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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Flowering plants, including grasses, sedges and rushes, on Wolstonbury & Newtimber Hills. 30.05.23

Following attending a Sussex Botanical Recording Society Home - Sussex Botanical Recording Society (sussexflora.org.uk) field trip to St Dunstan's Farm Meadow, where we looked at many grasses, sedges and rushes, I developed an awareness of the beauty of their fruiting bodies. Therefore, I decided to try and attend to grasses, sedges and rushes during my walk over Wolstonbury and Newtimber Hills, both SSSIs, both owned by the National Trust, and both in the South Downs National Park. Their SSSI specifications are appended to the end of this post. I took photo graphs of every flowering plant I noticed (I must have missed many). I have also included photographs of epiphytes (lichens and bryophytes) on two trees - an Ask and an Hazel - as these are a significant part of the ecology of woods on the downs; but lichens and bryophytes were not the focus of this walk. I saw 46 species of flowering plants on my walk.


To get to Wolstonbury Hill, I took the train from Brighton to Hassocks, Trains Brighton to Hassocks | Train Tickets & Times | Southern Railway and then walked down the path that goes south, directly opposite the station, to the Jack and Jill Pub at Clayton; past the ancient Butchers Wood Butcher's Wood - Visiting Woods - Woodland Trust. I then took the footpath up onto Wolstonbury Hill. After walking round the wonderful meadows on the hill, I took the path to Pyecombe and crossed the a A23 on the arial footbridge that joins Wolstonbury Hill to Newtimber Hill. After I had walked around Newtimber Hill, I crossed the minor road at Saddlescombe and walked up the Devil's Dyke and then walked down the Dyke Road (there is a footpath beside the Dyke Road all the way to the A27 bypass). Crossing the roundabouts to get across the bridge over the A27 to the top of Dyke Road Avenue requires care, as there are no pedestrian crossings. I then walked a little further down Dyke Road Avenue and caught the 27 bus Tongdean Lane/Dyke Road Avenue. 27 - Saltdean-Westdene | Brighton & Hove Buses. In high summer there is a bus to and from the Devil's Dyke running every day. 77 - Devil's Dyke-Brighton Pier | Brighton & Hove Buses. A warning: parts of this route are very steep hills.


The photographs are in the chorological order of my walk (10.45 - 18.30)


All sections of text in italics are quotations, sources sited.


All identifications are provisional; if you note a mistake in identification please feel free to tell me, or if you want to contact me about any aspect of this blog, email me at simeon[underscore]elliott[at]gmail[dot]com.



Wolstonbury Hill is renowned for its orchids; and other wild flowers, as is Newtimber Hill. Newtimber Hill is renowned for its butterfly diversity, as well as it's wild flowers. I saw very few butterflies at Newtimber; that may have been a function of the very cold northerly winds, despite the sun; but low abundance of butterflies is being reported across the country this spring. This is part of a long-term decrease in butterfly (and other insect) numbers UK's flying insects have declined by 60% in 20 years | Natural History Museum (nhm.ac.uk) and the impact of last years drought. Hot, dry summer impacts UK butterfly populations (yorkshirebylines.co.uk


The path from Hassocks to Clayton


Cow Parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris


Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum


Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major


Ramsons/Wild Garlic, Allium ursinum


Green Alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervivens and Marsh Fern, Thelypteris palustris


Druce's Crane's-bill (Geranium endressii × G. versicolor = G. × ⁠ oxonianum)


Creeping Buttercup, Ranunculs repens


Shining Crane's-bill, Geranium lucidum


Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea


Wood Avens, Geum urbanum


Bush Vetch, Vicia sepium


Yellow-Banded Longhorn Moth, Nemophora degeerella


Bulbous Buttercup, Ranunculus bulbosus


Wolstonbury Hill


Coppiced Hazel covered in Veiled Forkwort and Script Lichen


Metzgeria furcata, Forked Veilwort,


Graphis scripta, Script Lichen


Opegrapha sp.



