top of page
  • Sim Elliott

Eridge Park (SSSI) East Sussex; Lichen, Bryophytes, Fungi and Landscape. 23.12.22


Eridge Park is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, to the east of Eridge Green Rock, south of Tunbridge Wells. The landscape is shaped by its underlying geology, being formed of sandstones and clays of the Tunbridge Wells Sand Formation see: BGS Lexicon of Named Rock Units - Result Details It consists of ancient woodland and parkland; with ghylls, heaths and hills typical of the High Weald.


It is a stunning beautiful area of ancient woodland and landscaping


It is a very easy place to reach by public transport from Brighton. The 29 bus to Tunbridge Wells stops at Eridge Green - the main path through Eridge Park (The Tunbridge Wells Circular Path) enters the park through a gate next to the south-bond bus stop. 29 - Brighton-Tunbridge Wells | Brighton & Hove Buses

Map from DEFRA: Magic Map Application (defra.gov.uk)


Because most of the SSSI is on private land owned by the Marquess of Abergavenny, see Eridge Park Estate – Historic park, Britain's oldest Deer Park, venue for public events, public access through the SSSI is very limited. However, there are two public footpaths through the estate. I walked along the part of the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk (lower green dotted route on this map) from Eridge Green to Frant, and then along the public footpath from Frant back to the A26 (Crowborough to Tunbridge Wells Road, through Whitehall Wood. The lower path goes through the estate and there signs along the path telling you not to leave it, and the Whitehall Wood path is mostly north of the fence that delineates the northern part of the private estate.


Map from OS Map App

SSSI citation:


National Grid Reference: TQ 576344 Area: 390.1 (ha.) 963.9 (ac.) Ordnance Survey Sheet 1:50,000: 188 1:10,000: TQ 53 NE,


Further Information: This site was formerly known as Saxonbury Hill and Eridge Park and is described in a Nature Conservation Review. This site also includes Nap Wood, a nature reserve owned by the National Trust and managed by the Sussex Trust for Nature Conservation.


Reasons for Notification: This site comprises parkland and adjacent ancient woodland on the lower Tunbridge Wells Sandstone and underlying Wadhurst Clay. It has one of the richest epiphytic lichen floras of any single park in Britain.


The variety of habitats present also support diverse insect and bird communities. The woodlands of Saxonbury Hill and Nap Wood lie on Tunbridge Wells Sandstone and contain a mixture of stand types. Sessile oak Quercus petraea, and pedunculate oak Q. robur are frequently associated with beech Fagus sylvatica to form a high forest with bracken Pteridium aquilinum dominating the ground flora.


Many local variations occur with hazel Corylus avellana, ash Fraxinus excelsior or birch Betula spp. as co-dominants. In Rocks Wood there is an area of coppiced sweet chestnut Castanea sativa and small plantations of beech or conifers are also present. In Nap Wood beech gives way to birch Betula pendula and B. pubescens in association with oak; holly Ilex aquifolium, rowan Sorbus aucuparia and yew Taxus baccata are also present. The ground flora is richer and includes three-nerved sandwort Moehringia trinervia and wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella with yellow pimpernel Lysimachia nemorum, bugle Ajuga reptans and enchanters nightshade Circaea lutetiana on damper soils.


Further north is the open woodland of Eridge Old Park on steep south facing slopes. Many of the ancient oaks, beeches, birches, ashes and field maples Acer campestre have a notable lichen flora. The ground layer is predominantly bracken and bramble Rubus fruticosus agg., although acidic marshy grassland with purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea is found along the seepage zone where the sandstone overlies clay.


On the plateau above there are remnants of a dry heath community with heather Calluna vulgaris, bell heather Erica cinerea, bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus and gorse Ulex spp.


Streams dissect the site exposing the Wadhurst Clay, and in places they have been dammed to form a series of ornamental ponds. Alder Alnus glutinosa woods with hazel, ash and alder buckthorn Frangula alnus occupy the valley bottoms and wetter flushes above. Here the ground flora reflects the damper base-rich conditions and contains wood avens Geum urbanum, marsh woundwort Stachys palustris, opposite-leaved golden saxifrage Chrysosplenium oppositifolium and a range of sedges and rushes.


