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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Fore Wood, Crowhurst, East Sussex, and its butterflies, flowers, bryophytes and ferns. 30.06.23

Fore Wood is an RSPB nature reserve just outside Crowhurst. I reached Crowhurst by train from Brighton, via St Leonards Warrior Square. There are 2 trains an hour to St Leonards, and the journey time is 1hr 24 minutes. There is a train from St Leonards to Crowhurst twice an hour and the journey time in 10 minutes. From the station, follow the road in front (there is only one road, which ends at the station) until it joins the main Foreword Lane at a T-junction. Turn right and pass the village hall, look for the footpath sign on the left-hand side at the first bend. Follow this path 0.5 miles across the fields to the reserve.

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

The photographs in this post are presented chronologically (in the order in which I saw things)

I am only an amateur naturalist; thus all identifications are provisional; if you note a mistake in identification please feel free to tell me. If you want to contact me about any aspect of this blog, email me at simeon[underscore]elliott[at]gmail[dot]com.

This is a glorious and peaceful woodland near Crowhurst, with fascinating 'ghylls' – steep-sided little ravines in the sandstone – where rare ferns grow. [In summer] Fore Wood has good populations of silver-washed fritillary and white admiral butterflies. Early summer, the beautiful demoiselle dragonflies will be flying - watch for their brilliant blue colour and almost black wings. Fore Wood Nature Reserve, East Sussex - The RSPB

Nearer to Hastings, many rich gills occur. Fore Wood Crowhurst (RSPB reserve, TQ7512) has two deep gills with walls of rock on their sides, and waterfalls. Here there area again much Luzula sylvatica and Dryopteris aemula, and the noteworthy bryophytes Fissidens rivularis (on waterfalls) and Tetrodontium brownianum (on sandstone rock underhangs). Other species of note include the mosses Fissidens exiguus, on moist rock, Leucobryum juniperoideum, Hookeria lucens on wet stream sides, and the epiphytes Cryphaea heteromalla and Ulota crispa. Francis Rose (1995) The Habitats and Vegetation of Sussex, Brighton Borough Council.

Fore Wood is a classic Ghyll Wood. Due to their isolation and enclosed nature, Ghylls have a unique microclimate, often rich in bryophytes and other moisture loving plant species. Ghyll woodlands are found in the extreme upper reaches of rivers, where springs and streams first form in small, steep, wooded valleys. The steep sided nature of Ghyll’s has also ensured that many Ghyll woodlands have remained untouched and undisturbed by human activity. Ghyll woodlands have an unusual micro-climate and they are therefore unique.

The flora found in these sites is very characteristic of former Atlantic conditions - including lush growths of ferns (such as hay scented buckler fern), mosses and liverworts. Many are likely to be primary woodland sites (potentially dating from the ice-age) and some have received relatively little disturbance, pollution or management. ...

Over 6% of the High Weald in Sussex is classed as ‘Ghyll’ woodland. This rare habitat type is a unique landscape feature of this part of Sussex and of the UK. Ghyll woodland in these terms specifically applies to the woodland found in the Sandstone and Hastings beds of the High Weald. Wet woodland | Sussex Wildlife Trust

I did indeed see a Silver-Washed Fritillary, White Admiral (but it did not stop long enough for a photo) and a Beautiful Demoiselle. I saw some interesting ferns and mosses, but none of the bryophytes listed by Rose, partly because the sides of the ghylls are very steep and many of the banks of the ghylls can not be reached safely. However, I did see some interesting epiphytic bryophytes.

The path to Fore Wood

Hard Fern, Struthiopteris spicant

Common Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum

Wood Sage, Teucrium scorodonia

Bent Grass sp., Agrostis sp.

Ancient Oak

Yorkshire Fog, Holcus lanutus

Slender St John's-Wort, Hypericum pulchrum

Selfheal, Prunella vulgaris

Scaly Male Fern, Dryoperis affinis

Enchanter's Nightshade, Circaea luttiana

Probably, Endive Pellia Apopellia endiviifolia, with probably Common Pouchwort, Calypogeia fissa, and a moss

Probably Leskea polycarpa, Many-fruited Leskea

Common Pocket-Moss, Fissidens taxifolius

Common Feather-Moss, Kindbergia praelonga

Silver-washed fritillary, Argymmis paphia

Beutiful Demoiselle, Calopteryx virgo

Lesser Burdock, Arctium minus

Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta


Marsh Thistle, Cirsium palustre

Wood Sage, Teucrium scorodonia

Soft Rush, Juncus effusus

Beech, Fagus sylvatica


Probably Hairy St John's-wort, Hypericum hirsutum and Common Nettle, Urtica dioica

Ghyll with Hard Ferns

Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea

Probably Broad Buckler-fern, Dryopteris dilatat

Horn Calcareous Moss, Mnium Hornum

Polypody Fern Polypodium sp, either P. vulgare or P. intejectum, growing epiphytically, on Sweet Chestnut Castanea sativa, which is quite unusual in Sussex, with Tree Moss, Isothecium myosurides

Bank Haircap Moss, Polytrichum formosum

Hard-fern Stuthiopteris spicant with unidentified moss

Wood fern sp. Drypoteris sp.

Wood fern sp. Drupoteris sp.


Bryophytes on ghyll's sides

Hart's-tongue Thyme-moss, Plagiomnium undulatum

Conocephalum sp liverwort

Probably Common Powderhorn lichen, Cladonia coniocraea

Stump on which the above lichen was growing, Common Powderhorn, Cladonia coniocraea, is often found on tree stumps on High Weald ghyll woods

Nipplewort,Lapsana communis

Greater Bird's Foot Trefoil, Lotus pendunculatus

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