Common Twayblade, Neottia ovata


Glaucus Sedge, Carex flacca


Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata


Cocks-foot, Dactylis glomerata


Early-Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula


Bugle, Ajuga reptans


Small Burnet, Poerium sanguisorba


Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, Lotus pedunculatus


Germander Speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys


Sanicle, Sanicula europa


Common Spotted-orchid, Dactlorhiza fuchsii


Sanicle, Sanicula europa and Wolstonbury Hill



Common Nettle, Urtica dioca


Greater Butterfly Orchid, Platanthera chloantha


Cranefly


Early Purple Orchids, Orchis mascula


An Ash and its epiphytes


Frullania dilatata, Dilated Scalwort


Parmotrema perlatum, Black Stone Flower Lichen


Candelaria concolor, Candleflame Lichen


Isothecium myosurides, Slender Mouse-tail Moss


Dicranoweisia cirrata, Common Pincushion


Plagiothecium undulatum, Waved Silk-moss


Parmelia sulcata, Hammered shield lichen, and Ulota crispa, Crisped Pincushion


Parsley Water-dropwort, Oenathe lachenalli


|Hawthorne, Crataegus monogyna, on Wolstonbury Hill


Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii


Short-horned grasshopper sp., Gomphocerinae sp. On the screen of my mobile phone as I was eating my packed lunch!


Dock sp., Rumex sp.


Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria


Hounds Tooth, Cynoglossum officinale


Common Spoteed Orchid, Dactlorhiza fuchsii


The bark of an ancient Oak with lichens to explore another time!


Grass Vetchling, Lathyrus nossolia


A Drovers' Road, The main purpose of country roads used to be for moving beasts, so most of the roads we drive along were made by or for drovers. Or, as Francis Pryor put it, "The Road System of our country largely came about as a result of farmers shifting stock around..." Roads never tarmacked have become byways or bridleways. Many have vanished altogether or been built upon, but there is still a vast network of green lanes criss-crossing the British countryside. Exploring Old Roads - Local Drove Roads


In Sussex drovers roads going up hill are called bostals Bostal Definition & Meaning | YourDictionary


Cattle grazing the meadows on Wolstonbury Hill


Newtimber in the background.


Newtimber Hill


Dame's-violet, Hesperis matronalis


Chalock, Sinapis arvenis



Yellow rattle, Rhinathus minor


Sea Arrowgrass Triglochin maririma or Sea Plantain, Plantago maritima


Red Clover, Triolium pratense


Common Vetch, Vicia sativa and Runuculus sp. Buttercup


Common Mouse-Ear, Cerastium fontanum


Sheep Sorrel, Rumex acetosella


Vicia sativa, Common Vetch


Lesser Trefoil, Trifium dubium


Common Sorrel, Rumex acetosa


Field Woodrush, Luzula campestris


Hoary Plantain, Plantago media


Large Thyme, Thymus pulegiodes


Small Heath


Twisted Blackthorns


Salad Burnet, Porterium sanguisorba


Newtimber Hill Chalk Pits


Common Milkwort, Polygala vulgaris


Small Burnet, Porterium sanguisorba



Horshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa


Devils Dyke


Common Spotted Orchids, Dactylorhiza fuchsii


When the Devil's Dyke was a Victorian Playgorund


Hawthorns at Waterhall



SSSI Wolstonbury Hill: Reasons for Notification: The chalk downland of Wolstonbury Hill is rich in flowering plants and includes a number of uncommon species. Woodland is established in parts of the site. Chalk grassland has developed on thin rendzina soils on steep slopes. The grasses sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina and upright brome Bromus erectus form a turf in which typical downland plants such as eyebright Euphrasia nemorosa, squinancywort Asperula cynanchica and marjoram Origanum vulgare are prominent. Rarer plants include round headed rampion Phyteuma tenerum and a range of orchids: bee orchid Ophrys apifera, fly orchid Ophrys insectifera, pyramidal orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis, early purple orchid Orchis mascula and the only known Sussex locality for one other species. Dyer’s greenweed Genista tinctoria is frequent in the grassland of the south-eastern outlier. On the deeper soils at the foot of the escarpment woodland has become established. This comprises mature beech Fagus sylvatica with pedunculate oak Quercus robur and ash Fraxinus excelsior above an often dense ground flora of dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, wood false brome Brachypodium sylvaticum and bramble. There are also areas of younger, scrubbier woodland of ash and sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus with typical chalk-loving shrubs such as wild privet Ligustrum vulgare, dogwood Cornus sanguinea and hawthorn Crataegus monogyna. Wolstonbury Hill (naturalengland.org.uk)


SSSI Newtimber Hill. This is 'A Nature Conservation Review' site and lies within the South Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It includes a reserve of the Sussex Trust for Nature Conservation at Saddlescombe Chalk Pit and a National Trust site. Part of the area is included in the 'Geological Conservation Review'. The site has several earthworks of archaeolgical interest.