The site as a whole, woodland and parkland, is of national importance for its lichens, with 167 recorded species, many of which are characteristic of old forests, including Parmeliella plumbea and Nephroma laevigatum.


The epiphytic bryophytes Frullania fragilifolia and Orthotrichum stramineum are also present here at their only known south-eastern locality.

In Rocks Wood there is a small sandrock outcrop which offers a rare habitat for a range of uncommon ferns and bryophytes including the hay-scented buckler fern Dryopteris aemula, Tunbridge filmy fern Hymenophyllum tunbridgense and the liverworts Scapania gracilis and Bazzania trilobata.


This wide range of habitats also supports a rich fauna particularly invertebrates and birds. The site is considered nationally important for dragonflies with 22 species recorded including the notable brilliant emerald Somatochlora metallica.


It contains the only remaining East Sussex colony of the high brown fritillary Argynnis adippe, as well as the white letter hairstreak Strymonidia w-album. The bog bush cricket Metrioptera brachyptera is present in large numbers and there are a great variety of water beetles. The breeding bird community is also important; 60 species are known to breed here including hobby, redstart, water rail and all 3 British woodpeckers. 1003196 (naturalengland.org.uk)


The beginning of the Tunbridge Wells Circular Path from Eridge to Frant



There were many felled tress along the path, covered in lichens and bryophytes (epiphytes)


Probably Ramalina lacera


Jelly Ear. Auricularia auricula-judae.


Flavoparmelia caperata, Common Greenshield Lichen


Probably Cladonia coniocraea, Common Powderhorn or the Powderhorn Cup Lichen



Bulgaria inquinans, Black Bulgar, Bachelor's Buttons or Rubber Buttons, on felled oak


Common greenshield lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata



Common Greenshield Lichen



Eurhynchium striatum, Common Striated Feather-Moss


Birch Polypore, Pipotorus betulinus


Crimped gill, Plicaturopsis crispa


Forked Veilwort, Metzgeria furcata


Crimped gill, Plicaturopsis crispa


Candlesnuff, Xylaria hypoxylon


Not yet identified


Not yet identified


Rough-stalked Feather Moss, Brachythecium rutabulum


Crimped Gill, Plicaturopsis crispa



Probably the fungus, Hypocrea gelatinosa


Slime mold, as above with unidentified moss



Silver-moss, Bryum aregentum


Many deep ghylls cut through the park - a characteristic of High Weald Woodland landsvape where the water cuts through the Grinstead Clays deeply


The fishing lake


Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri



Cladonia sp.


Possibly Bitter Wart lichen, Lepra amara



Cypress-leaved Plait-Moss, Hypnum cupressiforme


Hairy Curtain Crust, Stereum hirsutum



Another fishing lake



At the north of the park is an area of ancient oaks




Possibly Phlebiopsis gigante fungus



Monk's-hood Lichen, Hypogymnia physodes,


Possibly Bruch’s Pincushion, Ulota bruchii



Artist's Bracket Ganoderma applanatum



Possibly the fungus Phlebiopsis gigante


Fungus and to be identified, with Common Greenshield and other lichens



Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri


Common Greenshield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata and Bark Bonnet, Mycena speirea




Wood Bristle Moss, Lewinskya affinis


Cypress-leaved Plait-moss, Hypnum cupressiforme


with Cladonia sp Lichen


Capsules of Cyprus-leaved Plait-moss with cladonia sp lichen


Frant


I stopped for my packed lunch in Frant, East Sussex, 3 miles south of Tunbridge Wells. Its very pretty. Its where the ironmasters of the 18th century Wealden iron industry built their houses. Average property price of £1,175,032 over the last year according to Rightmove.The only shop in Frant is an interior design shop, what every villager needs.







The path from Frant back to the Eridge-Tunbridge Wells Road through Whitehill Woods



Cladonia coniocrea, Common Powderhorn


Common Mushroom-headed Liverwort, Conocephalum conicum



Common Pincushion Moss, Dicranoweisia cirrata


Cladonia sp lichen


with Creeping Fingerwort Lepidozia reptans, at bottom left



Cladonia sp lichen


Crimped Gill, Plicaturopsis crispa



Trumpet Cup Lichen, Cladonia fimbriata