praelonga and Xylaria sp fungi
Kinderbergia prealonga and Pellia epiphylla
Oxrrhynchium hians & Plagiomnium undulatum ?
Hazel catkins and the remains of a moss
Apium graveolens (celery) with Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata (12 Spot Ladybird)
The Ghyll is an important piece of woodland that encompasses a steep-sided wooded valley carved out by a stream flowing from the north at Silver Jubilee recreation ground (Green Lane), down to Jarvis Brook recreation ground (Burdett Road) in the south.
Ghyll woodlands are important to biodiversity in Sussex because the steep-sided valleys create an almost unique microclimate with high humidity and a low frost incidence. Rare flora including ferns, mosses and liverworts can be found in these conditions. The Ghyll - Crowborough Conservation (google.com)
"The Ghyll” is a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) and Local Nature Reserve (LNR) covering about 28Ha of land, and located on the North East side of the town. It supports a range of important semi-natural habitats, most notably ancient gill woodland and species-rich grassland. Other valuable components of the site are areas of scrub, tussocky grassland, diverse hedgerows, bracken stands, and mixed secondary woodland. A gill (or ghyll) is a ravine, typically formed by the erosive action of a watercourse. Here in Crowborough, ‘ghyll’ is often used to refer to the stream that runs through the site. ‘Ghyll’ and ‘gill’ have exactly the same meaning, but the ‘Ghyll’ form was introduced into the language by Wordsworth, and is widely used to name places. Being a ravine, access to the site can be challenging, but access is available at a number of points on the periphery of the site. At the North end of the site, a wildflower meadow and children’s play area are wheelchair accessible. Despite the steep slopes and rough terrain, it is popular with walkers, being a site that is easy to get to from residential areas, yet retaining a natural feel. The Ghyll Information Pack - Crowborough Town Council
Crowborough Town Council Notice Board at the site:
The Ghyll LOCAL NATURE RESERVE
Ghylls are steep-sided, wooded valleys created by streams cutting gullies into existing slopes. Ghyll woodland is a key characteristic of Weald Area of Outstanding Natural
This ghyll was formed during the last Age (pre 10.000 BC) by erosion of the sandstone and clays that compose the Hastings beds. Ghylls are normally deemed as ancient woodlands because they escaped land clearance by medieval farmers to the inherent difficulty of their cultivation
What have cannon and dinosaurs got to do with it?
There is plenty of evidence of the Wealden iron and a by-product of smelting called slag, in the stream. A 16th century blast-furnace was excavated downstream at Maynard's Gate. It was powered by a head of water formed by constructing a stairway of ponds called a hammer pond. Cannon and shot manufactured there and are likely to have been used in battle against the Spanish Armada
The remains of a modern day structure similar to a hammer pond can be seen in the southern part of the site today where a stairway of the reservoirs with dams was built for Crowborough Waterworks in 1906. During the construction of the walls an iguanodon or a Megalesaurus. This find is though to have been an inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger books as he was resident in Crowborough at that time.
The landscape of Crowborough Ghyll
Lophocolea heterophylla with Isotomurus palustris
Pellia epiphylla showing reproductive structures
Mnium hornum & Hympnum cupressiforme
The Lost World