Reasons for Notification: Beeding Hill to Newtimber Hill situated on the scarp slope of the South Downs is a site of both geological and biological importance. Three nationally uncommon habitats are represented: south-east chalk grassland, juniper scrub and calcareous pedunculate oak-ashbeech woodland. The site supports a rich community of invertebrates, especially harvestmen and has some uncommon butterflies and moths. A nationally uncommon plant also occurs. Devil’s Dyke is the best known example of a dry chalk valley. Biology The site lies on chalk which is capped in parts by clay with flints. Most of the area consists of unimproved chalk grassland, with occasional areas of scrub. In places this scrub has developed into woodland, and there are also some areas of mature beech woodland. The plateau of Newtimber Hill has an area of neutral grassland on clay with flints and has a dewpond. A chalk spring arises in a steep valley. Most of the chalk grassland is very rich in plant species with as many as 40 flowering plants per square metre. There are local variations in the composition of the sward according to the locality and the grazing regime. The richest areas are dominated by upright brome Bromus erectus and fine-leaved grasses such as sheep’s fescue Festuca ovina and crested hair-grass Koeleria macrantha. Frog orchid Coeloglossum viride, round headed rampion Phyteuma tenerum and pyramidal orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis are among the species occur here. It is a locality of a nationally uncommon plant, the red star thistle Centaurea calcitrapa. Other areas are dominated by taller grasses such as tor grass Brachypodium pinnatum, cock’s foot Dactylis glomerata and oat grass Arrhenatherum elatius. Two disused chalk quarries also support a rich chalk flora. The neutral grassland consists mainly of Yorkshire fog Holcus lanatus, red fescue and gorse Ulex europaeus, with wood sage Teucrium scorodonia, betony Stachys officinalis and bramble Rubus fruticosus. Scrub is scattered throughout the grassland and forms dense belts in some areas. It is composed of gorse, hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, ash Fraxinus excelsior, oak Quercus robur and wayfaring tree Viburnum lantana. The scrub has invaded the areas of chalk heath which formerly occurred on the plateau. The site supports a small colony of juniper Juniperus communis in its most easterly locality on the south downs. The woodland consists of beech Fagus sylvatica, oak and ash, with field maple Acer campestre and wild cherry Prunus avium. Hazel Corylus avellana, hawthorn and elder Sambucus nigra form a scattered scrub layer over bramble, dog's mercury Mercurialis perennis and slender false-brome Brachypodium sylvaticum. Yellow bird’s nest Monotropa hypopitys and bird’s nest orchid Neottia nidus-avis are also found. In the vicinity of the chalk spring there is an area of willow carr which consists of common sallow Salix cinerea and white willow Salix alba scrub over nettle Urtica dioica, fool’s water-cress Apium nodiflorum and goose grass Galium aparine. This type of habitat is uncommon on chalk in the county and this is the locality of an uncommon cranefly Gonomyia simplex. A pond has recently been constructed here. A dewpond on the plateau supports colonies of all three species of newt. The site supports a nationally important assemblage of the Opilionid group of Arachnids (harvestmen). It is a locality of the nationally uncommon scarce forester moth Procris globularia and the adonis blue butterfly Lysandra bellargus. Geology Devil’s Dyke is the most famous and remarkable of all the chalk dry valleys and is frequently cited as the type example. It is the largest single coombe anywhere in the chalk karst of Britain and is of considerable geomorphological interest in providing a most spectacular example of Pleistocene erosion of chalk. Its exact origin is a source of debate, but it seems to have evolved under both periglacial and interglacial conditions. A series of deposits on the valley floor has considerable research potential and may throw further light on the formation of the feature. Devil’s Dyke is a key site for periglacial and chalk geomorphology.



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